The Archaeological Zone of Tula, whose name in Nahuatl (the Aztec language) is Tollan-Xicocotitlan, is, like many ancient areas in Mexico, bearer of that solemn mystery that makes us keep silent when we walk among its ruins, recognizing the undeniable bond that unites us with the past.
In the State of Hidalgo, in Mexico, approximately 85 kilometers from both the Mexican capital, Mexico City, and the local capital, the City of Pachuca de Soto, is Tula de Allende, a small town whose main attraction is the Archaeological Zone of Tula.
To enter the area it is necessary to pay a fee (70 pesos per adult, 04/2019). Inside, after moving to the side of the Site Museum, which at that time was closed for remodeling, you have to walk around 600 meters in the sun. Strategically located there are stalls for drinks and crafts. The trail crosses areas full of cacti and bushes. A sign alerts visitors not to get out of the way, given the possibility of snakes hidden among the rocks.
The "atlantes" of Tula from the distance
The first thing that the visitor sees, when leaving the path, is a pyramid that dominates the horizon. The really interesting thing about this building is the eight figures that stand on the top, the imposing, famous and badly called "atlantes" or giants (for its 4.5 m, high) of Tula, which has nothing to do with Atlantis. They are, according to the most accepted theory, representations in the form of a warrior of Quetzalcoatl, one of the main deities of Mesoamerican mythology. Its function was, also according to the most accepted theory, to serve as columns to an old wooden roof that no longer remains a trace, after the fire of the temple and abandonment of Tollan, the prosperous Toltec city.
The ruined pillars of the Burned Palace
It is true that what remains is not the shadow of what it was. With wooden ceilings, white-painted lime walls and torches everywhere, the city of Tollan, at its peak, was a city with a power and influence comparable to the Maya and Aztec civilizations. However, walking among its ruins of bare stone, it is still possible to feel the solemnity of the mystery and the bond that unites us with the past, and still in ruins it continues to overwhelm me.
To climb up and see the "atlantes" you have to pass between the steep side of the pyramid and the Burned Temple (which bears that name because of it only the pillars remain, because the ceiling disappeared during a fire) and give around the temple, where is the stairway that leads to the top of the pyramid. As if they were vigilant, to begin ascending, you have to pass in front of the chac-mol, stone figures representing a man on his back who, sadly, has lost his mind not due to time, but to disrespectful tourists.
Chac-mol decapitated, Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico
After climbing the pyramid, you can experience the imposing of the "atlantes". Everyone who has been at the top knows it: it is almost impossible to photograph a complete "Atlantean" without getting too close to the edge.
The "atlantes" of Tula
From the top it is possible to fully appreciate the Burned Palace, at the foot of the pyramid, and in front, the two pyramids of the East and West, the main and oldest, along with the Ball Game, which belong to the whole of Tula Chico . The pyramid of the "atlantes" and the Burned Palace are part of the Tula Grande complex, later built, which includes the architectural detail of the pillars, a technique unknown in Mesoamerica at that time and in which they were pioneers, probably imported from the Mayan empire.
The East and West Pyramids
A long road known as the Tourist Walker, directly connects the south side of Tollan, the old Toltec capital, with the center of the modern city of Tula de Allende, where there is a base with gardens and benches perfect for relaxing and resting. If you attend in the afternoon, it is possible to see the Dancing Fountains, which illuminated with changing colored lights come on to satisfy the view of the visitors.
Tula de Allende Downtown
There is also a shortage of places to eat, since all along the Walker and around the square there are restaurants and cafes for all tastes and budgets, from simple street snacks such as skis and corn, to typical and international food restaurants.
Dancing fountains at dusk
For lovers of museums and culture, right on the corner is the Quetzalcóatl Historical Hall, which exhibits local archeological pieces, works of plastic arts, photography and crafts. For those interested in history, architecture and religion, half a block away is the Cathedral and Ex-convent of San José, which is one of the first and most representative buildings of Christian construction built in Mexico during the time of the Conquest.
Ex-convent and Cathedral of San José, Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico
A block further back we find the Plaza de las Artesanías, the place to buy a souvenir, a key ring, some piece of quartz and obsidian, or the replica of an "atlantean".
Plaster replica of an "Atlantean" by Tula
In the vicinity of Tula there are still many things to see, the prehispanic temazcales, the water parks with natural hot springs, the old railway station (which has already been rehabilitated), the waterfalls in the nearby communities of Xochitlán de las Flores and the exotic rock formations in Santa María Macuá, etc., but we will visit all that on another occasion.