The Pyramids in Our Backyard

Isn’t it true that we often don’t see what’s just beneath our noses? Take, for example, the Mesoamerican pyramids sitting on a hilltop with breathtaking vistas, only about a half-hour’s drive from the old Spanish-colonial city of San Miguel de Allende in the central mountains of Mexico.

Although I’ve been happily living in San Miguel for more than six years, I had never been to this world-class archaeological site. That is, until this past week, when my friend Be Scott from Taos, New Mexico, came to visit me here for the first time.

Be and I drove to this 40-acre site, Cañada de la Virgen, just 15 miles west of San Miguel, with my Mexican friends Ramiro Gutierrez, a professional guide from the city of Guanajuato, and Edith Matehuala, my Spanish teacher in San Miguel.

At the visitors center, we paid our entry fee — just 70 pesos ($3.50 USD) each — and, along with about fifteen other tourists, boarded the pristine-clean, new shuttle bus that wound its way up the winding cobblestone road leading to the pyramids.

At a certain point, the bus let us all off, and we walked the rest of the way (I, in skimpy sandals – not the proper footwear) up more winding uphill cobblestone paths. Fortunately, the day was glorious, the hilltop breeze was refreshing, the views were spectacular, and no one was in a rush.

Our group included a patient and knowledgeable Cañada de la Virgen guide, who at certain junctures stopped to explain (in fast Spanish) what we were seeing. Happily for Be and me, both Ramiro and Edith could translate for us afterward.

Here are just some of the many photos I took of our day to make you feel you were there with us:

The visitors center and museum are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm; the entry fee is only 70 pesos.
The view from the shuttle bus of the archaeological site in the far distance
At a certain point, the bus let us off, and we walked the reminder of the way. I advise sturdier shoes than the sandals I wore.
Our guide (left) and Be (under umbrella) at a rest stop along the way
Approaching the main pyramid

At last, we reached our destination, which appeared to me like Oz. This pyramid (above), known as The House of the Thirteen Heavens, is one of the three main structures at the site. According to the website , these structures, “occupied between 540 and 1050 AD, served as ceremonial spaces, elite residences, burial grounds, and time-keeping instruments that are aligned precisely to the movements of the celestial bodies.”

Some of the people in our group ventured down into the center ball court.
Edith and me with the back of the main pyramid behind us
Ramiro (right) and our group walking back down to where the shuttle bus picked us up
Some pieces of pottery in the museum

All of the written explanations and descriptions in the museum are in Spanish. But these ancient pieces of pottery, excavated at the site, spoke loudly to me — wordlessly — about the people who handcrafted them so long ago.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  • For those without transportation or seeking bilingual guides, there are a number of excellent tour operators in San Miguel de Allende who can provide expert guides and transportation, including (or especially) Albert Coffee, an archaeologist who helped in the excavation of Cañada de la Virgen. Be sure to visit his website for more information: .
  • To see a four-minute YouTube video, “Mexico’s Best Kept Secret Pyramid,” which will give you a quick tour and a bit more information – such as the answer to my burning question — How did Cañada de la Virgen get its name? – go to: .
  • To contact my friend Ramiro Gutierrez regarding other tours in and around Guanajuato, call: 473-181-1946.
  • To reach my excellent maestra Edith Matehuala regarding private Spanish lessons in San Miguel, call: 415-144-2861.

19 thoughts on “The Pyramids in Our Backyard”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your excursion! I just watched the recommended video and I’ve saved the post into my SMA folder for future reference. I’ll enjoy exploring that beautiful old city again when I’m no longer an ‘arm chair’ traveler. Until that day comes, your adventures keep me connected and engaged. I’m so glad you’re writing this wonderful blog!

  2. Bonnie: It is true, isn’t it that we need our friends to come and visit so we get to see the wonders in our own neighborhood! I think we went to the pyramids under the same circumstances –when people came to visit. I was struck by how sophisticated the people who constructed the pyramids were without many of the tools we take for granted and that Mexico has more pyramids than Egypt!

    1. Thank you for this, dear Carol. Yes, it makes me think of all the sights and events in NYC I would never have gone to see when I lived there had it not been for the friends from out of town who occasionally came to visit. I guess it’s human nature to take for granted those things that are handy.

  3. BonnieDear! You encapsulated perfectly our day at Cañada de la Virgen! I’m so glad you took the opportunity to write about the fabulous ruins and our wonderful trip there with Ramiro and Edith. I will never forget the day—the splendid sites and the great company. Muchas gracias, mi amiga!

    1. It was totally my pleasure, BeDear! Thank YOU for being the reason I finally got to see these fantastic pyramids right in my backyard. Yes, it certainly was a memorable day.

  4. We just returned from the Pyramids too. Just two days ago one of their researchers discovered that the warrior girl was actually a boy. But here’s the big surprise. DNA revealed that the King was actually a woman, more evidence that this was a matriarchal culture!

  5. Dear Bon,

    What a lovely spot to visit. I hope you didn’t climb up those stairs. They look a bit unstable to me. I have learned from your
    posts that Mexico has wonderful transportation system, where all the buses are clean and new. We could take a lesson from them here.


    1. Because I was foolish enough to wear flimsy sandals, I did all my walking and climbing hanging on to either Ramiro’s or Edith’s sturdy arm, dear Paul. My dear Mexican friends are very protective of me, I’m grateful to say. And, yes, the bus system in Mexico, in my experience, is really impressive. I hope you are well and enjoying early Spring in Mass.

  6. Dear BB
    That was a wonderful throwback for me as I remember the site from when I visited you six years ago. So I looked back at the photo album of my trip and the book I even bought then…

    1. Dear M-L — I’m so glad you got to go on a tour to the pyramids when you were here. I can’t recall why I wasn’t able to join you then (maybe I wasn’t feeling well?). Anyway, better late than never! Now we’ve both been enriched by them. — xx

    2. M-L, Bonnie and I spoke your name and thought of you plenty while I was in Mexico. You are such a good traveler. I’m so glad you’re going to visit San Miguel soon. I loved it there, even more than I thought I would. Have fun!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.