High on a cactus-studded plateau, the ruins of Yagul offer a view of Oaxaca’s Tlacolula valley. Yagul dates back to at least 500 AD, but most of the existing structures were built several hundred years later, after the decline of the nearby city of Monte Albán . When the Spanish arrived in Oaxaca, Yagul still had a population of 6000.
Due to the easy-to-defend location and fortifications, archeologists believe Yagul was a military center. Like the other major ruins in the area, the site was occupied at various times by both the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. The ruins include the second largest ancient ball court in Mesoamérica, several typically creepy tombs, and a labyrinthine stone palace with six small stone courtyards.
Yagul is located 38 km southeast of the capital on Highway 190. Drive, take a taxi, or go to Oaxaca’s second class bus station (Central Camionera de Segunda Clase in Colonia Mercado de Abastos) and catch a bus to Mitla. Ask the driver to drop you off at Yagul. You’ll have to walk about a kilometer to the site.