Grand Plaza in Monte Albán from the South Platform
Mexico,  Traveling

Monte Albán: DIY Trip without a tour | Fun and cheap!

Monte Albán is a beautiful archeological site just outside of Oaxaca de Juárez, capital of the Oaxaca state. It is very easy to visit on your own without a tour, and it’s way more fun! Why should you skip the tour and how to get to Monte Albán from Oaxaca by bus? Keep reading! 

And if you don’t feel like reading, just check out our video from Oaxaca. You’ll find all the important info there as well.

Monte Albán ruins in Oaxaca

Monte Albán is a huge pre-Columbian archeological site in the state of Oaxaca, just about 9 kilometers outside of the city Oaxaca de Juarez. Unlike the most famous Mexican ruins, Chichén Itzá, and the ruins in Palenque, it’s not Mayan. 

Three other mesoamerican civilizations lived here: first Olmecs, later Zapotecs, and finally Mixtecs. The history of Monte Albán reaches back to 500 or 600 BC, and it stretches over 6.5 square kilometers. 

The coolest thing is that it is located at an altitude of 1940 meters, 400 meters above the valley, where the city is located. That could only mean one thing – amazing views! 

Another cool thing is that there is a bunch of terraces you can actually climb, even in times of Covid. And if you get there early enough, you’ll have it all just for yourselves. Just as we did. And I’m about to tell you how to do it and save some money at the same time.

Monte Albán ruins
Monte Albán ruins

Monte Albán without a Tour

Getting to Monte Albán without a tour couldn’t be any easier. Some tour companies will tell you it is not possible to get to Monte Albán on your own. But that is not true! There is even a round-trip bus you can take, which makes the whole trip on your own as easy as possible. And you’ll get to the archeological site before all the tours do! 

How to get to Monte Albán by bus

To get on the bus to Monte Albán from Oaxaca, you need to get to Hotel Rivera. There is an office in the foyer where you can buy the bus ticket. The round trip is 80 MX$ / €3,5 / $4. 

The first bus is supposed to go at 8:30 AM and then another one every hour during the weekdays and every half an hour on weekends. When we went on Saturday, the first bus departed at 9 AM. There were still very few people, maybe that’s why. 

The journey wasn’t even 30 minutes, so we still got to Monte Albán long enough before the opening time (which was at 10 AM). Even though there is a schedule of the returning buses connected to the one you take there, it didn’t matter what time did we leave. We could’ve just picked any time we wanted, and we took a bus leaving around 12:30 PM.

*Don’t throw away your morning ticket, you’ll need it for the way back. 

The site opens at 10 AM, but even before you can admire some small bits outside and also the view of Oaxaca de Juárez. After that, you just buy tickets for 80 MX$ / €3,5 / $4 per person, and you’re free to enjoy Monte Albán. By the entrance, you can also hire a guide. 

Monte Albán bus
The bus from Oaxaca to Monte Albán leaves every hour on the weekdays, and every half an hour on the weekends

Why is it better to visit Monte Albán without a tour

Except for the obvious fact that you’re not a part of a huge group of people, is there any other advantage of not taking the tour? Hell yes, and not just one! 

  • Get to the site earlier than with a tour, even when you leave the city later
  • Possibility to hire the local guide and still get the information
  • Have the whole place (almost) only for yourself 
  • Spend as much time anywhere you like
  • You’ll save money 

Our friends took a tour a couple of weeks before we went to Monte Albán. They were told it’s not possible to get there on their own, only 400 people a day, 100 people at one time are allowed in (Covid rules), and because of that, it’s necessary to get there early to be able to make it. 

So they paid 400 MX$ for the tour and left the city at 7:30 AM in the morning to wait in a queue of cars for two hours

The thing is, there is a barrier on the road leading to the entrance, so neither cars nor tour vans can get in. While they are waiting in the queue, the bus drives around them and gets you to the entrance as the first ones. 

Before the tour groups finally get there, use the toilet, get all the organization information, etc., you’ve already taken a hundred pictures of the empty place and got to the South Platform. 

We also don’t really like being hoarded from one place to another all the time, you can’t hang around a place you enjoy longer, and when the guide sucks… Well, you’re screwed, because you still need to listen to him. 

And the obvious fact is that it’s always way less expensive without a tour. In this case, we paid 160 MX$ each, while the usual price of the tour is ≈400 MX$. 

Monte Albán without a tour

Monte Albán Vs. Mitla & Valle Del Teotitlan Tour

If you’re trying to decide which place to visit – Monte Albán or Mitla with the Valle Teotitlan and mezcal factory, I vote for Monte Albán. We visited both and maybe the reason why we didn’t like Mitla and the rest is that it was with a tour. 

The tour was 400 MX$ + 50 MX$ for the entrance to Mitla. They picked us up in Selina in the morning and we went in the direction of Mitla. Normally, they would also stop at the Arbol del Tule, but it was closed for Covid. The guide was visibly hungover and walking around Mitla with a bunch of people was annoying. 

After Mitla, we went to Valle del Teotitlan, which is a nice little village filled with artisanal manufactories producing stunning colorful carpets. The owner explained the whole process of making the yarn, coloring it with natural colors, and weaving the carpets out of it. This part was nice!

After, we went for lunch. It was a buffet for 150 MX$ and unfortunately, the only veg options were rice, cucumber, tomato, and some green salad. In the end, they made us some scrambled eggs for 120 MX$ instead. There wasn’t any other place to eat and we were about to reach the final part of the tour, which we didn’t want to risk with an empty stomach. 

Views from Monte Albán
The best part about Monte Albán might be the views

Mezcal tasting in Oaxaca

The mezcal factory! Well, if you like genuinely good mezcal, don’t get too excited. The mezcal is not bad, but it’s far from the best you can taste in Oaxaca. They will get you through the process from the agave plant to the final product. Which you’ll taste in the end. 

The tasting was (in our case) standing at a bar, without much of explanation on how should you drink mezcal, and most of the samples were just flavored Jovenes (the younger and cheaper kind). 

If you want to taste a good mezcal, I would recommend going for a tasting in the city. Find a good bar or restaurant either with a set tasting menu or just with a good selection and a bartender enjoying his job. I recommend checking out mezcal tasting in Etnofood restaurant. Check out our video from Oaxaca to see a bit of it. 

FAQ

Can I hike to Monte Albán from Oaxaca City? 

Well, you can, but it’s not advised to do it on your own because of safety reasons. There was a local guy with two beautiful dogs who led a sort of a private hiking tour every now and then. He was active in some of the Facebook Oaxaca groups, so you might want to check that out. 

How much time do I need for Monte Albán?

It depends if you take a guide or just walk around, if you read all the signs etc. We spend around 2.5 hours. 

Where do I find the bus to Monte Albán?

You can find the bus in front of the hotel Rivera on 20 del Noviembre and Adama street. Find out more in How to get to Monte Albán by bus chapter.

Should I visit Monte Albán? 

Hell yes!

Okay, that’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed this article and found all the information you needed. If you have any extra questions, let me know in the comments. If you’re interested in how our journey goes, check out my Instagram. It’s a bit more up-to-date. 

Love, Lea

2 Comments

  • Jean-François

    We also went to Monte Alban on tuesday without a tour. We departed a bit late so decided to take a taxi, which was 250MX$ We didn t know the taxi wasn’t allowed to go pass the barrier and he left us there without much of an explanation. Fortunately some nice Mexican proposed to have us at the back of their pick up which was lits of fun.

    We went to Mitla by taxi too, making a stop at the sunday Tlacolula market. 300MX$ to Tlacolula and 200MX$ to Mitla. We stayed a a hotel there and on monday morning went to the ruin too early. We asked a woman saling stuff there and she told us it was closed so we looked from outside the gate. Later someone told us it opens at 10am. We didn’t feel like going all the way back there and took a 250MX$ to Teotitlan del Valle. We were lucky to witness some procession for the semana santa, including a kid dressed as a a knight on the back of a. Horse decirated with flowers. I wish we would have had time to go to Hierve el Agua but that s an our further from Mitla…

    • Lea

      Oooh, I envy the procession! We are the second year in Latin America and we missed it again. Last year it was canceled in Merida due to Covid and this year we missed it due to our not always amazing planning skills 😀

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