Colossal Olmec Stone Heads of La Venta

Colossal Olmec head at La Venta (Monument 1)

Parque-Museo La Venta in Villahermosa is one of the most unique, well conceived museums we’ve ever encountered. Created in 1958, the park-museum was designed to house relocated Olmec treasures that were threatened by petro-chemical development near the original La Venta archaeological site in northern Tabasco. Those priceless treasures include three colossal Olmec stone heads as well as many other very impressive examples of Olmec sculpture and carving.

Macaw at La Venta

Olmec art is very old (1,000 – 500 BC) and unique; it immediately stands out from other pre-Columbian art because of its simplicity and modern aesthetic. (Much of the smaller Olmec sculpture could almost be mistaken for traditional Japanese art.) There are also some intriguing cylindrical basalt structures at La Venta and mysterious monoliths that leave visitors with many questions.

But the highlight of any visit to the park is the rare opportunity to view three of the seventeen known colossal Olmec heads. While there are endless theories about these unique creations, not much is actually known about why they were created and who or what they represent. The head known as Monument 1 at La Venta (lead pic) is almost 8 feet high (2.4 m) and weighs more than 24 tons. How was such an enormous stone carving made and positioned more than 2,500 years ago? UFO and Atlantis conspiracists will especially love La Venta. 😉

Colossal Olmec Head La Venta Monument 4

Such unique art requires an equally unique environment. Rather than being just another series of indoor rooms, Parque-Museo La Venta is a jungle reserve. Visitors enter through a small zoo which includes local monkeys, birds, crocodiles, jaguars and more. From the wildlife area, a 1.2 km trail slowly winds through buttressed trees and a tangle of vines to “discover” each piece of art displayed in nature.

Thomas at La Venta

The creators of the museum really understood that presenting an archaeological treasure in an open air environment greatly enhances that Indiana Jones sense of discovery. An Olmec colossal head just feels way cooler when it’s backed by jungle with free-roaming coatis scampering across your path and tropical birds flying overhead.

Olmec altar at La Venta
Thomas exploring Olmec structure at La Venta

That dizzy, sick feeling you get when you inch through a normal museum completely vanishes because you walk, you breathe, you explore and you discover. There’s quite a bit of space between pieces, so you have time to process the art and the wildlife. It’s incredible to think that this museum was built in 1958 because it feels totally cutting edge. We highly recommend it.

Face of giant head at La Venta

Tips on Visiting Parque-Museo La Venta

Parque-Museo La Venta is located in Villahermosa in the Mexican state of Tabasco. As of June 2020, tickets are around $2 for non-Mexican visitors.

We have seen some reviews on TripAdvisor.com which suggest a side trip to La Venta in Villahermosa is not worth a detour. If you have no interest in art, Meso-American culture, ancient mysteries, or unique museums, that might be true. However, we personally loved La Venta and the colossal Olmec stone heads . Visitors must understand this is a museum, not a large archaeological site like Chichen Itza or Palenque.

Moreover, the park-museum is very easy to visit if you are flying in to Villahermosa, which has the closest airport to Palenque (2-hour drive).

Colossal Olmec Head La Venta (Monument 3)

One response to “Colossal Olmec Stone Heads of La Venta”

  1. avatar Jenny LeCroix says:

    What is that building that looks like stone logs? Is that one of their houses?

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