A Quick Stop at Montezuma Castle in Arizona

Montezuma Castle National Park, AZ
If you’ve ever heard of Montezuma, you’re wondering what in the world I am talking about.  Wasn’t he the legendary Aztec king? Didn’t the Aztecs live in today’s Mexico? You are right, Montezuma has never set foot in the land that is now Arizona.
 
Yet, there is a National Monument not far from Phoenix, Arizona, named after him.  Back in the 1860s its first visitors were miners and soldiers. Coming upon the “castle, they thought that Montezuma’s people built it, so they named it after him. People make mistakes. The name stuck, and now we have Montezuma Castle National Monument in the high deserts of Arizona.
Who Built Montezuma’s Castle?
Well, if it wasn’t Montezuma or his people, who built it? Long before the known Aztec king was born, indigenous people of the desert built this place in the surrounding rocks. In this particular spot, they built a five-story dwelling. The Spanish called these people Sinagua, meaning “without water”. They lived in a harsh environment that seemed to have no water.
 
Although the structure is not a castle in the traditional sense of the world, it is spectacular in its own right.  It housed most likely an entire village, between 600 and 1100 people.

Take a Walk in the Park

The walk in this particular National Park is short and paved all the way around. It takes you on a winding path in the shadows of sycamore threes.

A Glimpse of the Montezuma's Castle Wall through the Sycamore Trees on the Path - photo by Győző Egyed
A Glimpse of the Montezuma’s Castle Wall through the Sycamore Trees on the Path – photo by Győző Egyed
The cliff dwelling is its major attraction, but the walk itself is pleasant. In the winter months you can even enjoy the river that runs through the area, passed an ancient embankment.
 
Since it is off the highway I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, the park is an easy stop. It offers a welcome rest on the way to the pine-filled mountains of northern Arizona.  
 
For us, it is one of the easiest and more spectacular place to bring our out-of-state visitors. Even before seeing the Grand Canyon, we impress them with our beautiful state.

 

Author: EmeseRéka

I am a writer, translator, traveler, stay-at-home mother. I grew up in beautiful Transylvania, where I studied linguistics, among other things. After college I hopped on a plane across the Atlantic and landed in New York, where I met a fellow explorer. We still travel the world together, dragging our three children along most of the time. I love to explore out-of-the-way and little-known places, while connecting with locals. I write stories and articles for over a dozen publications.