Nearby are the remains of the ancient capital city of the Toltecs, also known as "Tula" or as "Tollan". Usually identified as the Toltec capital around 980 AD, the city was destroyed in or about 1168 or 1179.
The site is at and around the junciton of the Rio Rojas and the Rio Tula. The two largest clusters of grand ceremonial architecture are nicknamed "Tula Grande" (the most visited by tourists and "Tula Chico". Remains of other buildings extend for some distance in all directions. In the residential areas streets were laid out in a grid pattern.
The city was the largest in central Mexico in the 9th and 10th centuries, covering an area of some 12 km square, with a population of at least some 30,000, possibly significantly more. While it might have been the largest city in Mesoamerica at the time, some Maya sites in the Yucatan may have rivaled its population during this period.
Distinctive Toltec features here include a terraced pyramids, colonnaded buildings, and relief sculptures. There are two large courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. Some of the architecture is similar to that at Chichén Itzá.
The site was extensively looted in Aztec times, with much of the artwork and sculpture carted off.
The first scholarly description of the ruins was made by Antonio García Cubas of the Mexican Society of Geography & History in 1873. The first archeological excavations were conducted in the 1880s by French antiquitarian Desire Charnay. A twenty year archeological project under Jorge Acosta of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology & History (INAH) began in 1940. In the 1970s further excavations and restorations of some structures were conducted by INAH and the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Parts of the site are open for tourst visits, and Tula has a small museum.