Chichen Itza is one of the New Seven World Wonders and the most famous Mayan ruin in the world, it goes without saying that it has to be visited.
The Maya is one of the greatest civilizations ever known. And like any advanced civilization, it also went through various stages of development: from the rudimentary one to the peak of its power and influence around the sixth century A.D. The Mayans excelled at mathematics, astrology, agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making, and many more things. They were one of the most dominant indigenous societies of Mesoamerica, covering all of the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula and other states of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.
At the end of the 13th century, Maya civilization started its collapse and no one knows for sure the reason for the fall. When the Spanish conquerors set foot in this place, the Mayan civilization was far from the symbol of the past.
But, in the north region of the Yucatan peninsula, on a limestone plateau still lies the old city of Chichen Itza, once one of the most powerful cities of the Maya and attracts millions of visitors who come to marvel at the spectacular remains.
Driving to Chichen Itza
Our accommodation was on the Riviera Maya, somewhere between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, so to visit Chichen Itza, we had few options: to have a tour, to rent a car or to take the local bus.
We choose to rent a car from rentalcars.com for 40 euros/day all insurances included.
We left our hotel very early in the morning, around 6.30 and drove for 2.5 h.
You have to pay attention to the fact that the Yucatan Peninsula has a different time zone (-1 h), then Quintana Roo (Riviera Maya).
First, we reached Tulum and from there we took the road to Valladolid and then Chichen Itza. There is about 200 km of driving. It was an easy drive. The first 30 km to Tulum was crowded, but at the rest of the road, we encounter only a few cars. The only annoying things were the number of speed bumps in the villages or cities. There were very high and very fervent, therefore annoying.
Visiting Chichen Itza
We reached Chichen Itza by 8.00, exactly the opening time.
We parked the car in the parking place and paid 80 pesos and went straight to the entrance.
It is best to reach Chichen Itza at its opening time because it is less crowded, the tours reach this place starting with 9.00-10.00.
We waited a few minutes to pay the two entrance tickets to Chichen Itza (411 pesos- cultural fee+ 70 pesos –INHA) a total of 482 pesos.
Chichen Itza was one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatan Peninsula. Throughout its 1,000 years of history, different civilizations have left their mark on this city. The Maya and Toltec vision of the universe is revealed in their artistic works and stone monuments and it can be seen on the several buildings that have survived.
The site covered more than 10 km for stepped pyramids, temples, columned arcades, and other stone structures, most of them still hidden in the jungle.
There were only a few people inside, so we were very happy that we had the chance to visit it in peace.
We went directly to Kukulkán or El Castillo, this is the most famous building in the entire site.
Most of the people consider this pyramid as Chichen Itza, but in fact, Chichen Itza was the name of the entire city, and Kukulkan was the center of that huge city.
This step pyramid demonstrates the importance of Maya astronomy and the heavy influence of the Toltecs, who invaded Mayans around 1000 years ago and merged the two cultural traditions.
The temple has 365 steps, one for each day of the year. One of the most notable inventions of the Mayans was the Maya Calendar.
Twice a year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow falls on the pyramid in the shape of a serpent. As the sun sets, this shadow descends the pyramid steps to eventually join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase. If you decide to visit the site in those days, prepare for chaos.
Unfortunately, the pyramid cannot be entered or climbed anymore. A few years ago it was allowed but now is strictly prohibited.
If you sow someone clapping their hand in front of the pyramid, they were looking to create the sound of a bird with the echo.
The Maya’s astronomical skills were so advanced they could even predict solar eclipses and observed impressive astronomic phenomena. One of these buildings was The Caracol- The Observatory, the building was used by the priests.
The tower is high with many windows which allowed observing the stars.
The Temple of the Warriors
It is one of the oldest structures at Chichen Itza. It is believed to be a late classic Maya building sufficiently big enough for really large gatherings.
The temple has four platforms, flanked by 200 columns.
All these columns once supported a roof, which collapsed a long time ago.
It is believed that these were great meeting halls. There were found decorations representing priests and warriors. After all, it was a military-religious city.
El Mercado ( The Market )
It is a very large, colonnaded building with a spacious interior court. It is believed to be more like a council house or ceremonial building.
Was named “El Mercado” by the Spanish, but its precise function is under debate.
Great Ball Court
The Mayans were sports lovers and built huge ballcourts to play all their games. They used to play “juego de pelota” and it was like a sacred ceremony. The Great Ballcourt of Chichen Itza was the biggest in the entire Mayan empire with great acoustic. This means that all the players could hear everything very well. Two teams were playing with a very heavy ball (3-4 kg). They had to pass the ball through a stone ring using a part of their body like head, hip, leg or other parts. Chichen Itza was more than a religious and ceremonial site. It was also a sophisticated urban center and hub of regional trade. But after centuries of prosperity and absorbing influxes of other cultures like the Toltecs, the city met a mysterious end.
During the XIII century, the people abandoned Chichen Itza to the jungle. Though they left behind amazing works of architecture and art, the city’s inhabitants left no known record of why they abandoned their homes. Scientists speculate that droughts, exhausted soils, and royal quests for conquest and treasure may have contributed to Chichen Itza’s downfall. We saw all this and honestly, I wasn’t so much impressed comparing with the other New Seven World Wonders. But definitely, it worth the effort to drive to for 5 hours (both ways).
We didn’t spend more than two hours there, but it was enough to see and understand the site.
10.00 was the perfect timing to leave the place because it became very crowded.