For the second round of my birthday-first trip in 2010, I add a tour to one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, CHICHEN ITZA!
This amazing archaeological site is located in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico. If you fly to Cancun-Playa del Carmen or Merida it’s really worth it to drive or take a tour there.
If you like history you will like to know that Chichen Itza was selected as one of the 7 New Wonders from 200 other existing monuments in 2007. It took 7 years (2000-2007) to publish the results. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities from AD 600 until AD 1200. The term Chichen Itza means ‘the mouth at the well of Itza’. It is believed Itza means ‘water magicians’, deriving from the Mayan Itz for ‘magic’ and a for ‘water’.
The castle that you always see on pictures –Kukulcan Temple or El Castillo- dominates the center of Chichen Itza. It’s a breathtaking monument. This step pyramid stands about 30 meters (98 ft) high and consists of a series of nine square terraces. At the base of the balustrades of the northeastern staircase are carved heads of a serpent. Makes you wonder how this was possible back in the day when there wasn’t modern construction equipment available. Sadly since 2006 you can’t climb or go inside Chichen Itza but still the experience and the history behind it is worth visiting.
So what’s so impressive about this place?
-The design and layout of Chichen Itza were clearly well planned and builders constructed temples and pyramids in sets of clusters.
-During the Spring (20th of March) and Autumn Equinox (22nd September), sunrays create a shadow across the Kukulkan Pyramid that gives the appearance of a serpent slithering down the staircase. Which some scholars have suggested is a representation of the feathered-serpent god Kukulkan. It’s amazing! But still, if you’re not going those days, during the night they perform a show where you can see the serpent effect.
-Located on the north side of the Kukulkan Pyramid is a platform dedicated to the planet Venus. The Mayans were devoted astronomers and the movements of Venus held special meaning to them, with it influencing the architecture of the ancient Mayan city Uxmal.
-Although the Kukulkan Pyramid is the most famous and most visited, there are numerous others in Chichen Itza. The Osario is very similar but smaller in size and at the centre is an opening to a natural cave.
-An amazing fact you need to try: Many of the sites in Chichen Itza are known for their unusual sounds. If you clap once from one end of the Ball Court, it produces nine echoes in the middle of the court. Additionally, a clap in front of the Kukulkan Pyramid creates an echo resembling the serpent’s chirp.
-When I was visiting I got to experience how suddenly it was sunny and for just 30 minutes sky went cloudy, very dark and cold temperature. Locals said that it happens when a Maya spirit is angry…30 minutes after was sunny again, as you can see in the pictures.
Another impressive place inside Chichen Itza is the Sacred Cenote. The Yucatán Peninsula is a limestone plain, with no rivers or streams. The region is pockmarked with natural sinkholes, called Cenotes, which expose the water table to the surface. One of the most impressive of these is the Cenote Sagrado – Sacred Cenote located inside Chichen Itza, which is 60 meters (200 ft) in diameter and surrounded by sheer cliffs that drop to the water table some 27 meters (89 ft) below.
The Sacred Cenote was a place of pilgrimage for ancient Maya people who, according to ethnohistoric sources, would conduct sacrifices during times of drought. Archaeological investigations support this as thousands of objects have been removed from the bottom of the cenote, including material such as gold, carved jade, copal, pottery, flint, obsidian, shell, wood, rubber, cloth, as well as skeletons of children and men.
Other structures are the Temple of Chac Mool, the Hall of the Thousand Pillars or The Temple of Thousand Warriors, and the Playing Field of the Prisoners, is truly a collection of great architecture.
The playing field also known as the Great Ball Court, has 20 ft stone rings upon its two walls. The ball court is continuous between the walls and is open to the sky. The northern, southern and eastern sides support temples, which were probably used for rituals.
This ancient Maya city it’s an amazing place to have a real Maya experience. Take note! Chichen Itza is one of the driest areas of southeast Mexico because is located in a dry tropical forest and covered with thin soils and scrubby forest environment where drought could quickly bring widespread famine. So allow me to recommend comfort clothes, preferred cotton, sunblock, a cool drink, a good hat, a great camera, comfortable shoes and maybe even a fan because it is hot!
Souvenirs are very affordable inside the place!
If you want to know more about this trip, find more HERE.