December 2013 • Canon 60D camera
UNESCO World Heritage site
Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza
We were lucky to get to Chichen Itza before it was closed for the day. On the way, our coach had a flat tyre. We initially waited for help, which never came, then made our way slowly to a coach station with the flat tyre. We changed coaches and rushed to Chichen Itza.
We arrived late in the afternoon, so we did not have a great deal of time to explore the whole area. But the advantage of arriving late was that most of tourists were leaving so it was not crowded. Located in the eastern portion of Yucatán state in Mexico, Chichen Itza is one of the largest Mayan sites. First populated in 600 AD, it was later abandoned in 1300 AD for some unknown reason.
El Castillo, also known as the temple of Kukulcan, is a pyramid that at the center of the site. Not as big as the Egyptian pyramids in Giza, it was built by the during the Mayan civilisation between the 8th and 12th centuries. Our guide told us the pyramid is actually a Mayan calendar. Adding up the steps on the four stairways and the top center platform, you get 365 days.
The unique effect of the setting sun casting a shadow ascending the steps can be seen at the spring and autumn equinoxes. It is said to resemble a serpent going down the northern steps to the base of the pyramid where there is a serpents head statue.
Juego de Pelota
This is the largest ball court to be discovered. It reminded me of the Roman chariot races arena for some reason. Two stone walls on either side had carvings depicting the Mayan games that played here. I was surprised to hear that the players had knee padding!
What was truly remarkable was the acoustics. Clapping your hand on one side of the wall would echo multiple times around to the other wall. There is a temple at the north end called Temple of the Bearded Man.
North Temple, Great Ball Court
Templo de los Guerreros
Chichen Itza means “The mouth at the well of the Itza people”. It is in reference to a sacred Cenote in the area.
Chichen Itza is an interesting site to visit and popular on the tourist circuit if you are in region. At my time of visiting, tickets cost $125. Unless you are familiar with Mayan history, I recommend hiring a local guide, as there are a lot of fascinating stories regarding the structures. The guide we hired cost $57. There are bag lockers for you to use if you need and snacks that you can buy at the entrance.
Be aware in the height of the tourist season, this place will get really busy. Come with hat, sunglasses, sun block and water. It's a fairly large site with a lot to see spread out. You will be standing in the open with the sun shinning down on you with no where to find shade. I did not get a chance to see everything, but would come back here again if I was in Mexico.