We’d been to Teotihuacan in Mexico City, Ek Balam,Tulum and Tikal, but this was the famous picture we went in search of.
It’s one of the most visited sites of Mayan Temples on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and that’s where we’re headed today.
We arrive at 8am, it’s peaceful and cool at this time of the morning. The giant, spacious and manicured grounds are desolate and quiet.
The most famous and important building in Chichén Itzá is ‘El Castillo’, a representation of the Mayan God ‘Quetzalcoatl’ meaning Feathered Serpent – a Mayan supernatural deity.
Standing in front and gazing upward…’El Castillo’ reaches 24 metres high up into the perfect blue sky and stands on a 55 metre platform from which 4 stairwells emerge, representing the cardinal points.
It has me wondering…
But there’s more to this place that El Castillo, let me show you a bit more about the other famous structures here at Chichen Itza.
Along the south wall of the Temple of Warriors are a series of exposed columns, although when the city was inhabited these would have supported an extensive roof system.
The Tzompantli structure at Chichén Itzá is a Toltec structure, where the heads of sacrificial victims were placed.
The platform walls of the Tzompantli have carved reliefs of four different subjects. The primary subject is the skull rack itself; others show a scene with a human sacrifice; eagles eating human hearts; and skeletonized warriors with shields and arrows.
There’s a quiet dignity to what physically remains of the Mayan civilization. Undoubtedly, that has much to do with their location.
Many of the Mayan sites have been deserted for centuries and have now been encroached by miles and miles of dense jungle.
I leave with more questions than answers … that’s what we love about travelling and learning new cultures.
Unlike some other, smaller Mayan sites not far away like Ek Balam and Coba, Chichen Itza has been converted into a definite ‘tourist site’ with prices and crowds to match.
It’s also pretty baffling the sheer number of stalls selling tourist nicknacks inside the complex. I love to buy a nick nack or two, but the constant in your face chant from the vendors make it unpleasant and too much hassle.
I got pretty tired of the pushy ‘Hola Amigo’ chant that’s actually translates – you tourist, you buy – and when you don’t buy they become rude.
Although it’s a massive area that can accommodate a lot of people, arriving around 8.00 am and having a couple of hours before the tour buses, makes for a more pleasant and rewarding visit.
And at least some time to reflect on your own…
El Castillo, the grand pyramid – yes, of course I wanted to climb it… however since 2006 it’s no longer possible due to the death of a tourist and the decay mass tourism was causing. In fact, most of the best-preserved Mayan cities (Chichen-Itza, Uxmal,Tulum) of the Yucatan Peninsula can’t be climbed anymore and I expect all will follow eventually. Although as of 2014 you can still climb Nohoch Muul at Coba and the Acropolis at Ek Balam.
In any event the monuments left behind by the city’s inhabitants of Chichen Itza are some of the most spectacular in the New World and it’s a place not to be missed if you are in the Yucatan.
You can enjoy the Yucatan right here without even going to Mexico… just click on our video below.