Explore Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
Ever since we were children we’ve heard fantastic accounts of the Wonders of the World—such as the stunning maravilla del mundo Chichen Itza, located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula—and we all hope to visit them one day, don’t we?
Upon finishing this article, you will definitely want to take a detour to Chichen Itza on your next trip to Playa del Carmen or Cancun.
Accompany me as I explore this city’s history and all the beautiful views it has to offer!
History of Chichen Itza
The Maya civilization is divided in three main periods:
- Classic, and
- Post Classic.
The division is based on the relevance of the achievements of the Maya, and how they thrived throughout the years.The Classic period (250 – 900 A.D) is the peak of this civilization. Records indicate that they grew to occupy up to 40 cities, each with between 5,000 and 50,000 inhabitants.
The Maya city of Chichen Itza flourished during the Classic period near the Xtoloc cenote during the years of 600 to 900 A.D., mainly because access to these underground waters fed their complex irrigation systems.
FUN FACT: Cenotes are wide, underground cavities of water whose name comes from the word Dz’ onot, meaning “cavern with water.”
Chichen Viejo (Old Chichen) is the earliest town to have grown, with important monuments such as the Nunnery, the Church, Akab Dzib, Chichan Chob, the Temple of the Panels, and the Temple of the Deer.
During the 10th century, more people settled in Chichen Itza—Toltec warriors from the northern Mexican plateau arrived, leading to the cultural blending of Toltec and Maya traditions.
Because it happened so long ago, there are no records as to why the Maya abandoned Chichen Itza. This event started in approximately the year 1200 and finalized by the year 1244.
In the 16th century, the Spanish arrived and conquered Chichen Itza, establishing a capital city at Mérida in Yucatán.
The Wonders of Chichen Itza
Visiting this incredible archaeological destination with up to 26 ruins will inspire you to learn more about this complex and skilled civilization. As you explore this place and uncover wildly interesting facts, your perspective on this fascinating culture will only grow further with curiosity.
The Maya civilization utilized sophisticated systems, social status, traditions, and intricate constructions in their daily life.
Chichen Itza is no exception, as it has three main complexes that include elaborate monuments and temples:
- The Great North Platform
- Osario Group
- Central Group
Let’s explore each, one by one!
The Great North Platform
Located in the North side of Yucatan Peninsula, the first impressive structure that you’ll want to see is El Castillo, a pyramid right at the center of the site.
El Castillo is the tallest structure in Chichen Itza, reaching 98 feet in height. The Maya built it between the 9th and 12th centuries and called it the Pyramid of Kukulkán.
It’s a major attraction on this site because of a curious phenomenon that occurs during spring and fall equinoxes: as the sun sets, the lights and shadows create an image of a snake that appears to slither down the stairway of the pyramid.
While it is not certain whether the Mayans created this on purpose, it does relate to the name of the structure, named after the god Kukulkán (the feathered serpent).
Based on how this event happens during two equinoxes, it’s safe to say that the Mayan utilized this structure to keep track of the seasons and identify relevant times, and to plant or harvest—among other possible activities.
The Temple of Warriors and the Great Ball Court are other amazing monuments you will find in this complex.
In this group of structures, you can visit the Osario pyramid and the Temple of Xtoloc. While the Osario pyramid is smaller than El Castillo, it provides an opening that leads to a natural cave 39 ft below.
Some archaeologists believe that this cave was a tomb, although this theory is currently discredited after further exploration and more recent findings proved that the ancient civilization used the Temple Xtoloc for religious ceremonies, like offerings to the Gods.
It consists of three chambers with carved representations of symbols and people.
Here, you can find the observatory known as El Caracol and other buildings, such as Las Monjas and Akab Dzib.
While the Mayans stood out for their astonishing architectural abilities, their buildings had more than aesthetic functions—the modern-looking Observatory El Caracol (The Snail) served as a means to observe the stars, and track equinoxes, solstices, and eclipses. The Maya must have been able to track Venus in order to measure the Earth’s orbit.
Las Monjas reflects the combination of styles and culture between the Maya, the Toltec, and the Puuc.
Because of its structure, people believe it served as a government building that was occupied for quite some time.
To the East, you can find a small temple known as La Iglesia.
Plan Your Experience Before You Visit
Are you intrigued by all the awesome facts and history of the gorgeous Chichen Itza? You can plan your visit next time you’re in Mexico, as you will find here all you need to know to take a tour!
Adults and kids are all welcome to visit this marvelous place! Adult tickets are 69 USD and kids’ admission is 54 USD.
Depending on the experience you’re interested in Chichen Itza, you can book one of these six wonderful tour options from Entrada a Chichen Itza:
|Mayan Cuisine||92 USD|
According to the tour you choose, you can enjoy different activities here. They pick you up comfortably at your hotel and guide you by each of the amazing buildings as you learn more about them.
You also get a delicious lunch break with a buffet to pick from. The fun doesn’t stop there! An after-lunch swim in the beautiful cenotes is in store if the weather gets too hot.
If you pick the Luxury Tour, you can choose the time of pick-up. If you’re more of a night owl, you’ll be right on time to watch the stunning light and sound show that happens at 7 PM. What’s more, you get to visit Valladolid Yucatan, a must-see colonial town!
The well-organized tours provide easy-to-read maps like this one for you to be able to locate the monuments that interest you most and know exactly where you’re headed at all times.
Is Cancun Close to the Yucatan Peninsula?
The answer to this question depends on your definition of a long trip! The Yucatan Peninsula is 122 miles (197 km) from Cancun, and it takes about 2.5 hrs to get there.
Playa del Carmen is another common destination for tourists looking for some days off at the beach, from which point the travel time to Chichen Itza is also 2.5 hours.
Deluxe Hotels in Cancun
This means you can enjoy wonderful days in the extraordinary beaches of Cancun by staying at some of these deluxe hotels:
Visit more hotel options and choose the best tour option for you at Chichen Itza Wonder of the World.
When to Visit
The wonderful springtime weather in Mexico is ideal for heat lovers! From March to May, tourism peaks in Cancun and the moderate temperatures make it the best time to enjoy a refreshing swim in the sea.
If your interest in history-heavy archaeological sites has peaked, it might be time to start planning your trip to Chichen Itza!
Speak Spanish With a Native Speaker Before Your Trip
While there’s no need to list the perks of traveling to stunning beaches or admirable historical sites, it’s essential to mention that your experience of Spanish-speaking countries will dramatically improve if you’re able to communicate with the locals and make new friends during your adventure.
If you’re ready to make the best out of your next vacation, sign up for a free class today with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy. Our 1-on-1 classes provide an immersive environment that prepares you for genuine conversations in Spanish. Start perfecting your skills today and open up future opportunities to explore Latin American culture more profoundly!
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