With about 1.5 million visitors every year, Chichen Itza is the most popular site of all the Mayan Ruins. One of the largest Mayan cities, Chichen Itza held great importance – beginning around 600 AD – before declining around the year 1250.
- This is the famous Castillo Temple, the main attraction of Chichen Itza. It’s the first thing you see upon entering the grounds (well, other than crowds of people) and the Temple absolutely lives up to its lofty expectations!
- Incredibly massive, the Castillo Temple overlooks the grounds in impressive fashion. Unfortunately, over the past decade or so, authorities have decided to prevent tourists from climbing it. Nevertheless, simply gazing at (and posing for pictures in front of, of course) one of the NEW Seven Wonders of the World is a site to behold!
The remainder of Chichen Itza takes about an hour to explore, as long as you’re not in the midst of a slow tour group. While not as big and widespread as some of the other main Mayan sites (Teotihuacan, Mexico, Tikal, Guatemala, Palenque, Mexico), there is still plenty to see in the grounds of Chichen Itza.
Great Ball Court
Above lies the Great Ball Court where a popular sport similar to racquetball was played to considerable fanfare. The largest and most impressive ball court compared to other Mayan sites, this immense area covers a radius of 550 by 230 feet. Massive! Carved feathered serpents line the walls, looking on to what must have been an incredible spectacle!
- Rumour has it the captain of the winning team would be sacrificed to the Gods after the game, an ultimate honour in Mayan society at that time. I guess there were no Michael Jordan dynasties in the those days….
Platform of Skulls
Besides the Castillo Temple and Great Ball Court, for me, the Platform of Skulls was the the next most interesting thing to see in Chichen Itza.
- Apparently, the skull platform shows the influence of central Mexican Toltecs in Chichen Itza. The Mayan people are known for being extremely peaceful, but the Toltecs were more war oriented – a change that may have led to the downfall of different groups throughout the region.
- A common theme throughout the ruins are Jaguar heads which sit at the top of most staircases. These represent the feared Jaguar God, an important figure in Mayan times.
Group of a Thousand Columns
Yet another impressive area within Chichen Itza is the Group of a Thousand Columns.
After being covered for hundreds of years during Mayan times, the columns are now fully exposed. This allows visitors to walk through, getting a better grasp of how imposing the entire area is.
Lastly, located in the back section of the ruins, is the Sacred Cenote. Over the years, thousands of objects have been found at the bottom of the Cenote, including: obsidian, jade, copal, gold and skeletons. During times of drought, people were sacrificed in an effort to appease the Gods!
Like most popular tourist sites, Chichen Itza is famous for a reason. It’s extremely impressive! In addition, like most popular tourist sites, Chichen Itza is crowded and expensive (240 pesos to enter, about $17 cdn) and after 10:30am, can get to be somewhat unbearable.
Just a 45-minute drive from Valladolid (if you want to check out Valladolid, click here: Valladolid, Mexico), Chichen Itza is very accessible by bus or if you decide to rent a car. Whichever option you choose, make sure to stop in at the awesome Ik – Kil Cenote!
Ik – Kil is just a two-minute drive from the ruins and is equally impressive in my opinion. Plan to spend at least 30-minutes to an hour here, swimming and jumping off the side section!
Yes, Chichen Itza is crowded and no, it’s not as impressive as some of the other Mayan Ruins nearby. However, that doesn’t take anything away from it being an absolute must-see in my opinion. Due to the overhype, my expectations were low but I GUARANTEE you will be in awe once you set eyes upon the Castillo Temple!
Get there early and bring some sunscreen!