#346: Visit Chichen Itza

 

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LOCATION: Yucatan, Mexico

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Chichen Itza is something I’ve been wanting to see for awhile now and did not get the chance to go in 2010 when I visited Cozumel. When it’s a 14 hour tour and 8 hours of it is driving, you really have to dedicate a full day to this new wonder of the world. Is it worth all that driving? Absolutely!

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The tour first takes you to a cenote (pronounced see note tay) A cenote is a large sinkhole that comes from collapsed limestone. The Mexican Yucatan does not contain any lakes or rivers, but instead has large underground river systems. This particular area has the largest underground cenote river system in the world.

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Ik Kil Cenote

Ik Kil Cenote

Ik Kil Cenote

Ik Kil Cenote

Ik Kil Cenote

Ik Kil Cenote

Mayans considered these areas very sacred. It was fitting that we “purify” ourselves in the Ik Kil cenote before heading to the Mayan ruins.

Upon arrival to the Chichen Itza ruins we were told that there were more street vendors than tourists, and they were right!

The MANY street vendors at Chichen Itza

The MANY street vendors at Chichen Itza

You couldn’t walk anywhere without being asked to buy something for a dollar. The area was much larger than I imagined and very spread out. Used around 600AD, the area was very impressive to see.

El Castillo

El Castillo

The construction of the El Castillo, the main monument, really show cased just how intelligent the Mayans were. One side would be illuminated by light as the other would be shaded in dark. This represented the living and the deceased, as everything to the Mayans was reflective on the stars, the moon, the sun and Venus. During the equinox, the sun would even cast a serpent along the steps.

Serpent heads along the structures

Serpent heads along the structures

Serpents were something the Mayan’s displayed along all their buildings as protection and connected to their agricultural rituals. I noticed several people would stand in front of the building and clap. My guide explained that the structure was arranged to mimic the voice of a sacred quetzal bird. When everyone in the group stood in front and clapped all at once, a loud bird’s voice was heard. To Mayan’s these bird’s feathers were more valuable than gold so this clap echo may have been a tribute to them as Gods.

One particular area I was most interested in seeing was the Great Ball Court.

Ball Court

Ball Court

It was large and also represented night and day with it’s half shade, half lit construction. This is where they played their games and the winning captain would be decapitated as an honor so he had a direct ticket to heaven. Weird concept indeed!

The many carvings along the walls

The many carvings along the walls

There were several carvings along all the walls in the area. Serpents were the main theme, but other carvings were skulls, human sacrifice, eagles eating hearts and warriors with arrows and shields. It was interesting to see these so well preserved from so long ago.

Temple of Thousand Columns

Temple of Thousand Columns

Thousand Columns

Thousand Columns

The other main building there was the Temple of Thousand Columns. It represented a priestly class in their major cast system. It was made to be a military religious site and possibly pay tribute to all the warriors there.

Excavating more of the ruins

Excavating more of the ruins

Stray dogs located everywhere in Mexico

Stray dogs located everywhere in Mexico

Overall the area was very impressive and worth the visit. I find it extremely interesting to see buildings and temples still erect from so long ago and what they were used for. I guess next up, I need to see the great pyramids!

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?: Yes! Absolutely!

HOW TO DO THIS: Various tours to choose from. There are several in the area ranging from $50-$100

 

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