We made a stop on our way from Izamal to Cancun to tour the ancient Maya city and UNESCO heritage site of Chichen Itza.
We spent the month of February with Lori’s parents, traveling around Belize and then on to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. After a couple nights wandering around the charming Yellow City of Izamal, it was on to Cancun.
On the way, we couldn’t resist making a stop to see the post-classical Yucatec Maya city of Chichen Itza, which means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza people,” referring to a nearby cenote (water-filled limestone sinkhole) where the luckiest folks were tossed in as a sacrifice to appease the rain god, Chaac.
We chose to do a self-guided tour of Chichen Itza, but in retrospect, it would have been nice to have the knowledge and perspective of a local guide.
The Great Ballcourt.
Hawkers hauling in their wares for the day.
Chichen Itza was one of the largest and most significant Mayan cities and today remains an important center of Mayan heritage and Yucatan tourism, with over 1.2 million visitors to the ruins every year, making it Mexico’s second most visited archaeological site. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Almost felt like being back in China for a moment…
The Cenote Sagrado or Sacred Cenote where many a Maya were sacrificed to the rain god Chaac (above).
One thing to note about the Chichen Itza ruin complex is that visitors are not permitted to climb on or through any of the ruins, which sets this complex apart from other ruins in the region such as Tikal (not to mention most ruins in Peru and Southeast Asia). As recently as the publishing of our guidebook, it seems that you could still crawl through the Las Monjas complex, but not anymore.
I understand it’s all for preservation, etc., and fully support that. But I do say it’s darn fun to scale the high pyramids and clamor through ancient halls and dungeons. Who knows how long ’til the rest of the world follows suit.
Columns in the Temple of a Thousand Warriors.
Templo de los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors).
For a better look at how it all fits together, you may want to take a look at this map of Chichen Itza.
Dome of El Caracol (The Snail) observatory.
“La Iglesia” (The Church) in the Las Monjas complex.
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