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The Ancient City of Chichen Itza

One of the most mysterious historical places on the planet is the ancient city of Chichen Itza. It is sometimes called the wonder of the world of the Americas.

History of Chichen Itza

History of Chichen Itza
The city has an ancient history.

Lovers of mystery and adventure seek to come to Latin America, where many ancient sites belonging to different cultures are still preserved.

Where is the ancient city of Chichen Itza

This monument of Mesoamerican civilization is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Nearby is the village of Piste, and 250 km away is the popular resort of Cancun.

Who built the city?

The settlement was founded by the Maya supposedly in 455. From their language the name is translated as “mouth of the sorcerer of the water well.

Among other names, several have survived to this day:

  • Yuuk Yabnal (Seven Great Houses);
  • Yuuk Hab Nal (Seven Bushy Areas);
  • Yuukuabnal (Seven Great Rulers);
  • Uk Abnal (The Seven Ways of Abnal).

In the 11th century the city was conquered by the Toltecs and made it the capital of their domain. However, in 1178 the Maya, led by Junak Keel, took it back and ruled there until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

The conquerors did not only plunder the Indians. They organized several expeditions and conducted excavations at the sites of cult buildings.

Thanks to the discoveries made during the research, the history of the origin of the Maya civilization has become available.

How to get to Chichen Itza

You can get to Chichen Itza by bus along these routes:

  1. From Cancun. Flights depart from the bus station from 05:00 to 23:00. The ticket price is 120 pesos. The travel time is about 3.5 hours.
  2. From Valladolid. By bus from the bus station for 45 pesos. The trip will take 45-50 minutes.
  3. From Merida. For 60 pesos, the shuttle will be at your destination in 1.5 hours.

You can rent a car and get to the city on your own. In this case you will need an international driving license.

Chichen Itza on the map

City sights

The historic complex of Chichen Itza is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country. Its list of attractions includes more than 20 monuments of Mayan culture.

Pyramid of Kukulkan
The Pyramid of Kukulkan is one of the most significant sites of the ancient city.

Pyramid of Kukulkan

It is the most famous structure of antiquity that has survived to this day. This sacred Mayan temple occupies 18 hectares.

The size of the structure:

  • height – 24 m (with the top – 30 m);
  • the length of either side – 55 m.

The platform is surrounded by a stone parapet, and you can climb up one of the 4 stairs with 91 steps each. If you add up their total number and add the site, the total is 365. It symbolizes the number of days in the year. The pyramid facets are directed to the sides of the parts of the world and have nine ledges each.

Each of the staircases has a railing in the shape of a snake with its head at the bottom and its body pointing upward. The length of the sculpture is 37 meters. On the days of the spring and autumn equinoxes, viewers are given the illusion of snake flight. This effect lasts for 3 hours and 22 minutes.

Sacred cenote

The sacred cenote is called the sacrificial well in the old city. The Spanish bishop Diego de Landa claimed that live virgins were thrown here before battles so that the gods would grant victory. The girls were painted blue and decked out with jewels.

However, numerous expeditions, during which a large number of artifacts were found in the well, have established that both men and children were thrown there. But to solve all the mysteries of history has not yet been possible.

To find the cenote is as follows:

  1. Walk through the park.
  2. Go around the pyramid of Kukulkan.
  3. Go around the ruins of Venus.
  4. Find a sign showing the path.

Venus Platform

To the north of the temple is a platform dedicated by the Toltecs to their chief deity, Venus. Her images are covered with bas-reliefs, preserving the ancient paint of blue, red and yellow hues. The second name of the structure is the Tomb of Chuck Mole. The remains of this chief were found during excavations inside the sanctuary.

The temple, like most local landmarks, is square in shape. The height of the building is 4 m, the length of each of the 4 sides of the base is 25 m. Each wall has stairs with snake heads on balustrades.

Local guides do not agree on why this structure was built. Some tell of scary rituals performed by ancient Indians. Others claim that from the upper platform scientists were watching the stars.

El Karakol

This is an observatory, accessed on the second floor by a winding staircase. From the language of the Indians, El Caracol translates as “snail. The building was built in 904. It was originally intended for the observation of Venus. All the most important discoveries of the Maya civilization were made here. Scientists speculate that one of the inventions, not the Spaniards at all, destroyed it. It is now the oldest astronomical structure in the Yucatan.

Temple of the Jaguar

The temple was erected in honor of the main symbol of the Maya, the jaguar. His sculpture is located near the shrine. This building was the richest in the old town. The date of the foundation of the structure is between 1100 and 1150.

Next, tourists see a pyramid with porticoes decorated with battle scenes. There are many bas-reliefs with snakes and human figures all around. The sculptures are made very naturally and repeat subjects from the daily life of the Indians. In some places the coloring is preserved, making the compositions even more naturalistic.

Temple of Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza.

Temple of Warriors

The Toltec leader Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, after conquering Chichen Itza, erected here a scaled-down copy of the structure at Tollana. The temple is adorned by patterned columns 26 meters high in front of the stairs and a sculpture of a jaguar.

The sanctuary stands on a 5-stage pyramid 11.5 m high. The frescoes depict battle scenes involving ancient Indian warriors. The composition allows for a better understanding of Mayan and Toltec culture.

Temple of Skulls

First the travelers get to a platform, the edges of which are decorated with skulls strung on spears. Historians claim that in those days the real severed heads of defeated enemies were exhibited here.

The temple of warriors, or Chak-Mol, consisting of 5 ledges, is situated on a pyramid 11.5 m high. On the balustrade of the main staircase there are sculptures of men, at the entrance to the sanctuary there are columns with snakes. In the altar, tourists are greeted by the figure of a demon. He is holding the dish on which the bodies of the victims were dumped.

On the walls are frescoes depicting eagles and ancient fighters. They illustrate the Toltec takeover of the city.

Despite the subsequent defeat, the Indians did not destroy the temple, and descendants preserved the most magnificent structure of the ancient civilization.

Sacrificial well

Another place of sacrifice is Ik-kil. This is the most mysterious cenote on the Yucatan. It represents a funnel in the ground. Its diameter is 60 m and depth is 40 m. The lake has catfish at the bottom, and the walls are covered with tropical thickets. The hanging roots and vines add to the scenic beauty of the well.

You can go down the stairs and watch the play of light and shadow. Birds nest in small natural depressions. The observation decks allow you to see them.

Group of a Thousand Columns

There used to be a shopping district on the site of the complex. The merchants built a canopy over it so that bad weather would not interfere with their business. At first the market occupied 600 m², then the number of columns was increased to 200 and the total area reached 1.4 km².

However, the posts were made of wood, so time has not spared them. The miracle of Indian technology in its original form has not survived. Now you can see the south colonnade with porticoes and a vestibule.

Alley of a Thousand Columns
The Alley of a Thousand Columns.

Gran Huego de Pelota

This is the name of the outdoor area for ball games. The field measures 83 meters long and 30 meters wide and is surrounded by 8-meter walls. This is the largest Mayan stadium.

Excursions and tours to Chichen Itza

To experience the culture and history of an ancient civilization, you need to buy a tour of Chichen Itza.

Among the most popular individual routes should be highlighted:

  • a trip to Valladolid with a visit to the pyramid of Kukulcan, a swim in the Ik Quil cenote and a tour of the ball field;
  • a sightseeing tour for 1-2 people with a tequila tasting;
  • a journey with a personal guide to the religious buildings of the ancient settlement.

You can get into the city as part of a group if you buy these tours:

  • “Maya. Arrow of Time: 5 Days in the Yucatan Peninsula and the State of Chiapas;
  • “Mayan Mysteries. Express: 3 Days on the Yucatan Peninsula”;
  • “Mysterious Ancient Cities: Chichen Itza, Coba, and Tulum.

Travelers should keep in mind that in order to protect their lives and health, climbing to the top of the pyramids and temples is prohibited.

Cost of admission and tickets

You can visit Chichen Itza daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Entrance to the territory of the historical complex is paid.

The cost of the ticket consists of two parts:

  • 85 pesos for the National Institute of Anthropology and History;
  • 453 pesos to the budget of the Mexican state of Yucatan.

Compared to 2021, prices have increased by almost 50%.

Interesting facts about Chichen Itza in Mexico

The most interesting facts about Chichen Itza:

  1. Archaeologists suggest that the ancient Indians did not choose the site for the foundation of the city by chance. It is located in the jungle far from the rivers and the sea coast. However, there are quite a few wells in the neighborhood. They served as a source of drinking water.
  2. At the time of its greatest prosperity, the settlement occupied an area of 10 km². The population was more than 30 thousand people.
  3. All of the most impressive structures that have survived to this day were built not by the Maya, but by the Toltecs. Some scholars are of the opinion that there was no war between the tribes and that the unification took place peacefully. However, the frescoes and sculptures do not support this view.
  4. In 1178 Chichen Itza was invaded by an army of three united tribes. But the heyday quickly ended. By the end of the century the inhabitants had left the capital for some unknown reason. Decline began and destruction soon followed.
  5. The first person to discover the ruins of the ancient city was the Englishman John Stephenson. In 1843, he stumbled upon them by chance while traveling through the jungles of the Yucatan. In the 1920s, the local authorities found money for restoration work.

Although most of the structures still require restoration, Chichen Itza remains the largest monument of Maya civilization.

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