Without a doubt, any vacation to the Yucatan Peninsula must include a visit to the riveting historical site of Chichén Itzá. Garnering impressive titles including one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this remarkable ancient city will astound you with its collection of architectural wonders including temples, columned arcades and pyramids amongst other stone structures and figures. Much more than a center for regional trade, it was also home to a sophisticated society who performed sacred rituals and ceremonies here. Prepare yourself to uncover the history of this captivating ancient civilization as you wander the grounds.
An example of the Mayan Classical Period
Once a bustling city that held great power within the ancient Mayan culture of Central America, its people abandoned Chichen Itza during the 15th century. It took shape during the Classic Period sometime between 415 and 455 CE and reached its peak from 750-1200 CE. Its name, roughly translating to “at the edge of the well of the Itzaes”, was inspired by the two freshwater sinkholes known as cenotes that are located closeby.
Toltecs and Mayans
Toltec warriors burst upon the scene around 1000 CE which inspired an entirely new intermingling of cultures that resulted in a blend of architectural styles you can still see today. Fortunately, the ancient Maya and Toltec chose their building techniques and materials wisely so that their structures could withstand the ravages of time and the elements. Even though Chichén Itzá was uninhabited for centuries, which of course had some impact, excavation of the ancient ruins started in 1841 and breathed new life into the space.
Temple of Kukulcan
One of the most enchanting aspects of Chichén Itzá is the focus that the Maya and Toltec placed on astronomy, with their connection to the night skies widely evident. Undoubtedly the most recognizable structure here is the Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo) which is a towering step pyramid that makes it clear how precise their astronomical knowledge was.
Featuring 365 steps (one for each day of the year), each of its four sides has 91 steps and the 365th step is the top platform. Remarkably, the pyramid is located in the exact spot where a serpent-shaped shadow passes over it just twice each year, during the spring and fall equinoxes, respectively. As the sun sets, the phenomenal sight of the serpent shadow descending the steps until it meets a stone sculpture of a serpent’s head waiting at the base of staircase blows the minds of everyone in attendance.
Other noteworthy structures
Chichén Itzá was one of the Mayan empire’s largest cities and contained a multicultural population which heavily influenced the myriad architectural styles still on display. Other noteworthy structures include a circular observatory known as El Caracol, the Great Ball Court, Tomb of the High Priest, House of Eagles, Jaguar Temple and the Temple of the Warriors. While it is uncertain why the city’s inhabitants fled their once prosperous and thriving home to live in the jungle, it is believed by many scientists that the constant threat of conquest and theft by invaders, paired with depleted soils and drought could have driven the population away.
Allow yourself to get lost in the magnificent architecture and compelling history of Chichén Itzá for a vacation adventure like nothing you’ve ever experienced before! Book your tickets for a tour at the onsite tour agency at Villa del Palmar Cancun and use your members discount card that you will receive when you check-in.