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Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Why Chichen Itza is special
Chichen Itza is the best preserved of the many Mayan ruins in Mexico and Central America.

Top 5 must-see Chichen Itza attractions
El Castillo
This structure (see photo above) is by far the tourism star of Chicken Itza. This high pyramid temple dominates the entire site and has become the visual symbol of Chichen Itza. The name El Castillo (the castle) was bestowed by the 16th century Spanish conquistadores. The ancient name is Kukulcan.

Temple of the Warriors
A striking forest of stone columns surround this large structure. It is decorated with relief carvings of warriors

Ball Court
Without using their hands or feet, players had to fling a ball through one of the stone rings attached high on the wall. Pictorial evidence suggests that the team captain was sometimes beheaded, but doesn't indicate whether he led the winning or losing team.

A cenote is a sinkhole. The one named Sacred Cenote in Chichen Itza is remarkably wide and deep. This circular pit served as a water source for the population. Treasures (and perhaps humans) were tossed into the cenote's pool to win the goodwill of the gods

El Caracol
An astronomical observatory with a circular tower. Its functions included identifying the precise time of the equinoxes for religious and agricultural purposes. I will also remember waking up early one morning and seeing El Caracol dramatically framed by my hotel-room window.

Other worthy Chichen Itza must-sees include the Nunnery, High Priest's Tomb, and Temple of the Jaguars.

More Chichen Itza tips and insights
Climbing prohibited in 2006
Tourists are no longer allowed to climb the steep steps to the top of El Castillo for the spectacular view of the Chichen Itza complex.

This rule was implemented in March 2006 because the ruins are deteriorating. Another reason is it that the steep and narrow steps are hazardous - and have scared the daylights out of many tourists who looked down the 365 precipitous steps after scaling the monument.

At night
You can attend a narrated Light & Sound presentation in the evening.

Recommended length of stay
Most tourists are daytrippers from the Cancun resort on the Caribbean coast. It's about two to three hours away by road. Swarms of them arrive in cars, vans and buses after 10 a.m. and depart before 3 p.m.

I recommend staying overnight in one of the local hotels so you can enjoy Chichen Itza when it is uncrowded and not uncomfortably hot and humid. Begin your explorations in the late afternoon and finish them in the early morning.

Serious sightseers may want to stay two nights because there is a lot to discover.

Chichen Itza location in Mexico
Chichen Itza Map
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