The fusion of the
indigenous Mayans and the Toltecs, from the highlands of central Mexico, created a new and unique
architecture that is often called Maya -Yucatec. In a simple sense,
this architecture incorporates Mexican influences with the Mayan style of art and architecture.
Various records indicate that the city
declined late in the 12th century, although it continued in use for several
hundred years. It was sparsely populated when "discovered" by the Spanish
invaders in the early 16th century. Chichén
Itzá fell into disuse after its discovery and its ruins were not excavated until the mid -19th
Chichén Itzá is located near two large cenotes (limestone sinkholes) that tap the local
underground water system. Cenotes were the Mayans only reliable source
of water and the existence of two in close proximity was an important
reason for the Mayan choosing this site for a settlement and its growth
through the centuries. After
the Toltec invasion, at least one of the cenotes was used for human
sacrifice based on ceremonies and religious beliefs that appear to have been imported to the region by the Toltecs.
Itzá is a large site (approximately 700 acres - 300 hectares -
slightly larger than a square mile). There are a number of outer
districts connected to the main site by raised stone causeways, but
these exterior sites have not yet been excavated and are not open to the public.
The number of buildings open to visitors in Chichén Itzá is far
richer than at any
other site in the Yucatan. Unfortunately, many of the monuments in Chichén Itzá
have crumbled to piles of stone while others have
decayed to the point where they are dangerous to explore.
can enter some of the chambers in the monuments that are open, you may not feel comfortable doing so.
Most of these interior rooms can be approached only through small passageways that are
usually dark, hot, humid and generally uninviting. In addition, it is
likely that the Mayan people were smaller than you, so if you are
claustrophobic, you may want to avoid entry.
Although a popular activity in the past was to climb to the top of the
Castillo, the main pyramid on the site, we
have heard (but have not been able to verify at this time) that visitors are no
longer permitted to climb its stairs.
Chichén Itzá is masterpiece of Mayan architecture and highlight of your
visit should include the Castillo (Kulkulcan's Temple), the
Temple of the Warriors, the Great Ball Court, the Group of the Thousand
Columns, the Observatory, and the Nunnery. By the way, the famous
plumed serpent that you will see adorning many of the buildings is
Quetzalcoatl, one of the Mayan gods.
Be sure to see the famous statue
of the Mayan rain god Chac-Mool (another Toltec influence), in its famous reclining
During the Equinoxes, the date on which the day has exactly 12 hours of sunlight, the shadows cast on one of the stair-ramps
of the Castillo are believed to represent an undulating serpent traveling
down the pyramid.
Practical Advice for visiting Chichén Itzá
Time your visit for as early or late in the day as practical in order
to avoid the crowds that arrive at mid-morning. The temperature can be
warm here and the sun can feel oppressive at mid-day and in the early
We advise that you pace yourself, wear a hat and take an adequate supply of a
high-UV protection from the sun. You won't have the cool sea
breezes you find in Cancun to moderate the temperatures, so be sure to stay hydrated. If you have forgotten
water, lotion or hats, you can purchase replacements at the gift shops and
stands at the entrance to Chichén Itzá .
In addition, this commercial website features information on tours of
Chichén Itzá, that might be of interest when planning a trip to
Next - The
Ancient Mayan City of Tulum
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