Chichen Itza

There are a lot of trips from the past that I haven’t gotten around to blogging about.  So in an effort to resurrect a few of those I introduce UNESCO Heritage Site Chichen Itza, Mexico to you.  Eric and I took advantage of some inexpensive plane tickets a few years back and flew on down to visit the Yucatan Peninsula.  We flew in to Cancun and promptly left town as quickly as our moderately safe rental car would take us.  (It started exactly 50% of the time and I am not lying when I tell you we push started the thing within eye site of a bunch of Alligators near Coba. But, that’s another story.)

Chichen Itza, normally a beacon for every single visitor to the Yucatan and nearly all who visit Cancun, was devoid of visitors due to the Swine flu.  While some people might stay away from Chichen Itza due to the crowds or the heat they will sorely miss one of the better archaeological sites in Mexico and arguably in the world.  


The Chichen Itza complex is large enough to wander around and spend the entire day looking at temples, stone buildings, ball courts, the sacred cenote, and stone carvings. Some have been restored and some are still unexcavated.  Most temples are protected and do not allow for visitors to climb up or on them in an effort to keep visitors safe and to protect the structures.

El Castillo is a magnificent temple, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  (Google tells me the new seven are: Chichen Itza, Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China, Petra, The Coliseum, Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, and Christ the Redeemer in Rio!  Can anyone say Bucket List?) Spring and Autumn equinox lights the staircase in the form of a serpent down the staircase of the temple with a Hollywood worthy play of shadow and light ending at the head of the feathered serpent.  For the hardy of the bunch Chichen Itza does a very entertaining evening light show that explains the story of Chichen Itza, its gods, its history, and the Mayan People.  And who doesn’t love a neon light show simulating the feathered serpent?   Kitschy yes, but still awesome especially if you are sleeping locally.


The great Ball Court is the largest of thirteen on site with the Temple of the Jaguar flanking one end. One can walk around and see just how high the ball ring is grateful it was not their hips required to project the ball upward.  Carvings surround the ball court depicting ball players losing their heads and bleeding either in victory or defeat.  Some argue this represents the losers others think it represents the happy sacrifice of the winners. 

The Skull Platform made me raise one eyebrow and ask if this was for real.  Well, it is and it is endlessly entertaining.  It harkens to modern day Dios Day Los Muertos activities, masks, and art.

It is impossible to ignore the Columns of the Temple of a Thousand Warriors with Chac Mool proudly staring outward from above.  Chac Mool is a stunning carving that begs to be photographed until you realize sacrifices were made on its very belly.  Then you keep your distance and nod in respect.


La Iglesia, sometimes called the Nunnery, is away from the busiest section of El Castillo and the Chac Mool.  The angles and architecture are my favorite on site.  It is smaller and less vast and somehow cozier.  But, the angles and decorations of the buildings are no less interesting than the size and power of El Castillo.

I never get tired of visiting archaeological ruins.   I love each and every location in its own way.  But, some sites certainly stick out as being complete, impressive, important, and well worth the visit.  The Yucatan Peninsula is chalked full of locations like Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Mayapan, Coba, and Tulum on the coast.  It’s easy to get temple fatigue but I urge you to visit the sites and you will experience culture and food and kindness that is a world away from Cancun.  

If you liked this post you might like to visit other posts on Mexico I have written by clicking here!

33 thoughts on “Chichen Itza

  1. It looks like you beat the crowds that day. It’s a shame that you can’t climb the pyramid. Nothing impressed me more than the view from the top of a temple in Belize: the massiveness of the pyramid, the scale of the city, the view over the canopy to the surrounding jungle. I hope to get there someday. Love the photos

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  3. We studied it at school last year and I’ve wanted to visit ever since – my class of 8 year olds were fascinated with the ball court and loved the whole skull thing. Those Mayan gods were pretty gruesome and the kids relished it!

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    • Wonderful, hope you can make it for a visit. It is well worth a visit. And there are so many questions as to what it may have been used for. The skulls are interesting for sure. As are the serpent heads and the Chacs with their upwards turned noses and downward turned noses. Thanks for the comment!

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  6. If I only had one chance to visit the Americas, Mexico would be my country of choice for its impressive archaeological ruins. You definitely went at the right time since, not only was the site devoid of people, but it was also a nice and sunny day.


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