Chichén Itzá: A glimpse into the Mayan Civilization

Filed under: Places to Visit - by Louise Hennessy

Chichén Itzá: admitted, it’s a bit of a trek from the ticket booths…. and yes, it implies an early start. And alright, alright, it’s a long stretch by coach…..

But once you reach that vast grassy clearing, it just hits you….

The very first glimpse of the Castillo (Castle), otherwise known as the Pyramid of Kukulcan, is a moment of pure contentment and awe. Suffice to say that even on subsequent visits it still manages to knock you for six, and it’s hard to keep your eyes off it even while you explore the other less prominent, but lovely-in-their-own-right sights of Chichén Itzá.

Chichén Itzá

People haven’t been allowed to scale the pyramid since around 2006 for safety and preservation reasons, but it really does not take away any of its charm or popularity. For those who are not in the know, on March 21st (the Spring Equinox), literally herds of visitors congregate within view of the North stairway to witness a phenomenon where the sun’s rays beam down in such a way as to form the body of a snake, cast by light and shade, all the way down to the perfectly situated serpent head at the foot of the steps.  If you happen to be around at that time, put this date on your agenda…

If the immediate view of the Pyramid, and the famous figure of Chac Mool, seated on theTemple of Warriors, in the background, were not enough in themselves,  do not be fooled into thinking that’s it. True, there is a lot of ground to cover on foot, but the core of the archaelogical site is spread over a deceiving 5 square kilometres, at least.

As easy as it is to wander around the assorted structures hap-hazardly, it is really rather meaningless  to anyone but a connoisseur;  for full benefit and some fascinating facts we suggest hiring one of the official guides on arrival, who are extremely knowledgeable and generally full of beans! Don’t forget to ask them to demonstrate the echo effect within the Ball Game and at the foot of the Pyramid of Kukulcan! We’ll say no more, just be amazed…..

Chichén Itzá

Our tip: Don’t miss “Old Chichen”. Many tend to concentrate on the more modern part of the site around the Castillo, perhaps due to the larger amount of restoration work which was carried out there, and the fact that the older “scientific” section of Chichén Itzá is somewhat hidden away to the south of the city. Old Chichen is home to the Astronomical Observatory, otherwise known as the Caracol (Snail) due to its shape and the spiral stairway found inside. Given the tendency to remain around the northern area of Chichen, you may even find yourself alone here. A welcome respite from the crowds, bask in a moment’s bliss in this, one of the wonders of the world, and drink in the tranquil, yet mysterious atmosphere of the age-old city.

Chichén Itzá

Another point to keep in mind is that although it could seem like a captive market, it’s surprisingly  a great place to bargain for souvenirs, at the assortment of stalls actually within the site itself, and from vendors in and around the ruins, who  approach you with a huge smile on their face. We’ve picked up some lovely pieces here and at great prices, and after all that walking and cultural education,  it’s a perfect way to top off the day trip!

Chichén Itzá

There´s really no doubt about it, you’ll be weary, sweaty, rosy-cheeked and ready for a snooze on the way back… but you won’t care.. it will be that happy, serene kind of tiredness, the kind that only comes from a feeling of complete and utter fulfillment…

Remember that our concierge can help you organize a tour!

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