The Ruins of Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Travel Blog

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El Castillo at Chichen Itza
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Chichen Itza is one of the most well known and visited sites in Mexico and was named by the Mayans literally translating to “at the mouth of the well of Itza" because of it's proximity to a number of large cenotes which provided water for the inhabitants. The famous Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen-Itza also known as “El Castillo” or The Castle is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.  During its heyday, Chichen Itza was one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatan and, throughout its nearly thousand years of existence, different peoples have left their mark on the city. The Maya and Toltec vision of the world and the universe is revealed in their artistic works and stone monuments (but it will take your imagination to see it from the ruins).
Grupo de las Mil Columnas Chichen Itza
   While it is a bit touristy it is still definitely a must see site - arrive early and you will miss the hordes of tourists arriving by bus as well as some of the never ending souvenir dealers (who were actually pretty mellow).

We headed out from Valladollid for the relatively short drive to Chichen Itza and found it without trouble, happily long before the crowds arrived and we nearly had the place to ourselves until the afternoon.  Below is an overview of Chichen Itza history from one of the handy signs around the site.

“Between 600 a.d. and 1250 a.d. this ancient city whose name means “at the mouth of the Itza well” was the center of political, economic, religious and military power, not only in Yucatan but also in the entire southeastern part of Mesoamerica.
Templo de los Guerreros Chichen Itza
The Itza domain included part of Tabasco and Campeche, the northern Gulf Coast and a large part of the southern lowlands.  Its sphere of control was based on regional and long distance mercantile activities, which generated one of the most important commercial circuits in all Mesoamerica.”

"Itza rule brought about drastic changes in the internal structure of Yucatecan communities. At the same time, the introduction of an innovative view of the world marked the establishment of an order characterized by changing commercial values, production and distribution systems and residential and religious architecture of the groups in power.”

“It is calculated that during the age of grandeur approximately 50,000 inhabitants were spread out over an area of 25 km including such distant groups as those of Balamkanche, Iki, Cumtun, Poxil and Halakai among others.
Stone Carvings at Chichen Itza
  All of them were connected to the ceremonial center by means of roads known as sacbeob."

We wandered around the site, starting at the hard to miss, famous El Castillo (that those of you reading this who are on are Christmas card list have seen or will soon see in a new and novel light…) but quickly heading out to some of the other areas of the ruins.  Vendors were just beginning to start up and it was very cool to essentially have the ruins to ourselves, wandering around the old marketplace and then on through the main areas temples and the gigantic Jugo de Pelota court.  

A path through the woods leads to another whole section of the ruins that we almost missed.  Luckily we sat down at the entrance and looked at the map and realized that there was a lot more to see (hmmm maybe a guide would have been worthwhile?).  That whole area was very cool including the small but cool El Osario temple, the huge El Caracol Observatory and the Temple de los Tablero.   The day started heating up and the crowds started dripping in so, after a brief rest watching these amazing Leaf Cutting Ants dragging pieces of leaf five times larger than their bodies in a never ending line, we decided to head of to our next destination, Merida.

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El Castillo at Chichen Itza
El Castillo at Chichen Itza
Grupo de las Mil Columnas Chichen …
Grupo de las Mil Columnas Chichen…
Templo de los Guerreros Chichen It…
Templo de los Guerreros Chichen I…
Stone Carvings at Chichen Itza
Stone Carvings at Chichen Itza
Temple de los Tableros at Chichen …
Temple de los Tableros at Chichen…
El Castillo at Chichen Itza
El Castillo at Chichen Itza
Steep Steps at El Castillo
Steep Steps at El Castillo
Temple Carvings on Platform of Ven…
Temple Carvings on Platform of Ve…
Platforma de Jaguares y Aguilas
Platforma de Jaguares y Aguilas
Skull Carvings on Tsompantli Chich…
Skull Carvings on Tsompantli Chic…
Pillar Carvings at El Osario Chich…
Pillar Carvings at El Osario Chic…
El Osario at Chichen Itza
El Osario at Chichen Itza
El Caracol Observatory at Chichen …
El Caracol Observatory at Chichen…
Leaf Cutting Ants at Chichen Itza
Leaf Cutting Ants at Chichen Itza
Leaf Cutting Ants at Chichen Itza
Leaf Cutting Ants at Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza
photo by: ellechic