Fast Facts

Location: 120 km southwest of Merida in Yucatan Peninsula
Time to Visit: Throughout the year, but try to be there on the days of the equinox to watch the famous descent of the feathered serpent.
Preferred timings: 8 am to 5 pm
Admission fee: $10; Light and Sound Show — $ 4 (additional $3 for commentary in English through headphones))
How to Reach: By road from Merida or Cancun
Nearest International Airport: Merida International Airport
Duration of sightseeing: 2 hours

Every year, during the two days of the equinox, you can see the feathered serpent descend among mankind through the steps of the Chichen Itza Pyramid. It comes to bless the earth with fertility and prosperity, and its coming is witnessed by thousands of visitors who arrive at this famous Maya architecture every year on those particular days. The construction is designed and located with such precise astronomical and engineering detail, that the rays of sun enlighten up the steps, triangle by triangle, and finally rests on the stone head of the serpent deity at the base of the stairs. It is one of the most spectacular phenomena of the entire world.

Poets say there is an idea of death behind every game. A game, after all, is a stylized dilution of a battle — a dilution that was probably not as apparent in the earlier days as it is now. The images of players hoisting the severed heads of the opponents on the wall as blood spurts out show us the early days, when a ball game was, in every possible sense — a matter of life and death. These are the walls of the Great Ball Court outside the Chichen Itza Pyramid, a mammoth court measuring 545 feet by 225 feet and surrounded by walls on all sides.

Chichen Itza Pyramid is a classic representation of Mayan civilization that thrived in the Yucatan in Mexico between 600 and 1200 A.D. This pre-Columbian archaeological structure derives its name from ‘Chi’ meaning mouth, ‘Chen’ meaning well and ‘Itza’ denoting the local tribe; translating it implies ‘at the mouth of the well of the Itza’. The Pyramid of Chichen Itza is just one of the many mysterious structures built in this area of Mexico. The ‘Caracol’ or observatory, Ball Court Temple, and the Temple of Warriors are other eminent structures of considerable architectural and historical significance. These were used as palaces, temples, baths, markets, ball courts and stages.

Located at a southeasterly distance of about 120 km from Merida, Chichen Itza was the epicenter of northern Maya lowlands. These amazing structures testify the existence of a cultured and well-educated society in the Yucatan province of Mexico contemporary to the Dark Ages in Europe. Chichen Itza in Mexico has the influences of both Mayan and Toltec civilizations that existed in the Yukatan and Central Mexican provinces respectively.

The Kukulkan Pyramid is a mysterious structure that was perhaps used for astronomical observations. Each of the four sides of this pyramidal structure has 91 steps totaling 364 steps surmounted by a single step at the top making the figure 365. On the equinoxes, the sun’s shadow creates the illusion of a serpent moving down the slopes of the pyramid. At the top of this 79 feet stepped pyramids are the carved figures of Quetzalcoatl the snake-god and Chac the rain-god. The Pyramid of Kukulcan or El Castillo was built on an earlier temple which at certain times of the day can be entered through a passage under the northern stairway. Clap your hands facing the any of the staircases and hear to the echo resembling the chirping of Quetzal bird representing Mayan spirit. Inside the temple, you would find a red jaguar throne with jade eyes. Skull relief on the inside walls is intriguing.

The Group of Thousand Columns makes up ‘the Temple of Warriors’. The Temple of Warriors with its adjacent Temple of Jaguar is surrounded by these relief columns featured with carvings of warriors. This Toltec architectural design was most likely of a market place. The ‘Caracol’ on the other hand is an example of Mayan construction. This, presumably the oldest construction in Chichen Itza, was used as an observatory.

The best time to visit Chichen Itza is immediately when it opens at 8 am, because as the day progresses the crowds swell and the sun rays intensify. Alternatively, you can plan your visit late in the afternoon and wait for the evening light and sound show which begins at 7 pm in the winter months and 8 pm in summer.

Related Links : To watch the famous descent of the feathered serpent on a day of the equinox at the Chichen Itza, click on this link! For a guided tour to the ancient town of Chichen Itza and its famous pyramid, watch this video! 

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