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Chichen Itza – A World Wonder and A Heritage Site

Chichen Itza is one of the world’s most fascinating and renowned archaeological sites, specifically situated between Cancun and Merida within the Yucatan region of Mexico. The site ruins are the remnants of the magnificent ancient city, which thrived during glorious years of the Maya Civilization.

Encompassing over 300 hectares of land, Chichen Itza is filled with temples, pyramids, columns and delicate stone structures. More than just a religious spot, it was once the urban and trade center of the Maya people from around A.D. 750 to 1200. This World Heritage Site is clouded with mystery and charm. Even now, historians cannot determine the exact reason residents abandoned this prosperous city during the 1400s.

Chichen Itza has several religious and ceremonial structures built around it. Some buildings exude the Maya architectural style while others exhibit the Toltec design, which marks the coming of the Toltec people in Chichen Itza during 987AD.  One of the most iconic structures in Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kulkultan (El Castillo). It is an impressive step pyramid that reveals the integration of the ideologies of the Toltecs and the Maya cultures.

Chichen Itza archaeological site

El Castillo dominates the center of the Chichen Itza archaeological site. Photo by Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0

The temple has four sides, composed of 91 steps. Together with the top platform, the total step count is 365, which represents the total number of days in one year. Chichen Itza reveals the Maya’s outstanding astronomical expertise, which includes the building an astronomical observatory structure to predict the patterns of solar eclipses. Such structure is a temple called El Caracol, which still exists today.

El Castillo at  Chichen Itza

El Castillo dominates the center of the Chichen Itza archaeological site. Photo by Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0

During your exploration of the ruins, you will also notice the existence of sinkhole wells, which were the only permanent source of water for the city. Historians and archaeologists believe selected young women were thrown in the largest sinkholes as sacrifices to the Maya rain god named Chac.

Chichen Itza Great-Ball-Court

The Great Ball Court of Chich’en Itza (interior) with tourists, Yucatán

Chichen Itza also has a ball court area which is about 554 feet long and 231 feet wide. It was the largest on the continent, and a regular host to ritual games and events. The games held here were very competitive with the the loser’s punishment being death. Other interesting attractions within Chichen Itza include the Temple of Warriors, The Great Market, Xtoloc Cenote, Temple of the Jaguars, Platform of the Skulls, The Nunnery Complex, Temple of the Wall Panels, and Akab’ Dzib Palace.

More Information for Tourists

The nearest airports to Chichen Itza are the international airports of Merida and Cancun. From these airports and the city proper, there are regular bus services that go to the town of Piste, the nearest one to the archaeological site. The site is open from Mondays to Fridays, and can be visited at any time of the year. However, if you want to see the famous shadow serpent casting on the Temple of Kulkultan, you should come during the spring or autumn equinoxes. Take note that the site can get really crowded at this time.

Most tourists come on a one day organized tour to the site from the cities of Merida and Cancun. However, you can also choose to stay in one of the accommodation facilities near the site. Staying close for a day or two gives you the opportunity to explore the Chichen Itza early in the morning, see the light show held at night, as well as enjoy some of the activities offered in the area.

Lost Temples: Mayan Pyramids of Chichen Itza

Uploaded to YouTube on May 13, 2008

Why did the Maya abandon their magnificent city of Chichen Itza?

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Quiz #76 Chichen Itza - A World Wonder and A Heritage Site

TtravelersThis Travel Quiz is about Chichen Itza – A World Wonder and A Heritage Site. This is a true or false quiz. The level of this quiz is easy.

Answer all questions. Each answer is worth about 10 points. If you don’t know the answer, then take a guess (unless you want a guaranteed zero for the answer).

This test is timed (2 min) so be aware of that.

Chichen Itza is a Heritage Site you might want to visit.


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