Being one of the world’s new seven wonders, of course Chichen Itza was high on my bucket list of places to visit during my travels in Mexico. However, after speaking to many other travellers who spoke rather disparagingly of it, many even telling me not to bother going at all, I almost wrote it off. However, I decided to make a visit in the final few days of my Mexico trip.
Rather than travelling there and back from Cancun in a day (don’t do this unless you want to arrive with hundreds of others) I chose to spend two nights in Valladolid- a town three-four hours bus journey from Cancun, and a mere 40 minutes from Chichen Itza. It’s a pretty town with a relaxed atmosphere.
If you have the budget to do so, you can can stay at a hotel within walking distance of Chichen Itza with your own private entrance! If you do this you also get access to the magical evening light and sound show! However, for those on a tight backpackers budget, I recommend hostel La Candelaria in nearby Valladolid. Its got a lovely atmosphere, helpful staff, a great breakfast (always important!), bikes for hire and on evenings have different offerings/activities, e.g tonight’s is cook your own burritos.
I woke up early and took a collectivo which I caught from near the main bus station at around 7.45am costing 35 pesos. I wanted to arrive before the tour buses and hoardes of people descended en masse. As I said I didn’t have high expectations of Chichen Itza, but when I gazed up at the giant structure of the main pyramid – El Castillo which at over a thousand years old is remarkably intact I felt a sense of amazement at this giant stone structure- such an incredible example of human achievement.
This temple has great significance and insight into the Mayan life and calendar. The Mayan people used this temple not just for worship but to demonstrate their astronomical discoveries. The temple has 365 steps- one for each day of the year. The shadows cast by the sun at different times of the day and year represents important information relating to the Mayan calendar. The pyramid El Castillo is built in alignment, so that on the spring and autumn equinox a snake like shadow is revealed to slowly descend the steps which then joins the carved stone serpent heads at the foot of the pyramid on the West side to complete the optical illusion of the serpent.
Even in the short time I was there the effects of the light really had an impact on the appearance of the pyramid… I suggest hiring a guide for detailed information about the pyramids and Mayan life.
After marvelling at the stone structures, I made my way to the ‘Sacred Cenote’ (or sink hole) within the grounds of the site. The cenote rich area is thought to be a reason Chichen Itza was built in this area- the cenotes provided water. It is also rumoured that some cenotes including this Sacred Cenote, were used to sacrifice humans, in order to please the Chad God- of thunder and lightening so that he would bring rain. Apparently thousands of human skeletons of those sacrificed have been excavated from this cenote…
Despite this sinister history it was stunningly beautiful. I spent quite a while just sitting by the sink hole watching the butterflies, iguanas and birds. There is a small cafe nearby where I bought a coffee and just sat outside for an hour or so taking in the scenery. It did feel quite magical.
Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.