Chichen Itza, recently marked its first anniversary as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It also has been one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for 20 years. El Castillo is a very impressive preserved, and rebuilt Mayan pyramid, and is situated at Chichen Itza with other very notable ruins. Here, you’ll see ruins from both Mayan and Toltec gods. The Mayans were originally at Chichen Itza between 500 to 900 AD then left the area sometime about 900 AD. In 1000 AD, it was settled again but later invaded by Toltecs and abandoned again around 1300 AD.
You can get to Chichen Itza from Merida, about 75 miles away, by driving a rental car, booking a tour, or by taking a public bus. If you chose to drive, a Chichen Itza map will be necessary. There are three very distinct sections which make up the ruins and they can be seen in a one day trip. Piste ia about a mile and a half away some small restaurants, as well as moderately priced hotels.
“The Old Chichén” is the South grouping and the northern section is of the Toltec style and includes the massive Ball Court. The oldest ruins are in the central zone which includes the Priest’s Tomb and the Nunnery. There is a museum, gift shops, restaurant, vendor stands, and restrooms located just outside the ruins. Be sure to buy a hat from a street vendor if you didn’t bring one-the sun can be very hot.
You’ll want to hike to the top of the Pyramid of Kukulkan which is almost 80 feet above the ground. At the top, there is a great view of the other ruins. Walk over to the Great Ball Court and imagine the brutality of the game when you look over the carvings on the bottom part of the ball court. You’ll see other ball courts at Chichen Itza and at other Mayan ruins but this is the largest of them all.
You’ll need to make advance arrangements to visit Chichén Viejo, Old Chichén. All visitors must be pre-approved from the on-site archaeologist team. This area is still being excavated and you’ll find interesting buildings with statues and features not seen at the public sites. Consider reserving a horseback riding tour of this part of the ruins by contacting the Mayaland Hotel. This includes a”not-to-be-missed” ride through the jungle.
Plan to stay until dark so you can enjoy a spectacular light and sound show. Watch Mayan warriors play a ball game (it’s believed losers used to be killed) and a snake slithering to the ground. You will also get a sent of local history from the show.
You might stay overnight at the Hacienda Chichen Resort and Mayan Spa. This nearby boutique hotel is a serene and eco-friendly spa retreat. Over 25 cottages and suites are named for various members of the original Carnegie Institute archaeologist team who built many of the cabins, plus historians and artists of the Mayan culture. These cottages vary in size; one cottage includes four bedrooms. Each cottage and suite features a private terrace, colonial tiles, air conditioning and a dehumidifier unit, ceiling fans, a private bathroom and hair dryer. Laundry service is available for an extra fee. Their spa menu includes treatments based on Mayan holistic traditions. A, restaurant, lounge, library and a swimming pool are also on the grounds. You can attend Mayan cooking classes, an in-house tour of the Merle Green Museum and Garden, and/or go bird watching. Sacred Maya traditions are often celebrated here by the Maya Elders Association.