Any visit to the Northern Yucatan peninsula would not be complete without taking a side trip to Chichen Itza, the ancient Mayan archeological ruins which were nearly destroyed by the invading Spanish armies. This place was in its prime somewhere around 800 to 1200 A.D. It was the center of religious, political and military power in the Yucatan. Today it is one of the largest tourist destinations on the peninsula.
The trip is just two hours by bus (an luxury tour bus) our tour included a short stop at a wonderful Cenote (sink hole) where you can go for a swim in crystal clear pristine waters. The Yucatan doesn’t have any lakes or rivers running though it except underground. Underground rivers feed these sink holes throughout the region and the water is fresh and clean. There are stone stairs leading down to the base where one could jump in from different levels or just sit at the water’s edge and enjoy the cool misty water. It was absolutely breath taking.
We took a guided tour with Best Day Tours, typically, we don’t like tours basically because in the past we felt like cattle being herded along the trail. However, Best Day Tours changed our opinion because they are not your typical tour operator. Our tour guide, Hugo Rimada, was extremely knowledgeable and full of information it became quickly apparent that he loved to share his knowledge and expertise on this site. Hugo has a dynamic personality and is a natural teacher with a wonderful sense of humor, which made our tour interesting, fun and educational giving us the opportunity of learning so much about this ancient culture and sacred place.
Our tour included lunch at a quaint local restaurant, a short jaunt further down the road. All the food was home-made buffet style, authentic Mexican food and it was very tasty. While we ate, we were entertained on stage by local Mexican dancers dressed in wonderfully vibrant colors.
Chichen Itza is a monumental archaeological site, remarkable for both its size and scope. When we arrived and entered the grounds it was immediately apparent this is a very special and sacred place. The ruins include impressive palaces, temples, and altars, as well as the largest known ball court in the Mayan world. One of the most widely recognized ruins in the world, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988 and currently consider on of the New Wonders of the World.
Chichen Itza the name means “Mouth of the Well of the Itza.” These wells are known as Cenotes. The most famous is here and known as the well of sacrifice. There were many bones discovered at the bottom of this well. If rain did not come a human sacrifice was made to try to bring the much needed water.
Most of Chichen’s most notable structures, including its famous four-sided pyramid, and images like the reclining chac-mool, bear a striking resemblance to structures and images found at Tula, the ancient Toltec capital, in the present state of Hidalgo.
Chichen Itza was a large city which housed a huge population because of it’s proximity to the water being fed by caves and Cenotes in the region. There were two main areas, Chichen-Viejo and Chichen-Nuevo. The first was founded around 400 AD by Maya and governed by priests; their god was Chaac, the Maya rain god. The second was started around 850 AD by Itza from central Mexico. Their god, Kukulcan, was a plumed serpent. This part of the city was overtaken by a new wave of Itza many years later and became a place of many bloody battles because of their political and commercial aggressiveness.
The Mayan culture is extremely intriguing! They operated on both the lunar and solar calendar. They did not believe in good and evil but rather life and death. They were not only mighty warriors but wise men who studied the stars and figured out positions to which they aligned there structures for maxim effect of both the summer and winter equinoxes. The observatory built in the shape of a shell to study the stars from which they would try to predict the future. They left a written history in the form of carved glyphs. As artists they had many sculptures and their buildings were painted with many colors. The feathered serpent is a recurring theme throughout since it represented their god Kukulcan.
The Mayan’ developed the technology to make plaster out of green trees which they burnt and used the hot ash to mix into a plaster. They then covered their structures with this compound in very thick applications. The amount of trees they used up would eventually be to their detriment since they gobbled up their natural resources’.
One of the many things that amazed us about Chichen Itza is the genius and power they had, to not only conceive, but then execute the whole plan. The man power, time and resources’ it took to pull it off is simply mind bogging!
Chichen Itza is definitely worth exploring this wonderful site, educating yourself to the marvels that is the Mayan culture!