|I was looking forward with great anticipation my visit to Chichén Itzá. It's probably the most famous Mexican site outside the country (almost everyone has heard about it) and it's a major site in the history of the Mayas. It's in close distance from the Riviera Maya, so it's constantly flooded with tourists. I arranged myself to be there early in the morning, before the arrival of the bus tours. It was a nice visit, the weather was incredible and I really enjoyed my visit into this famous city.|
There are tours departing
from any major city in the Yucatán peninsula to go to Chichén Itzá.
I chose to go stay a few days to a city very close to it. There are
two choices: the small town of Piste right next to the site or
Valladolid a bit further but bigger city. In between, there are a
few villages, but no lodging possibility there. In the morning, I
took a colectivo to reach the site and I was there for the opening at
8 AM, so I had the opportunity to take some nice pictures before the
site was flooded by some of the 1.2 millions who visit it annually.
The city was founded
around year 350 but was at its summit between the years 700 and
950... where it was one of the most important cities of the Mayan
empire, and certainly the biggest in the current Mexican territory.
Chichén Itzá was considered by the Mayas not only as a major
trading post where they could exchange goods with the people from the
current Central Mexico, but was also considered a sacred city.
The city was conquered by
the Toltecs around year 950 and they added their own set of buildings
and ornaments, creating the most exhaustive city featuring the two
groups. Around year 1200, the city was almost abandoned but a small
population remained there for many centuries because there were some
Mayas on the location when it was visited by the Spaniards in mid
The main ball court, the largest in Mesoamerica.
Of course, the most
impressive monument on the site is the giant central pyramid, called
El Castillo (The Castle). It's about 30 m high pedestal for the
temple located on top. Inside the structure, they found another and
older temple upon which this one was built. It's a very stunning
structure to witness. Each year for both equinoxes (when day time =
night time, around March 21st and September 21st),
the site is flooded with tourists coming to see the shadow of one
side of the pyramid to another creating the 'body' of the serpent
going down the stairs.
The site is pretty huge,
but it's hard to realize because outside the main plaza, the rest of
the monuments are all hidden in the forest. You can follow the path
to tour the whole site, or just follow the trail made by the dozens
and dozens of souvenirs vendors along the path.
On the not so good side of
the visit: the price. Normally, to access an archaeological site
like this all over Mexico, you pay between 45 and 60 pesos, depending
of the site. That fee is collected by the organization in charge of
the site (the INAH – Institute National of Anthropology and
History). But in Yucatán, on top of the 59 pesos for the INAH to
enter the site, you have a state fee of 129 pesos. From what I
understand it's related to the property of the land where the site
is. In Uxmal, we had to pay the total fee at one window, in a single
transaction. In Chichén Itzá, we needed to pay at two windows
(first the INAH, then the state)... and the two coupons were
processed by two different people at the gate.
The Coracol, the observatory