Going on a trip to Mexico soon? You should definitely include a visit to the ancient city of Chichen Itza in your itinerary. This pre-Hispanic city in the Yucatan State, which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, served as a sacred and important site for the ancient Mayan civilization. Research also suggests that Toltec tribes from the central Mexican highlands visited this area during the 7th century, so you can just imagine the wealth of archaeological finds in this area.
Chichen Itza really provides insights about the Maya and Toltec tribes’ vision of the world during their time, reflected in the unique architecture of the structures here, as well as the stone monuments and other artistic works. Here are some highlights you should definitely visit and deeply scrutinize during your visit to Chichen Itza:
- The Chacmools of the Northern Ruins
When you visit the northern part of Chichen Itza, you will come across curious sculptures depicting reclining figures with titled heads carrying disks. These images are called “chacmools,” and are believed to be tributes to slain warriors. Take time to appreciate these figures that well represent classic Maya and Toltec art, as well as other statues like Los Atlantes, which are imposing stone carvings supporting the site’s roofs and altars.
- Cenote Sagrado or The Sacred Well
This almost perfectly round natural water hole going to up to 82 meters deep is believed to be the focal point of the Mayan civilization. This well sustained the ancient Mayans with its water, and is also thought to be the site of various rituals. It is said that the Mayans sacrificed important objects and even human beings to this well to ask for rain from their ancient gods.
- The Grand Ball Court
Who says ancient people didn’t enjoy sports? This expansive rectangular playing field, measuring 146 meters by 37 meters, was the site of Mayan games. The losers in these sporting events are believed to have ritually sacrificed, as shown images at the bases of the walls in the court showing how some players were decapitated.
- The Hall of Thousand Columns
An area in the Chichen Itza complex surrounded by mystery is this vast quadrangle showcasing columns that are thousands of years old. These stone pillars are believed to have supported the roof of grand meeting halls or a marketplace during the ancient times.
- The Tomb of the High Priest
This 10-meter-tall ruined pyramid got its name because seven tombs were found inside it when it was discovered, along with other precious artifacts. A square shaft at the topmost part of the structure leads into a cave at is said to be used as the burial chamber. At the base of the staircases leading to this square shaft are the beautiful serpent heads that are characteristic of Toltec architecture.
- Temple of the Jaguar
The Toltec tribes are said to have observed a deep reverence to this animal, and they built this temple to serve as their worship place. At the entrance of this temple are serpent columns, and at its middle, the revered sculpture of a jaguar. The temple also features murals depicting the battle between the Mayan and the Toltec tribes.
- The Nunnery
This structure, named as such because it resembles Spanish convents, is a great showcase of Mayan style. Every inch of this building’s façade is decorated with images said to be honoring the Mayan rain god, Chac. It also has various geometric patterns and images of animals, proof of the ancient Mayans’ unique artistry.
- The Tomb of Chacmool
This structure got its name because of the chacmool discovered inside some years ago. It is also known as the Great Platform of Venus, due to the fact that glyphs believed to be representing the planet Venus were found at the corners of the structure. This planet supposedly served as an important astronomical measuring point for the ancient Mayans, who studied astronomy extensively.
- The Wall of Skulls
This wall, also called Tzompantli and located near the Sacred Well, is not for the faint-hearted. As its name suggests, it features macabre images of skulls, and is believed to be the site of human sacrifices during the time of the ancient Mayans. Other gruesome images depicted on this wall are eagles eating human hearts and skeletonized warriors with arrows and shields.
- The Observatory
The ancient Mayans are said to have made great strides in the field of astronomy, at a time when there are still no electricity and telescopes. The greatest testament to their astronomical feat is this eroding observatory that can be found at the Chichen Itza complex. It features a spiral staircase, from which it got its Mexican name: “El Caracol” or literally, snail. This structure is also believed to have been perfectly aligned with the planet Venus.
- Temple of the Warriors
One of the most magnificent structures in the Chichen Itza complex is this four-platform temple built by Toltec conquerors in 950 AD. Spanning 40 meters, the main feature of this ancient temple is the hundreds of square columns carved with images of warriors found around it. Although visitors are not allowed to climb the delicate stairs, the top of this pyramid is the site of an impressive chacmool.
- The Pyramid of Kukulkan
Perhaps the most recognizable structure of the Chichen Itza archaeological site is this 30-meter-tall step-pyramid which showcases the impressive simplicity of Mayan architecture. It is a four-side pyramid, with a stairway on each side which also represents the four points of the compass. The pyramid was designed following strict astronomical and astrological rules. For instance, the nine-tier terracing is believed to represent the nine heavens from the Mayan beliefs. At the foot of the pyramid are sinister-looking large serpent heads, which appear to be guarding the whole structure. The best time to visit here is during the months of March and September, when there’s a shadow show to mark the equinoxes.
Originally posted 2017-07-03 07:47:58.