Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is a ruined Mayan city that occupies an area of four square miles located in Mexico’s south-central Yucatan state. Its two huge cenotes made it a good place to settle in; these geological features also gave the ancient city its name. “Chi” means “mouths” and “chen” means “wells”. The Mayan tribe of Itza settled in this place. In 1988, UNESCOdesignated Chichen Itza as a World Heritage site.

Chichen Itza was established about the 6th century AD probably by the Mayans in the Yucatan Peninsula who had occupied the region since the Formative or Pre-Classic Period (1500 BC–AD 300). There is some evidence that, in the 1100s, following the collapse of the Mayan cities in the southern lowlands, Chichen was probably invaded by Mayan speakers who had been influenced by the Toltec of central Mexico (they may have been the Itza people).

The major early architectures follow the Puuc style, which shows numerous divergences from the styles found in the buildings of the southern lowlands. Most of these earliest buildings are found south of the Main Plaza. They include the Chichanchob (“Red House”), the Akabtzib (“House of the Dark Writing”), the Casa de las Monjas (“Nunnery”), the Iglesia (“Church”), and the El Caracol (“The Snail”) observatory.

The Itzas were responsible for the building of major structures like El Castillo, a pyramid that rises 79 feet above the Main Plaza. This pyramid’s four sides, each has 91 steps and faces a cardinal direction. Including the stairs on the top platform, the structure has 365 steps all in all (the number of days in a solar year).

During the autumnal and spring equinoxes, shadows cast by the sunset give the appearance of a serpent rolling down the stairways. The plumed serpent carving at the top of El Castillo is the symbol of Quetzalcoatl, a major deity of the ancient Mesoamerican pantheon.

This Mayan ruin also houses a ball court (545 feet long and 223 feet wide) considered to be the largest ball court in all of Americas. Six sculpted reliefs can be found on the stretch of the walls, depicting the winners of the game holding the decapitated head of a member of the losing team.

You will find the Temple of the Jaguars on the upper platform at one end of the ball court. Inside, you will see a mural that shows warriors laying siege to a village. Many visitors attest that standing on the platform of the Temple of the Jaguars to the north of the ball court, you can hear a whisper from 150 feet away.