The Maya are an indigenous Mesoamerican people whose civilization flourished as long ago as 1800 B.C. in southeastern Mexico and the northern areas of Central America in Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The city of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula was established by the Maya people in the first half of the 5th century A.D. and was the center of civilization until its decline around 1200 A.D.
I’ve been to Mexico many times and I’ve visited the Maya archeological site at Tulum but this was my first visit to Chichen Itza. When I discovered it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I was keen to see it. Our guide, Norma, provided many details about the Maya and the structures we viewed. For example, the Maya grew cacao for a chocolate drink, they had a complex written language recorded in books, they were brilliant astronomers, and played a game on a large court putting a ball through a hoop.
There are many descendants of the Maya people still residing in the Yucatan and their homes continue to be organically constructed of earth or wood with thatched roofs as shown in the photo below.
As we entered Chichen Itza, the main thoroughfare was lined with vendors selling their wares. We were on a tour with a guide so there was no opportunity to shop at that time even though we had learned to ask in Mayan, “Bahoosh?” (how much).
The iconic El Castillo, or Pyramid of Kukulcan, is the building everyone goes to Chichen Itza to see. The four sides of this temple each contain 91 steps which total 364 plus one single step at the top for a grand total of 365 steps which equal the number of days in the Mayan calendar. I was under the incorrect assumption that we could climb to the top and felt some trepidation at the thought. A friend of mine told me about the experience. She said the steps were so narrow and steep that coming down she had to sit on the staircase and ease down step by step. Thankfully, visitors are no longer allowed to climb so we dodged that bullet.
Following our tour of Chichen Itza, we had a tasty buffet lunch at a restaurant designed to feed busloads of tourists.
Following lunch, we stopped at Ik Kil for a swim in one of the most beautiful cenotes I’ve seen. A cenote is a sinkhole where the Maya and others located their towns to have a supply of fresh water available.
We declined to swim but enjoyed the experience, nevertheless. And best of all, Norma advised us before leaving the bus to be back by 2:30 saying, “If you’re not back on time, it’s okay. We’ll be back here in two days and we’ll pick you up then.” No one was late!
Based on events from January 2016.