Chichen Itza had long been on my "Must See" list. This pre-historic Mayan city is home to numerous stepped pyramids, columned arcades, and temples. This site was sacred to the Mayans during the reign of their empire (a.D. 750 to 1200). Although, many other ruin sites can be found on the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is the gem of Mexico. It once was a thriving urban center and the heart of the Mayan empire.
Here are photos taken while exploring the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza:
When you first enter into the complex, immediately you are met with El Castillo, the most photographed buildings in Chichen Itza. Unlike Machu Pichu, you are not allowed to climb the steps of any ruins to view the astrological and sacrificial rooms at the top. But even from the ground, the grandness of it all is still captivating.
Most tourists congregate around the popular sites leaving other areas open for exploration in a little peace and quiet. Winding down dirt paths filled with vendors and souvenirs, you begin to stumble upon hidden areas of countless pillars and run down stone buildings.
One of the most unexpected structures is without a doubt, the ball court. I came to learn that it is the largest known ball court of its kind in the whole of the Americas. Everyone came to watch the games including the Mayan royals who sat on either end of the court. There is a picture of the court below as well as a snapshot of one of the ball hoops on the side of the wall. Players had to pass the ball through the hoop in order to win. Legend has it that those that lost were put to death.
What to Wear:
It is HOTT. My suggestion is go comfortable and dress light. It is a lot of walking without shade. I wore shorts, a thin see-through t-shirt, sunglasses, and tennis shoes.
CHICHEN ITZA TRAVEL TIPS:
Due to its deep rooted history and truly stunning stone structures, Chichen Itza is a popular tourist destination. There are long lines to get tickets to go inside and long lines to get through security. And it is nearly impossible to capture a photo without people and selfie sticks. But seeing these ruins and walking the same paths that Mayans walked centuries before makes it all worth it.
I highly recommend going as early as you can. If you are like me and you are staying in Tulum, it is about a two hour drive from the city center. I arrived in Chichen Itza early just as it was opening and found this to be the perfect time to go. There were not nearly as many people there when I arrived compared to when I left a few hours later. The day I visited Chichen Itza it was cloudy, but as the day progressed and the sun started to burn the clouds off, it was quite warm so bring sunscreen!