Quick. When you think of Chichen Itza, what comes to your mind? Maybe Mayan ruins. Maybe Mexico. Maybe the Yucatan Peninsula. Well, a lot of different thoughts can come to your mind. But, I am almost sure that when you thought about these famous ruins, an image from its most famous structure, El Castillo, came to your mind.
The thing is that this ancient Mayan city is full of amazing temples, pyramids and structures. I don’t know why tourism boards encapsulate the magnificence of this city in one structure.
That is why I feel like giving you a private tour of the site. I absolutely loved every inch of this Mayan city. I didn’t leave without exploring every corner and discovering structures in different levels of decay. If you have visited the site, you understand how I feel.
A Little Background
Chichen Itza means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”. Historically, the Itza were an important Mesoamerican people who dominated the Yucatán peninsula in the Post-classic period. The Itza may have originated from the Classic Period near lake Peten Itza in Guatemala, migrating to Yucatán during the Maya collapse at the end of the Classic Period. From their capital at Chichén Itzá they established a trade empire reaching as far south as Honduras.
The site exhibits many architectural styles which points to influence from other cultures. Today, this once powerful capital is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited places in Mexico.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect to see in the north architectural group.
Even though I don’t like that Chichen Itza is mostly associated with this structure, I can’t deny it is beautiful, awesome and impressive. When you enter the site, this is the first thing you are going to see. Hold your chin. If may drop abruptly. For me, the perfect symmetry of the structure is what makes it special. It also has a lot of hidden secrets. A guide can help explain all this better. For example, a clapping in front of the staircase of the El Castillo pyramid is followed by an echo that resembles the chirp of a quetzal (try it if you go, it works!!!).
Interesting fact: The actual Maya structures are property of the federal government but the land where the structures are located is owned by the state of Yucatan.
Temple of the Warriors
This structure consists of a pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns depicting warriors. Remember to pay attention to its detailed carvings.
Interesting fact: The Temple of the Warriors is basically a copy of a temple located in the Toltec capital (but on a greater scale).
Group of a Thousand Columns
There are many columns next to the Temple of the Warriors. Experts believe these columns supported a big roof at one moment in time.
Interesting fact: All the signs (with descriptions) in Chichen Itza are in Spanish, English and Maya (which I think is great).
These are the tallest columns in the site. It was believed to be a market because of the gallery and patio style it presents. Today, archeologists are not sure of its real purpose.
Interesting fact: Chichen Itza is probably one of the mythical cities the Mayas describe in later literature.
This was the sacred sinkhole of the city. A great number of objects and human remains were found during different excavations. After the collapse of the city, it became a pilgrimage place.
Interesting fact: Both the Mayas and the Aztecs revered serpents.
Tzompantli or Skull Platform
This is a small platform covered in skull. It shows influence from Central Mexico.
Temple of the Tables
Temple showing a jaguar procession, among trees and weapons.
Great Ball Court
This is the biggest ball court in Mesoamerica. Actually, 13 different ball courts have been identified in Chichen Itza. So they must have loved this game.
Interesting fact: The stone ring (where the players were supposed to pass the ball thru) is 30 feet (9 meters) from the ground. Imagine the level of fitness and skill needed to play in that ball court.
Don’t miss the second part of my private tour of Chichen Itza if you want to learn more about this amazing city.
Have you visited Chichen Itza? What surprised you about the city? Let me know in the comments section below.