A Private Tour of Chichen Itza (Part 2)
Here is the second part of the private tour I promise to give you around Chichen Itza.
Don’t forget to take a look at the first part of the tour.
A Little Background (Again!!)
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 central and south architectural groups.
South or Ossario Group
The ossario is a step pyramid similar in features to El Castillo but in a smaller scale. There is a temple on top and at the structure’s center there is an opening which leads to a natural cave. Archeologists have found several skeletons and artifacts inside the natural hole. See, one of the many secrets this city holds!!
Mascarones del Ossario (Ossario’s Masks)
Next to the Ossario, you can find a beautifully carvel column. This was a piece which was located at one of the top corners of the Ossario. There used to be 16 of these columns (4 at each side). The carvings represent Chaac (the rain god) and other supreme powers. The carving style is Puuc (Mayans who used to live in a hilly area of the Peninsula). Take a moment to admire this piece of art.
Casa Colorada (Red House)
This is one of the best preserved buildings in the complex. The name comes from red pigment found inside the structure. Its Maya name is Chichanchob may mean “small holes”. Experts believe the original Maya name comes from the intricate carvings at the top of the building (more Puuc style).
Casa de Venado (Deer’s House)
Well, this building is not as preserved as the Casa Colorada. The name comes from, you guessed it, a deer painting found at one of the rooms.
This is a complex of Terminal Classic buildings constructed in the Puuc architectural style. The Spanish nicknamed this complex Las Monjas because one of the buildings has a façade that resembles a nunnery. We now it was actually a governmental palace.
La Iglesia (The Church)
This small building with only one chamber owes its name to its proximity to the so-called “convent” of the Nunnery and to the exuberant decoration on its upper façade, which rises even higher due to its lofty roofcomb. There are a lot of hidden messages (hieroglyphs) in this small structure. This was one of my favorite parts of Chichen Itza.
El Caracol (The Snail)
I thought this place was called the observatory. Well, the official name is “The Snail” because of some spiral stairs in the inside. This building is so similar to modern day celestial observatories. Experts believe it was used as a proto-observatory with doors and windows aligned to astronomical events, specifically around the path of Venus as it traverses the heavens. Totally fascinating.
I almost miss this place (and the entire Monjas complex). However, before my visit, I knew the structure was in the complex. Therefore, I asked a vendor and he explained what path to take. Remember: if you visit this place, the main path is going to take you to El Castillo and all the buildings I explained in the first part of this tour. But make sure once you also visit the central and south areas. Don’t miss them!!
Well this is the end of the tour (sniff, sniff). Hope you liked it (and learned new things). Promise you will go ready to explore Chichen Itza next time.
Which of these building have you visited? Let me know in the comments section below.