One of the Seven New World Wonders, Chichén Itzá is a majestic Mayan archaeological site with history hidden in every corner. Chichén Itza comes from the Mayan phrase Chi’ch’èen Ìitsha’, meaning “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”. It is located 120 kilometers (75 miles) away from the cultural city of Merida and about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the bustling city of Cancun.
The main building is the world-wide recognized El Castillo (The Castle), a pyramid standing at 30 meters (98 ft) high. It was constructed between the 9th and 12th centuries and it was built as a temple for Kukulkan, a Mayan Feathered Serpent deity.
Another favorite among visitors is the Great Ball Court, measuring 150 meters (490 ft) and the most impressive out of the rest found in the site. The court was used to play the Mesoamerican ballgame of which little is known about except that it was used as rituals and often involved human sacrifices.
El Caracol (“The Snail”) is another interesting ruin due to its unusual shape. Its name comes from the spiral shape of its staircase and it was used as an observatory of the sky. Thanks to it, the Mayas made several astronomic discoveries such as the fact that five Venus cycles (it takes 584 days for Venus to complete one) equalled to eight solar years. Located to the eas of El Caracol is Akaz Szib, meaning “The House of Mysterious Writing” in Mayan, is another note-worthy building that overlooks a now dry cenote.
The Thousand Columns is a group of columns that once supported a roof system and display carvings of people, gods, snakes, jaguars and other animals.
Aside from the structures themselves, what visitors love the most are the intricately carved figures on them. Serpents, human figures and more are carved into stone as decoration that it makes you wonder how exactly the Mayas were able to do it considering how hard it would be to produce such detailed work even today with the amount of technology available.
Inside the park is Cenote Sagrado, a cenote (sinkhole) that was a place of pilgrimage for the Mayas an used as a sacrifice site to worship Chaac, their rain god. Several artifacts made of jade and gold as well as pottery and incense and human remains have been found inside by archaeologists.
Outside the precinct, but still close-by is Ik Kil Cenote, where you can dive in and swim to refresh yourself after hours spent walking around Chichén Itzá under the hot, Yucatecan sun. While this particular cenote is great, it is also very popular and hence, it gets crowded. It is considered rather expensive as well with the cost of entrance ticket being $70 pesos. If what you are looking for is piece and quiet, head to one of the hundreds of other cenotes found in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Cost of entrance is $240 pesos for foreigners and $160 for Mexicans.
From the ADO station in Merida, buses leave frequently and will leave you right at the site's door for roughly $160 pesos.