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Visiting Chichén Itzá: My Seventh Wonder Of The World


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Ninnetta Baugh



Welcome to Chichén Itzá, one of the most remarkable archaeological sites and a true marvel of the ancient world. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Chichén Itzá offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Mayan civilization. As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá attracts millions of tourists from around the globe eager to explore its magnificent ruins.


Stepping foot into Chichén Itzá is like traveling back in time to a bygone era. The site dates back to the Late Classic period of the Mayan civilization, flourishing between the 9th and 12th centuries AD. It served as an important political, religious, and commercial center and was one of the largest cities in the ancient Maya world.


The ruins of Chichén Itzá offer a breathtaking combination of architectural brilliance and cultural significance. The structures are a testament to the advanced engineering skills and astronomical knowledge possessed by the Mayans. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 and is a testament to the significance of the Mayan civilization in Mesoamerican history.


As you embark on your journey through Chichén Itzá, prepare to be mesmerized by the intricate details of the buildings, the sacred cenote, and the fascinating artifacts that adorn the site. Each structure tells its own unique story and offers a glimpse into the ancient Mayan way of life.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply in search of a new travel experience, Chichén Itzá has something to offer. From the awe-inspiring El Castillo to the enigmatic Temple of Warriors, every step you take will be filled with wonder and intrigue. So, join me as we embark on a virtual tour of Chichén Itzá, exploring its rich history, main attractions, and practical tips for an unforgettable visit.


The History of Chichén Itzá

The history of Chichén Itzá is as fascinating as the ruins themselves. The city was established around the 6th century AD by the Maya people and quickly became a major political and economic center in the region. Its strategic location allowed for control over trade routes and enabled Chichén Itzá to flourish and prosper.


During its peak, Chichén Itzá had a population estimated to be around 50,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest Maya cities. The city’s influence extended well beyond the Yucatan Peninsula, establishing connections with other Mesoamerican cultures such as the Toltecs.


Chichén Itzá’s connection with the Toltecs is particularly evident in its architecture. The Toltecs, who were known for their military prowess and influence over other cultures, heavily influenced the city’s architectural style. This blend of Mayan and Toltec elements gives Chichén Itzá a unique and distinctive character.


One of the most notable features of Chichén Itzá is the presence of the astronomical observatory known as El Caracol. It demonstrates the advanced knowledge the Mayans had of celestial events and their ability to accurately track the movements of the stars and planets.


The decline of Chichén Itzá began in the 13th century AD, possibly due to a combination of factors such as political unrest, environmental challenges, and the collapse of regional trade networks. The city was eventually abandoned and left to be swallowed by the dense jungle.


In the 19th century, explorers and archaeologists rediscovered Chichén Itzá and began conducting excavations. These efforts revealed the grandeur of the ancient city and its significance as a cultural and historical treasure. Today, Chichén Itzá stands as a testament to the Mayan civilization’s ingenuity and legacy.


Exploring the ruins of Chichén Itzá offers a glimpse into the lives of the Mayan people and their remarkable achievements in architecture, astronomy, and arts. Each structure tells a story of their rich heritage and provides insights into the rituals, traditions, and beliefs of this ancient civilization.


As you wander through the ruins, you’ll marvel at the intricate carvings, the towering pyramids, and the sacred cenote. The history of Chichén Itzá is a captivating narrative that unfolds with every step you take, inviting you to immerse yourself in the wonders of the past.


Getting to Chichén Itzá

Located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, getting to Chichén Itzá is relatively straightforward and can be accomplished by various means of transportation.


If you are flying into Mexico, the nearest international airport is Cancun International Airport. From there, you can choose to rent a car and drive to Chichén Itzá, which is approximately a 2-hour drive. The route is well-marked and easily navigable, making it a convenient option for those who prefer the flexibility of having their own transportation.


If you’d rather not drive, another popular option is to take a guided tour from Cancun or other nearby cities. These tours typically include transportation to and from Chichén Itzá, as well as a knowledgeable guide who will provide insightful information about the site’s history and significance.


For those already in the Yucatan Peninsula, there are also buses that run regularly from popular tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Merida to Chichén Itzá. These buses offer a convenient and affordable option for travelers who prefer not to drive or join guided tours.


Once you arrive at Chichén Itzá, you’ll find it divided into two main areas: the archaeological zone and the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center serves as the starting point where you can purchase entrance tickets and receive information about the site.


It’s worth noting that Chichén Itzá can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourism seasons. To avoid long lines and make the most of your visit, it’s recommended to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the crowds tend to be thinner.


In terms of accommodations, there are hotels and resorts in nearby towns like Valladolid and Merida, which offer a range of options to suit different budgets and preferences. Staying in one of these towns allows you to explore Chichén Itzá at a more leisurely pace and experience the local culture and cuisine.


Before embarking on your journey to Chichén Itzá, it’s important to check the weather conditions and dress accordingly. The site can get quite hot and humid, especially during the summer months, so it’s recommended to wear comfortable clothing, a hat, sunscreen, and carry plenty of water.


With its convenient location and accessibility, getting to Chichén Itzá is a breeze, allowing you to embark on an adventure of a lifetime and uncover the secrets of this ancient wonder.


Exploring the Main Attractions

Chichén Itzá is home to a plethora of remarkable attractions that showcase the architectural brilliance and cultural significance of the Mayan civilization. As you explore this ancient site, here are some of the main attractions that you should not miss:

El Castillo: The Temple of Kukulcan

The iconic El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, is the most recognizable structure in Chichén Itzá. This impressive pyramid stands at over 24 meters high and is renowned for its unique architectural design and precise astronomical alignments. If you visit during the equinoxes in spring and fall, you may witness the fascinating shadowy serpent-like descent on the staircase, a testament to the sophisticated Mayan understanding of celestial events.

The Great Ball Court

Next on your journey, make sure to visit the Great Ball Court, which is the largest and most well-preserved ball court in Mesoamerica. This massive playing field showcases the Mayans’ love for the Mesoamerican ball game known as “Pok-Ta-Pok.” The acoustics of the court are astounding, as even a whisper at one end can be heard clearly at the other end, showcasing the architectural genius of the ancient Mayans.

The Temple of Warriors

Another incredible structure at Chichén Itzá is the Temple of Warriors. This impressively decorated temple features rows of stone columns adorned with intricately carved warriors. The temple was likely a ceremonial space and a tribute to the military prowess of the Mayans. Marvel at the intricate details and imagine the rituals that took place within this ancient structure.

The Sacred Cenote

The Sacred Cenote, or natural sinkhole, is a significant and enigmatic feature of Chichén Itzá. Historically considered a sacred site, the cenote was used for various purposes, including religious ceremonies and sacrificial offerings. Its turquoise waters and lush surroundings create a serene and captivating ambiance that will transport you back in time.

Other Points of Interest

In addition to the main attractions mentioned above, Chichén Itzá boasts many other noteworthy structures and areas worth exploring. These include the Temple of the Jaguars, the Group of the Thousand Columns, the Tzompantli (skull rack), the Observatory (El Caracol), and the intricate carvings found throughout the site. Each structure and artifact holds its own unique story and offers valuable insights into the Mayan culture and civilization.


As you navigate through the ruins, take the time to observe the intricate stone carvings, hieroglyphs, and artwork that adorn the structures. These artistic expressions provide a glimpse into the mythology, history, and daily life of the ancient Mayans.


Exploring the main attractions of Chichén Itzá is a truly awe-inspiring experience. As you immerse yourself in the mystical ambiance of this ancient site, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the ingenuity and cultural legacy of the Mayan civilization.


El Castillo: The Temple of Kukulcan

Standing tall and commanding attention, El Castillo is the centerpiece of Chichén Itzá and one of the most iconic structures in all of Mesoamerica. Also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, this magnificent pyramid is a testament to the architectural prowess and astronomical knowledge of the ancient Mayans.


The towering structure rises to a height of 24 meters (79 feet) and is composed of nine levels, each representing a different stage of Mayan cosmology. The most impressive feature of El Castillo is the staircase on its northern side, adorned with serpent-like heads representing Kukulcan, the Feathered Serpent deity.


Twice a year, during the spring and fall equinoxes, a fascinating phenomenon occurs. As the light casts shadows on the pyramid’s staircase, it creates the illusion of a writhing serpent descending from the temple’s top to the base. This remarkable occurrence is a testament to the Mayans’ advanced understanding of astronomy and their ability to precisely align their structures with celestial events.


The precision of El Castillo’s construction is truly awe-inspiring. The pyramid’s four sides each have 91 steps, and when combined with the top platform, which serves as the final step, the total number reaches 365, corresponding to the number of days in a solar year.


At the top of El Castillo, you’ll find a temple chamber that contains a Chac Mool, a reclining stone figure believed to represent an intermediary between the gods and the Mayan people. Visitors are not allowed to enter the chamber, but its presence adds an air of mystery and spirituality to the structure.


As you ascend the staircase and reach the top platform, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding area. Take a moment to absorb the beauty of the landscape and imagine the grandeur of Chichén Itzá in its ancient splendor.


El Castillo is not only a grand architectural feat, but it also holds great cultural and ceremonial significance. It served as a Mayan calendar, marking the passage of time and the transition from one period to another. The temple and its impressive design are a testament to the Mayans’ deep spiritual beliefs and their close connection to the natural and celestial worlds.


Visiting El Castillo is a highlight of any trip to Chichén Itzá. The sheer size, intricacy, and symbolic meaning make it a must-see attraction. To fully appreciate the magnificence of El Castillo, consider hiring a knowledgeable guide who can provide historical and cultural insights, bringing the temple’s stories to life and immersing you in the ancient Mayan civilization.


The Great Ball Court

Step onto the sacred grounds of the Great Ball Court, and you’ll find yourself transported back in time to witness one of the most unique and awe-inspiring features of Chichén Itzá. This colossal sporting arena is the largest and best-preserved ball court in all of Mesoamerica, showcasing the Mayan’s love for the ancient game known as “Pok-Ta-Pok.”


The Great Ball Court measures an astonishing 166 meters (545 feet) in length and 68 meters (223 feet) in width, making it an impressive architectural feat. It consists of high walls on either side, each adorned with intricate carvings and depictions of warriors, gods, and ceremonial scenes. The acoustics within the court are exceptional, enabling even the softest whisper at one end to be heard clearly at the other, allowing players and spectators to immerse themselves fully in the exhilarating atmosphere of the game.


The objective of Pok-Ta-Pok was to keep a solid rubber ball in play by using only players’ hips and forearms without the use of hands or feet. The game was highly competitive and held great cultural and religious significance, often serving as a means to resolve conflicts or demonstrate political power. The stakes were sometimes so high that it is believed the captain of the losing team would face sacrifice as an offering to the gods.


Located on the walls of the Great Ball Court are stone rings through which the players had to successfully pass the ball during the game. The rings are placed high on the wall, adding an extra level of difficulty to the already challenging game. The precision and skill required to accomplish this task speak to the incredible athleticism and competitive spirit of the Mayans.


Visiting the Great Ball Court offers a unique opportunity to step onto the same hallowed ground where these ancient games took place. As you walk along the length of the court, you’ll be captivated by the grandeur and architectural brilliance that surrounds you. Take a moment to imagine the excitement and energy that once filled the air as teams battled it out and spectators cheered from the sidelines.


Today, the Great Ball Court stands as a testament to the Mayans’ deep connection with physical prowess, ritual performance, and religious beliefs. It is a window into their social structure, their passion for competition, and their cultural values.


Exploring the Great Ball Court at Chichén Itzá is a must for any visitor. Take your time to absorb the magnitude of the space, marvel at the intricate carvings, and let your imagination transport you to a time when the court was the vibrant heart of the city.


The Temple of Warriors

The Temple of Warriors is one of the most captivating structures at Chichén Itzá and is sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitor. This impressive temple showcases the Mayans’ architectural ingenuity and carries great cultural and historical significance.


As you approach the Temple of Warriors, you’ll be greeted by a grand staircase adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures depicting warriors. These carvings are a testament to the Mayans’ military prowess and their reverence for the warrior class.


The temple itself consists of a series of beautifully decorated columns that lead to a central sanctuary. Each column is adorned with intricate bas-reliefs depicting a variety of figures, including warriors, nobles, and gods. These elaborate carvings provide a glimpse into the ancient Mayan civilization and their rich mythology.


At the top of the temple, you’ll find a small shrine that was likely used for religious ceremonies. The shrine is believed to have served as a place of worship and offerings to deities. Within the shrine, you may find a Chac Mool, a reclining figure, representing a messenger between the gods and the Mayan people.


Adjacent to the Temple of Warriors is the Temple of the Thousand Columns, a unique structure consisting of rows upon rows of columns that once supported a roof. This impressive complex is an architectural marvel and is believed to have served as a marketplace or administrative center.


One of the most fascinating aspects of the Temple of Warriors is the presence of the “Chacmool” statues. These reclining figures, usually associated with sacrifices or offerings, can be found throughout Mesoamerica. The Chacmool sculptures at the Temple of Warriors offer a glimpse into the complex rituals and religious practices of the Mayans.


The Temple of Warriors is not only a testament to the Mayans’ architectural prowess but also provides valuable insights into their civilization’s political and religious structures. The depiction of warriors and the prominence of the temple within the site was a representation of power and control.


Exploring the Temple of Warriors allows you to wander through an ancient world rich in history and cultural significance. Take your time to admire the intricate carvings, study the details of the columns, and contemplate the rituals that once took place within its sacred walls.


As you stand before this incredible structure, let your imagination transport you back in time to the days when Mayan ceremonies and grand spectacles unfolded against the backdrop of the Temple of Warriors.


The Sacred Cenote

One of the most intriguing features of Chichén Itzá is the Sacred Cenote, a natural sinkhole that holds great historical, cultural, and spiritual significance. This cenote, known as “cenote sagrado” in Spanish, served as a vital water source for the ancient Mayan city and was also a site of important rituals and ceremonies.


The Sacred Cenote is a stunning sight to behold. Surrounded by lush vegetation, the cenote is a deep, circular pool filled with crystal-clear, turquoise waters. Its tranquil and ethereal ambiance captivates the imagination and transports visitors to a mystical world.


To the Mayans, the cenote was more than just a water source. It was believed to be a sacred portal to the underworld and played a significant role in their religious practices. The Mayans considered the cenote a gateway between the realm of the living and the realm of the gods.


Archaeological studies and discoveries have revealed that the Sacred Cenote was used for various purposes, including sacrificial ceremonies. Objects ranging from jewelry and ceramics to human remains have been found in its depths, providing valuable insights into the rituals and beliefs of the Mayan people.


It is believed that the Mayans considered the cenote to be a sacred site where offerings were made to appease the gods. The offerings could include valuable objects, animal sacrifices, and in some cases, even human sacrifices. Though the cenote no longer holds these ceremonies today, its historical significance remains deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of Chichén Itzá.


As you stand at the edge of the Sacred Cenote, you can’t help but feel a sense of reverence and wonder. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the natural surroundings and reflect on the ancient rituals that unfolded in this very spot.


Swimming is not permitted in the Sacred Cenote, as it is a protected archaeological site. However, visitors can still admire its beauty from the designated viewing areas and gain a deeper appreciation for its cultural and historical significance.


The Sacred Cenote is not only a testament to the Mayans’ engineering ingenuity in utilizing natural resources but also serves as a reminder of the deep spiritual connection between the Mayan people and the natural world around them.


Visiting the Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the mystical ambiance of this ancient site, to connect with the history and rituals of the Mayan civilization, and to appreciate the profound significance of water in their culture.


Other Points of Interest

While El Castillo, the Great Ball Court, the Temple of Warriors, and the Sacred Cenote are the main attractions at Chichén Itzá, there are several other noteworthy structures and areas that deserve your attention. These points of interest further showcase the architectural brilliance and cultural significance of this ancient site.


The Temple of the Jaguars, located to the south of the Great Ball Court, features intricate carvings of jaguars and other animal figures. This temple emphasizes the Mayans’ reverence for nature and their belief in the spiritual connection between humans and animals.


The Group of the Thousand Columns is a vast complex comprised of numerous columns arranged in rows. While it is believed that not all thousand columns were actually present, the remaining columns serve as a reminder of the Mayans’ impressive architectural abilities and their focus on creating grand ceremonial spaces.


The Tzompantli, or skull rack, is an area where the Mayans displayed the skulls of sacrificial victims. This chilling platform provides a glimpse into the rituals and practices that were part of the Mayan religious and cultural traditions.


The Observatory, known as El Caracol, is a fascinating round building that served as a place for astronomical observations. Its unique shape and alignment with celestial events demonstrate the Mayans’ deep understanding of astronomy and their ability to track the movements of celestial bodies with precision.


As you explore Chichén Itzá, you’ll also encounter intricate carvings and artwork throughout the site. These carvings depict various scenes from Mayan mythology, history, and daily life. Take the time to study these details, as they offer valuable insights into the beliefs, practices, and achievements of the Mayan civilization.


It’s also worth mentioning that Chichén Itzá hosts a sound and light show during evenings, which illuminates the main structures and brings the history of the site to life through a multimedia experience. This enchanting show provides a different perspective and a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural significance of Chichén Itzá.


As you explore these other points of interest at Chichén Itzá, you’ll gain a more comprehensive understanding of the Mayan civilization and the vibrant world they created. Each structure and area has its own unique story to tell, adding depth and richness to your visit.


Take your time to absorb the beauty and significance of these lesser-known attractions, and let your curiosity guide you as you unravel the mysteries and marvels of Chichén Itzá.


Tips for Visiting Chichén Itzá

Visiting Chichén Itzá is a remarkable experience that requires some planning to make the most of your trip. Here are some helpful tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit:

1. Arrive Early or Late

Chichén Itzá is a popular tourist destination, so it tends to get crowded. To avoid the crowds and make the most of your visit, try to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon. During these times, you’ll have a better chance of exploring the site without large crowds and capturing stunning photographs without too many people in the frame.

2. Stay Hydrated and Wear Sun Protection

The Yucatan Peninsula can get very hot and humid, especially during the summer months. It’s important to stay hydrated by bringing plenty of water with you and wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. You’ll be walking around the site for a few hours, so it’s crucial to take care of your well-being.

3. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Chichén Itzá is a vast archaeological site with a lot of walking involved, so it’s essential to wear comfortable shoes. Opt for sneakers or walking shoes that provide good support and traction. You’ll be navigating through uneven terrain and climbing stairs, so proper footwear is essential for a comfortable and safe exploration.

4. Engage a Knowledgeable Guide

Hiring a knowledgeable guide can greatly enhance your experience at Chichén Itzá. A guide will provide insights into the history, architecture, and culture of the site, offering a deeper understanding and appreciation of what you’re seeing. They can also help navigate the crowds and ensure you don’t miss any important details or hidden gems.

5. Bring Snacks or Enjoy Local Cuisine

While there are food vendors at the site, the prices can be higher compared to outside establishments. To save money and have more options, consider bringing your own snacks and water. Alternatively, after your visit, explore the nearby town of Valladolid or other nearby villages to enjoy delicious local cuisine and immerse yourself in the vibrant food culture of the Yucatan Peninsula.

6. Respect the Site and Its History

Chichén Itzá is not only a tourist attraction but also an important archaeological site with deep historical and cultural significance. Help preserve its integrity by respecting the rules and regulations, not touching or climbing on the structures, and disposing of your trash responsibly. By being mindful and respectful, you contribute to the preservation of the site for future generations to appreciate.


By following these tips, you’ll have a smooth and enjoyable visit to Chichén Itzá. Prepare in advance, take care of yourself, and embrace the opportunity to explore this incredible UNESCO World Heritage site and marvel at the remarkable achievements of the ancient Mayan civilization.



Chichén Itzá is more than just a collection of ancient ruins; it is a window into a fascinating world of history, culture, and architectural splendor. As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichén Itzá stands as a testament to the brilliance and ingenuity of the ancient Mayan civilization.


Exploring Chichén Itzá allows you to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Mayan history. From the awe-inspiring pyramids to the intricately carved columns, each structure tells a story of a thriving civilization that had a profound impact on the region.


Visitors to Chichén Itzá are treated to a remarkable journey through time as they traverse the sprawling site. They witness the Mayans’ architectural genius, their advanced understanding of astronomy, and their deep spiritual connections to the natural world.


As you explore the main attractions, such as El Castillo, the Great Ball Court, the Temple of Warriors, and the Sacred Cenote, you’ll gain insights into the Mayans’ culture, rituals, and beliefs. You’ll be in awe of the remarkable feats they accomplished and the enduring legacy they left behind.


When planning your visit to Chichén Itzá, it’s essential to consider the logistics, such as arriving early or late, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, and staying hydrated. Engaging a knowledgeable guide can enhance your experience, providing a deeper understanding of the site’s significance.


As you journey through Chichén Itzá, let your curiosity guide you. Take in the fascinating details of the carvings, imagine the bustling city that once thrived, and find yourself captivated by the beauty and grandeur of this ancient wonder.


With its remarkable history, architectural marvels, and cultural significance, Chichén Itzá truly is a treasure that must be experienced by all who appreciate the wonders of our world. So, embark on this captivating journey and let Chichén Itzá transport you to a world steeped in ancient mystery, beauty, and awe-inspiring achievement.