Everyone knows that I love the Cancun/ Riviera Maya area of Mexico. I mean really, I LOVE IT. If anyone comes to me looking for a quick, inexpensive, beautiful beach vacation – they are going to get sent directly to the Cancun airport. One of my first blogs was actually titled “I’m a Cancun Addict”.
So it surprised even me when I couldn’t remember if I had ever been to Chichén Itzá! I mean really, it’s the #1 tour in the area. Which is why on my most recent trip, I booked a 5am tour via Amigo Tours. First, let me say that I have not been compensated in any way for this write-up. I only mentioned the tour group because our guide was absolutely AMAZING. He knew so much about the Mayan People and the history of the area. During our LONG bus ride, we learned about the culture, the people, the language ……his lesson even had pictures. Which go a long way when it’s barely 8am and you are asking yourself “why am I here?”
I went to Chichén Itzá knowing a few things:
- It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site
- It’s one of the most popular archaeological sites in Mexico
- It’s very old. Like built before Christ old
- There’s a cenote on the grounds that was once used for human sacrifice (I don’t even know why I knew that).
Now, I have seen the ruins of Tulum many times and so I was expecting a similar experience. But there were a few things during the tour that amazed me:
- The largest temple, The Temple of Kukulkan (aka El Castillo) is now one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Its 90-feet tall with stairways on each of the four sides. Each stairway has 91 steps, which total 364. When you add the platform step that they share at the top, it totals 365; the number of days in a year. Who did the math? And why? And the stones look as if they weigh a ton – each. How were those stones carried up 91 steps?
- Our guide stood in the center of the staircase, at the bottom of the largest temple and clapped his hands. An echo came from the top of the temple that sounded like the chirping of a sacred bird. But if he moved a few steps to the right or to the left – no chirping. Back to the center – chirping. Crazy right?
- There is a Ball Court where they played with a rubber ball that was very heavy. During the game, players had to keep the heavy ball in motion, but get this: the captain of the winning team (the team who got their ball through the stone ring on the opposing players’ part of the courtyard) was sacrificed to the gods! HuH? Well as it turns out, his victory made him “a fitting offering”. #BlankStare
- Another interesting fact about the Ball Court: You can stand on one end and whisper softly. Individuals at the other end WILL HEAR YOU. I mean clearly hear what you are saying. The Ball Court is over 500 feet long! It is believed this was used as some sort of eavesdropping technique. Also, a clap or shout made in the center of the ball court will produce nine separate echoes. The number nine has some significant meaning in this culture but I wasn’t paying any attention to my guide at that point. I was still stuck on the snooping abilities.
It became very clear to me very quickly that these were some very smart, very sophisticated people. They were skilled farmers and created a written language that is believed to be the first written language native to the Americans. They were also mathematicians and their number system included the concept of zero, which was an idea not known to the Greeks – who were considered “expert mathematicians” at that time. The Maya were also highly skilled potters, weavers, sculptors and jewelers. AND they had trade networks!
The tour was a total of 3 hours, not including travel time. I was back in Playa del Carmen by 3pm and at my Mi Casa Holiday beach party by 4pm.
One last thing: at the bottom of the northern stairway of El Castillo, there are stone heads of a serpent. Many people travel to the site during the vernal and autumnal equinoxes to experience how the sun’s light and the edges of the stairs create a shadow which, very briefly, creates the look of a snake moving down the Temple. Hmmmm, I checked and the equinoxes occur around March and September 21! What are your plans?! #LetsGo
See all of my pictures on my Facebook page!
Angie Founder, 2 Girls and A Bikini