Chichén Itzà, Playa del Carmen
Roughly by car it took 2.5 to 3hr from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza. This Mayan ruin is something else. My first impression for me was definitely a wow factor. We had a tour guide who was a Mayan himself. Listening to him the history and the details of each building was interesting. On the day it was hot luckily we had umbrella, hats and plenty of lubrication. I am glad we visited the 7th wonders of the world. Anyway I highly recommend visiting Chichen Itza if you are in Playa del Carmen or Cancun.
This is one of the latest sites of Maya, and maybe therefore it is better preserved than other ancient Mayan towns. Two sides of the main pyramid were restored, so if you look at the restored side it is like new. (With the exception that originally Mayan pyramids were painted bright colors, and now they are all naked stone, dull grey.
At Chichen-Itza you can also see a well-preserved ball court and plaza of the thousand columns. We were told that in the Mayan times the columns were covered with roofs and were used as a hotel for the city visitors, who hung hammocks between the columns and slept in them. However, there are other versions of the purpose of the columns.
One more remarkable thing: if you stand against the staiway of the pyramid from the side of the Venus platform and clap your hands, you will hear a cry of an eagle from the top of the pyramid! Try it, it's amazing!
The Sacred Cenote was a religious site for the ancient Maya people who lived in Chichen-Itza. Previously there was a belief that Maya sacrificed people as offerings to their Gods throwing people in the Cenote. However, latest research discovered that such events were quite rare.
The cenote is very deep. Take the staircase down to the water and swim in the cool azure water of the cenote. Or you can just have a look and take pictures of the place, which is really beautiful.
The guided tours show you the main area of Chichen Itza, around the Kukulkan Pyramid and the footbal field. If you are willing to go a little further into the city, you can see some other interesting places, away from the big crowds, such as The 1000 columns square.
The guided tours show you the main area of Chichen Itza, around the Kukulkan Pyramid and the footbal field. If you are willing to go a little further into the city, you can see some other interesting places, away from the big crowds, such as The Observatorium.
The archeological site of Chichen Itza is huge and it has much to see besides the Kukulkan Pyramid (one of the new wonders of the world). You can also see the biggest ball court, the temple of Chac Mool, the thousand columns square, the observatory, the temple of warriors, the temple of the jaguar, the Nunnery and the Cenote. Some practical advice: bring water, sun screen a hat/cap and comfortable shoes. It’s usually very hot and there aren’t many shades. The site is almost entirely covered with vendors. The quality of the items they sell is very poor but the prices are low and you can always bargain.
Chichen Itza, easily the best Mayan ruins close enough to do on a daytrip from the PDC/Cancun area, is about 2 1/2 hours from Playa del Carmen. There are a few ways to visit:
a) Rent a car and go early before the tourists arrive, some people stay overnight so they can get there at sunrise
b) Take an organized bus trip
c) Take an organized van trip
We opted for option b. The packages that could be booked from our hotel were $75 so we found a travel agency in town that wasn't pushing their time share and booked it for $42 per person. The trip included a stop at an overpriced souvenir shop, lunch at the Mayan Hotel next to the ruins, a stop at a cenote which was cancelled (police were guarding the entrance), a couple of hours with a guide at the ruins and a brief stop in Valladoid.
Please see my Chichen Itza page for photos and descriptions.
Must see - place if you visit Jukatan. Its best to have a quide that speaks your language so you can get more out of your visit. What can I say, place is interesting and impressive. Btw, souvenirs are very nice and cheap there.
Chichen Itza is a huge Mayan archeological site a few hours' drive from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Everyone says to get there early because it gets very hot in the afternoon. And it's good advice. But since most people who visit stay in Cancun or PDC and it takes 3-4+ hours to get there, I challenge you to get up early enough to get there before the sun is hot enough to melt you away! We got there at about 11:00 and boy was it hot!
But despite the heat, we enjoyed it quite a bit. I was amazed at how complex the architecture and decorations were. And the ball field was very impressive. The place is really huge and it will take several hours to see it all especially considering that you really want to move slow due to the heat.
Along the paths, there are lots and lots of locals selling art, crafts and junky trinkets. They wore us down and ended up spending a few dollars and I'm glad we did. Now I've got a couple more wood carvings to add to the collection.
There are 2 highways that go from the Cancun area to Chichen Itza. One is a toll road and is an expressway. The other is a numbered highway that goes through a number of villages. The toll road took us about 3 hours to get there. We took the other highway going home and it took us about 5 hours to get back because we stopped a few times and then got lost in Cancun due to a detour. The tolls were kind of expensive - I forget exactly how much but it was around $15 USD one-way. Worth it if you want to save time.
Chichen Itza, supposedly an ancient Mayan site, is in fact a huge fraud and - dare I say - a conspiracy.
Visit my Chichen Itzah page here to learn more
If you can, rather than taking one of the tour busses in for the day, spend the night in Vallodolid and get to Chichen Itza early in the morning before the heat and the crowds. We spent a more relaxing few hours at the site, then returned to our hotel and rested at the pool before having a fine Mayan meal at the Hotel Mansion del Marques. It was worth the extra time and money for us.
Between 800 and 1200 AD Chichen Itza was in it's time of grandeur, being the centre of religious, military and political power in the Yucatan peninsula. Chichen Itza is the most famous of the Mayan pyramids in the area and the central pyramid El Castillo is 79 feet (24m high) and can be climbed on two out of the four sides. Originally each side had 91 steps, altogether meaning 365 steps, one of every day of the year. There are 52 panels on each side, representing the 52 year cycle of the Maya calendar. On the Spring and Autumn equinox, sunlight touches the serpent's head at the base of one of the sides and makes it appear to descend into the earth, as the sun hits each stair starting from the top and ending with the serpent's head. I did pluck up the courage to climb the pyramid but had to come down very slowly on all fours. The views from the top were amazing but I was glad when I came back down!
For more information please visit my Chichen Itza page.
One of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, Chichen Itza is the largest of the Pre-Columbian archaeological sites in the Yucatán. The city was built by the Maya but sports Toltec influences. Tourists come by the hordes on day trips from Cancun and the Riviera.
Dominating the center of Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulcan, often referred to as El Castillo. This step pyramid with a ground plan of square terraces with stairways up each of the 4 sides to the temple on top. During the Spring and Fall equinox, shadows from the corner tiers create the illusion of a serpent on the northern staircase. People flock to this location to view this phenomenon.
Chichen Itza also has a variety of other structures densely packed in the ceremonial center The ballcourt here is the largest ballcourt in ancient Mesoamerica. The sides of the interior of the ballcourt are lined with sculpted panels depicting teams of ball players, with the captain of the winning team decapitating the captain of the losers. Another notable building is the Nunnery that was actually the city's classic era government palace. Just to the east is a small temple called The Church which is decorated with elaborate masks of the rain god. To the north is a round building on a large square platform nicknamed "El Caracol" or "the snail" for the stone spiral staircase inside. This was an observatory sacred to Kukulcan, the feathered-serpent god of the wind and learning. Chichen Itza's "Temple of the Warriors" was clearly built as a copy of Temple B at Tula after it was conquered by the Toltecs. Also of note is a sacred cenote used for sacrifices.
The Maya chronicles record that in 1221 a revolt and civil war broke out. Chichen Itza went into decline as rulership over Yucatan shifted to Mayapan. While the site was never completely abandoned, the population declined and no major new constructions were built.
If you go to Yucatan, Playa del Carmen, you must see the ancient Mayan ruins city, Chitzen Itza! It is so impressive to see these ruins and to imagine these people who thousands of years ago worked so hard to built these huge, immense buildings. Imagine that every single ruin has a history of why it was built and for what purpose. Really, it is a must to see these ruins. A word of advise: it is very hot in Mexico and since you will be walking in the sun for almost 2 hours, it is very wise to take a cap, extra t-shirt and good shoes to walk on. Even an umbrella for the sun is not a stupid idea! Also do not forget to eat! Most people say they can't eat because of the heat, but it's very important to try and eat something, in order to prevent fainting.
Along the Riviera Maya the are some places where you can find the beauty of the nature with fun. Xcaret was built as a fun fair with an ecological and historical background. Xel-ha is a natural lagoon fitted out for to take the tourists. Here you can snorkel, sunbathe, swim with dolphins and go through the jungle to visit some 'cenotes'. If you want to live an adventure go to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. This area is a wild pure place more than 5000 kmq wide and in 1987 was declared human heritage. You can go through the jungle in a jeep along dirt roads. Sian Ka-an means 'where the sky begin' and here there are many Mayan ruines not restored, a thousand of butterflyes and many animal species. If you are lucky you could meet a jaguar!! Unfortunately I didn't visit it, maybe the next time... I've been just in Xel-hà.
If you want know more about Xel-hà, please go to my travelogues.