A very hot day in February of 2019 found us in Mexico on a Chichen Itza Tour. We were staying in Cancun. Friends of ours have a time share in Cancun and graciously invited us there for the week. Steve and I were excited and decided Chichen Itza would be a nice day trip and took our friends with. We booked the Chichen Itza tour through our hotel and all in all this was a good choice.
Location of Chichen Itza
About Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is a Mayan ruin located in the Yukatan State of Mexico. I had always thought of Chichen Itza as only being the famous pyramid. In fact, I did not know it was a large city at one time. The Mayans prospered here prior to 800 AD and by 1200 AD fell into decline. It is believed the Mayans had an earlier culture here possibly as early as 250 AD. Our guide told us there was uncertainty wether the Toltecs conquered the Mayans or just had influence over them as later buildings were in the style of the Toltecs. The Toltecs are a civilization that pre-dated the Aztecs and our guide used both terms when referring to this group of people.
El Castillo is the name of the famous pyramid you may have seen photos of. It is also know as the Temple of Kukulkan. Built before 1050 AD by the Mayans to honor the god Kukulkan. The god Kukulkan is a serpent with in feathers over his body.
Listening to our guide, we learned how very attuned the Mayan culture was to astronomy. El Castillo is 24 meters tall with four equal sides. Each side has 91 steps climbing up to a platform. When you add the one step on the top of the platform, the steps equal 365, which is one year. During the spring and fall equinox, shadows are cast by the sun in late afternoon along the north stairway. These shadows are such that it appears as if a large snake is crawling down the stairs. The shadows end at the one of the snake heads on the bottom of the stairs. Mayans thought that it was the deity Kukulkan appearing to give guidance or blessings letting the people know it was time to plant or harvest.
Temple of the Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors is a rectangular pyramid. Around the pyramid are 200 columns representing soldiers. On Chac Mool sits on top of the temple. Used to hold a sacrifice, including the head of a human sacrifice, a Chac Mool is a statue which is leaning back on its elbows. According to our guide, the Mayans did not perform human sacrifice but the Aztecs did. Although the sacrifices were not the young beautiful females legend may tell, but the old, crippled and ill.
Platform of Venus
Known to be great astronomers, Mayans were very interested in the planet of Venus. They tracked the planet as a way to measure time. The Platform of Venus looks like an unfinished pyramid and is flat on top. This platform is unique in that it is round and may have been used for dancing or ceremonies.
Continuing on our Chichen Itza tour we walked the short distance to the Sacred Cenote. This cenote is an underground water source at Chichen Itza. Basically it is a sink hole. The belief that some Cenotes led to the underworld, including this one, made them sacred. This particular water source was not for daily use. We were told many sacrifices were thrown in here, including humans. In the early 1900’s, this cenote was dredged resulting in finding many items, including gold, jade, turquoise and pottery. Also found were human remains with sacrificial injuries.
The Grand Ball Court
The Grand Ball Court is huge. It is an open air ball court and is acoustically perfect. Even though it is 545 feet long and 225 feet wide with a temple at each end, you can hear a person whispering at one end while you are at the opposite end. Using a heavy ball the Mayans would put the ball through a stone hoop on either side. He also told us you did not want to win. The captain of the winning team would offer his head to the high priest by having the loosing team cut off his head. An admirable sacrifice, the captain of the winning team had a guarantee for a straight ticket to the after life. All things considered, I think I would just as soon loose and take my chance on the after life.
Built between 1050 and 1200 AD, The Skull Platform also know as Tzompantli or Skull Rack, was used to display skulls. This stone structure has carvings of skulls all around it. In addition, there may have been wood posts that impaled heads of enemies or sacrificial heads were stacked on top of the platform and displayed for all to see. Tzompantli is an Aztec word suggesting that the Toltec’s brought this gruesome platform to Chichen Itza. The Skull Platform is located along the Ball Court so the heads of the sacrificed players may have ended up here.
Temple of the Jaguars
The Temple of the Jaguar is located along the east wall of the Ball Court. There are Upper and Lower Temples, each having their own entrance. The Upper Temple overlooks the ball court. The Lower Temple hosts a jaguar throne.
Temple of the Bearded Man
The Temple of the Bearded Man known also as the North Temple of the Ball Court, is located on the North end of the ball park. Possibly where invited guests or nobility watched the game. The temple derived its name from the carving inside of a bearded man.
Chichanchob, also known as The Red House, may have been living quarters for the elite or possibly some type of public building. Our guide told us there are inscriptions inside the building listing Mayan rulers back to 869 AD. Although this year may refer to the year the Red House was built.
El Caracol, built between 600 and 850 AD is also referred to as The Observatory due to the dome on top. For the most part, next to El Castillo, this was the most impressive building on our Chichen Itza tour. Its use is generally thought to observe the skies and the land around the area. As a matter of fact, one of the windows in the dome line up with the planet Venus. All things considered, scholars believe that the Mayans knew each time Venus cycled the earth 5 times, it equaled 8 years, this was another way to track time.
Tomb of the High Priest
The Ossuary, also known as The Tomb of the High Priest is another structure that looks like an unfinished pyramid. The interior of this building has shafts that lead to different tombs and at the lowest tomb there is a cave which is underneath the building. The tombs held skeletal remains and funeral objects such as urns and pottery. Would love to be able to go inside!!
There are more buildings in the Chichen Itza area and our tour touched on the main ones. Chichen Itza is a very impressive area and our guide had a good knowledge of the area and great information. As a matter of fact, I had no idea Chichen Itza was such a large compound and contained so many buildings.
Dinner Time at La Destileria Cancun
After arriving back in Cancun, we swam at the beach again and then walked to La Destileria with our friends. It was one of their favorites in the area and we soon found out why! The food and service was great and the Mariachi band was fun. Steve and I enjoyed it so much that we went back another night!
Where We Stayed
As I mentioned we stayed at our friends time share which was in the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort. This was a fantastic facility with great views. Located just across from the mall giving us many options for meals. The well manicured beach and large pools were awesome. The on sight restaurants were good. We enjoyed the daily champagne breakfast. Steve and I went together a traditional Mexican dinner show there and had a lot of fun. In addition, there are also ancient ruins right on the hotel property to explore! All in all, if you are looking for a great place to chill and relax, this is the resort to do it!!
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You can read about my other Mexico Adventures at the following links:
Tulum Ruins in Mexico, February 2017
Climbing Coba Ruins in Mexico, February 2017
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46 thoughts on “Chichen Itza Tour in Mexico”
Wonderful trip experience, Lori! My wife & I’ve only been down there once, a day stop on our only cruise excursion out of Galveston when I turned 60, and I remember the air being so soft! And, I remember the stories the tour guide told us of how peaceful the Mayans were until the Aztecs arrived. Yeah, winning a game back then was not my idea of winning either, lol!
It was a great trip. I knew very little about the area so felt fortunate to have such an informative guide!
We were total blank slates & astounded at the complexities of the history of the region. My family (I’m 2nd generation) never wanted to talk aloud of things Aztec, lol! Your post really filled in many more aspects for me, thank u! ❤️
I got the impression that the Aztecs were not at all good people!! Our guide certainly did not have much good to say of them. I too am amazed at the history of the area!
Once I learned of their perspective, I got rid of any of their round art copies I’d gotten in markets etc. Can’t support that. Did y’all get to see a tunnel inland that went out to the beach? Wanted to walk it but our boat was leaving, no way we could swim home, lol!
We saw a tunnel that they had discovered recently near the big pyramid but I’m not sure if they knew where it went to or I may just not remember. I do remember the guide saying that this particular tunnel was sealed off by the Mayans years ago and may lead to a secrete cenote. The area was roped off as it appeared to look like a large trench.
Wow! Didn’t even know what that was! Google search says it may’ve been secret underground swimming areas? Amazing! The earth so has many secrets still to share with us! Maybe ya’ll’ll go back to explore those some time!
You are right!! So many amazing things on earth! I have a feeling there are many more surprises in that area!!! Not sure if we will go back that way or not. There are so many places to visit!!!
There are! Enjoy enjoy enjoy! Wife & I can still travel a big, though circumscribed quite a bit from even ten years ago. No long drives, that’s for sure, lol! Look fwd to seeing where ya’ll go next 😊
We love to travel and plan to do it as long as we can. Here is a link you might find interesting about secrets in that area!! https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/cave-full-untouched-maya-artifacts-found-chichen-itza-180971622/
Thanks so much! Our oldest girl loves visiting the area & I’ll let her know too 😊
Great post 🙂
Wonderful post, pictures and description ! I enjoy the details so much. Thank you !
Glad you liked it! I found this place fascinating!! Many of these ancient cultures involve pyramids and although I did not get into theories in my blog post, I am intrigued by the many theories as how these cultures built the amazing places they did! Thanks for the kind words!!
You’ re welcome, dear Lori. Never been to Mexico, and you introduced Mexico -or an interesting part of it- to me with this wonderfully balanced article of yours. You deserve all the kind words, dear.
As you just said the place is fascinating. I observe the architecture and the symmetry of the ancient buildings is amazing. And many more, of course, but it seems the symmetry was of great importance to them.
I agree on the symmetry. We had visited 2 more ancient sites in 2017 in Mexico which I will blog about in the next couple of weeks. They also have a great history and build with purpose. Neither Steve or I are big on tours but we took guided tours for all of these in Mexico and were glad we did. Amazing how much we learned. Plus Steve did not want to drive in Mexico!! Right now I am very jealous of my son, he is in Egypt and plans on visiting the pyramids there!! I told him he should guest write a post for me but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen!!
I’ll be more than happy to read your articles, Lori. I think Steve did the right thing. Sometimes is better to avoid driving, to focus and to enjoy the sightseeing. Tell son he has to !… lol… At least to send some pictures … haha … Egypt is another wonderful place also.
Thank you, Lori. I wish you to enjoy the day.
You enjoy your day as well!!
I had no idea there was so much there. And the resort looked wonderful too. Great photos! Great descriptions!
Thanks! I too was surprised at how much was here! I had only expected a pyramid!!
Great pics! Interesting to see these structures in Mexico and then the pyramids in Egypt. A lot of similarities.
Thank you! It is interesting that so many ancient cultures built pyramids!!
Looks like a great tour. Nice to have the offer of a place to stay and the knowledge of people who have been there before. Thanks for sharing. Allan
It was very kind of our friends!!
Looks incredible! I just finished reading “The Motorcycle Diarys” and Chichen Itza was a place of great interest to Che Guevara. He spent quite a lot of time there. It is definitely on my travel list for the future!
It is a fascinating place!! So much to explore!
that looked like a fun, and educational, trip. thanks for the history lesson!
You are welcome!! We did have fun and learned a lot!
What a wonderful trip and a great experience. Those Mayan temples look absolutely fascinating and your photos are brilliant. Seems like you got the balance between lovely accommodation and amazing sites just right and that restaurant looked great too. No wonder you went back.
It was a great trip. Love the Mayan history and ruins!!!
The highest temperature I’ve ever experienced in my life was when I visited Chichen Itza back in March a few years ago. I remember when we first got on our tour bus, they gave us all umbrellas and I kept thinking that this was so strange because it wasn’t raining outside. But when we got off the bus I then understood why: to offer some protection from the unrelenting sun. Thanks for taking me back.
They gave us umbrellas also but we said no thanks. I would say about half way through we were wishing we would have taken them. The sun was so hot!!!
Yes it was!
Awesome ancient architectural structures & lovely oceanfront views ~ looks great!!!
We just got back from that area yesterday! The ruins look amazing. Our traveling friends didn’t want to make the trek out there – they had been before. Next time :-).
It is quite a ways out there! Hope you had a great time in Mexico!!!
We did! Super fun time!
That’s great!!! We didn’t take a winter trip this year so I’m jealous!!!! But seriously, glad you you had fun!’
I am posting about it in a few days – scheduled for Wednesday 🙂
I will look for it!!
Would love to see these sights! Enjoyed your post and photos. Did you feel safe in Mexico? (That’s always my hesitation with traveling there.)
I too worry about safety. We pretty much stayed at the hotel and we did not so any driving. That’s why we went on a tour instead of by ourself. We felt safer in a group and being picked up at the hotel.
Good to know. Thank you.