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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