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Visiting Chichen Itza: An overview and tips for visiting

After a few minutes in the full sun you can almost feel your skin sizzle, and your hair nearly burns your fingers as you run your hand through it. The area is vast, but the tourists surrounding the guide crowd under the sparse trees, seeking shade from the oppressive heat.

This is what visiting Chichén Itzá feels like in April. In short: it’s ungodly hot.

We saw Chichén Itzá in 2013, when we vacationed in Cancun on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. That over was two years ago, but I don’t suppose the area has changed much since then, though some of the excavation work has probably moved forward.

A Bit of History (as always)

“Chi” means “mouth” and “chen” means “well” in Mayan, thus Chichén Itzá means “at the mouth of the well of the Itzá tribe.”

I’m afraid I found conflicting information as to who the Itza were and when they arrived in the region, so I’m not going to say anything about that.

The well mentioned in the name is the nearby cenote, a naturally formed round, deep depression in the ground filled with water, and pretty steep walls. This particular cenote wasn’t actually used for fresh water, however, but rather ceremonial purposes. When the cenote was dredged at the beginning of the 20th century, the archeologists found not only hundreds of objects at the bottom, but also human remains that showed signs of human sacrifice.

Chichén Itzá was a large city, which archaeologists think started gaining importance between 700 to 1,000 A.D.

At the beginning of the 10th century the region saw the arrival of outsiders from the Central Valley, the Toltecs (or people influenced by the Toltecs according to Encyclopaedia Britannica), who made the locals accept their own gods. The main Toltec god was the Feathered Serpent called Quetzalcoatl in Aztec, which was translated to Kukulkan in Mayan.

The most spectacular structures in Chichén Itzá were built during that period – 11th to the 13th century, but the whole area of Chichén Itzá includes both Toltec and earlier, Mayan structures.

panoramic view of the temple of Kukulkan
panoramic view of the temple of Kukulkan

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