Chichen-Itza

Perhaps, the most famous Mayan complex in Mexico is Chichen-Itza – a large city covering over 80 hectares. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit what is recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world.

It is believed that the first Mayan settlement was founded right here in 455 AD. The city quickly developed and expanded, and by the end of the 9th Century it became a strong State, controlling almost all the northern Yucatan territories.

In the 10th Century it was taken over by the Toltecs, becoming the capital of these tribes. The influence of Toltec culture can be seen in the architecture and decor of the buildings that remain preserved to this day.

In 1178, Chichen-Itza was conquered by the unified Mayan troops under the command of Chief Hunak Keel. And despite the fact that the city was returned to the Mayan rule, it failed to return its old grandeur. The city gradually declined until it was completely deserted in 1194.

By the time the territory was conquered by Spaniards, all that remained of the once majestic city were empty, semi-destroyed buildings. Abandoned but not forgotten, Chichen-Itza was a sacred place for local tribes – a pilgrim destination.

The most prominent structure in the complex is the Kukulkan pyramid, located in the center of the large area. Around 30m high, this structure has preserved its original appearance almost completely. The sanctuary at the top of the pyramid was once used for ritualistic sacrifices to god Kukulkan.

The pyramid is almost 100% symmetrical from all sides. The long staircase leading to the sanctuary’s entrance is adorned with stone balustrade on both sides, which look like snakes. Twice a year, during the spring and autumn equinox, the pyramid’s stepped sides cast a shadow on the balustrade, creating an interesting optical illusion – it looks like the snake comes to life and begins to move. If you want to catch a glimpse of the “Feathered snake” today, don’t worry, you won’t have to wait until the next equinox; a light show recreates it every evening.

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Chichen-Itza covered a large (according to the standards of that time) area. For example, the city had 7 fields for ball games, with the largest stadium being 135m long!

A group of a thousand columns is another fascinating part of this ancient city. At one point, this location served as a market, where locals could buy their products (the stalls would be set up between the columns).

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Karakol – an observatory with a round dome – looks just as impressive.