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All about Chichen Itza

Shopping Guide - Tours & Attractions - Restaurants Guide - Chichen Itza Weather - Resorts and Hotels

From the Yucatec Maya Chi'ch'èen Ìitsha', Chichen Itza means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”. The site is a large pre-Columbian archeological site built by the Maya civilization, located in the northern center of the Yucatan Peninsula of modern Mexico.

The ruins of Chichen Itza are considered federal property and the site is maintained by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, INAH. The land under the monuments, however, was privately-owned until March 29, 2010, when it was purchased by the state of Yucatan.

The site is filled with history and some of the most interesting sites are the castle (El Castillo), the most known image when describing Chichen Itza. The Temple of Kukulkan dominates the main platform of Chichen and is the most impressive site due to its mathematical and astrological preciseness.

The archeological site also houses the largest ball court in ancient Mesoamerica, measuring 166 by 68 metres (545 × 223 ft). The imposing walls are 12 metres (39 ft) high, and in the center, high up on each of the long walls, are rings carved with intertwining serpents.

The northern part of Yucatan is arid and most of its water source is underground river systems. In Chichen Itza, there are two cenotes (natural sink holes) that historians believe could have provided plentiful water year round for the cities inhabitants. Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote) is the most famous one as it is believed to have been used for sacrifices as a form of worship to the Maya rain god Chaac due to the artifacts that have been found there. Explorers have submerged into the cenote and found artifacts of gold, jade, pottery, incense, and human remains with wounds consistent with human sacrifice. The first explorer, Edward Herbert Thompson, dredged the Cenote Sagrado from 1904 to 1910.

Chichen Itza and surrounding areas

  • Location: 20º 40'58.44'' North, 88º 34'7.14'' West
  • Official language: Spanish
  • Other languages spoken: English, Maya
  • Time Zone: Central (GMT -6)
  • Climate: Semi-tropical

Chichen Itza Shopping

After your visit to Chichen Itza, you will surely want to take back a souvenir to remember the experience of visiting this amazing archeological site. Many of the Mayan communities and other vendors sit outside the archeological site with a number of objects that can be purchased as souvenirs, gifts, or simply to take back home a piece of Mexico.

Just close by to the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, the small town of Valladolid offers visitors an array of shops, restaurants, and the picturesque houses for photos and to simply walk around.

El Castillo

The site is filled with history and some of the most interesting sites are the castle (El Castillo), the most known image when describing Chichen Itza. The most famous structure in the archeological site is the Temple of Kukulkan, most commonly known as “El Castillo”, the castle. The majestic site was recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World due to its impressive mathematical and astrological precision and relation to the Mayan calendar. Each of the four sides of the pyramid is made up of 91 steep steps. The top platform is counted as an additional step, giving us a total of 365 steps, representing one year.

The pyramid is also quite the site during the spring and fall equinox (March 21st and September 22nd) when Kukulkan makes his descend upon the pyramid. The phenomenon, known as Kukulcan’s descend, is formed with a pattern of light when the sun hits the northern stairway’s 9 steps. As the sun sets, it casts a shadow over the pyramid, ending with the massive stone carving of a serpent’s head at the base of the pyramid, making it look like a giant serpent is snaking down the structure. During the winter solstice, the sun makes it seem as if the serpent is climbing up, resting momentarily above the temple, before descending once again on the other side. Some people believe that the pyramid was designed that way by the Mayans, but archeologists have not been able to prove it with certainty.

The Great Ball Court

Measuring 490 feet, the Great Ball Court in Chichen Itza is the largest ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. The court is 545 x223 feet and is surrounded by imposing walls measuring 39 feet each with carved rings high up on each of the walls.

The walls have sculpted panels each depicting teams of the ball players. One of the panels shows one of the players decapitated, emitting from his wound seven streams of blood that become wriggling serpents and the center one become a winding plant.

Cenote Sagrado

The Yucatan Peninsula is pockmarked with natural sinkholes called cenotes that expose the water table to the surface. The most impressive of these is Cenote Sagrado. This natural sinkhole measures 200 feet in diameter and sheer cliffs that drop to the water table about 89 feet below. For the ancient Maya, the Cenote Sagrado was a place of pilgrimage where sacrifices were conducted during times of drought. Gold, jade, obsidian, shell, wood, cloth and skeletons have been removed from the bottom of the cenote.

El Caracol

The round building of El Caracol is built on a large square platform and named “the snail” (El Caracol) because of the stone spiral staircase inside the building. The building is unique because of its unusual placement on the platform and round shape. Most other Mayan structures are rectangular. It is theorized that the building served as a proto-observatory and the doors and windows aligned to follow the path of Venus.

Restaurant Guide in Chichen Itza

Located near the ancient city of Chichen Itza, visitors can discover small towns to find food, shopping and the ideal picturesque town for photos and more. Locates about 23 miles of Chichen Itza is the town of Valladolid, Yucatan with a variety of restaurants ranging from Mexican cuisine, snacks and bar restaurants, Yucatecan cuisine and the local market to find some delicious regional treats. Some other towns near Chichen Itza include Izamal, Yucatan and the city of Merida, Yucatan.

Chichen Itza Weather

The weather in Chichen Itza is the same as in Cancun, including sunny skies, warm and humid days, and a breeze. The sun tends to be very strong in the region and intensifies slightly between midday and 4 p.m. The warmest season to travel to the area is between March and September. To avoid the high temperatures, travel between October and February. Rainy season is in the summer, but these showers usually don’t last all day long. When you travel to Chichen Itza—whether alone or in a tour—be sure to follow the following tips.

Helpful Weather Tips:

Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration.

  • Apply sunscreen thoroughly and dress lightly but with long-sleeves and pants.

  • If you feel slight headaches, dizziness or weakness, those are common warnings of heat stroke; sit immediately in the shade and drink more water.

  • Pack casual clothes and sandals for the day, a light sweater for winter season is advisable.

    Use a cap or hat to protect yourself from the sunrays.

  • Wear comfortable shoes to Chichen Itza tours, tennis shoes or closed-toed shoes.

  • During the day, the climate is hot and light clothing is recommended.

  • For trips into the jungle, you should wear pants, long-sleeved shirts and insect repellent for mosquitoes.

  • The temperature drops at night and a light sweater or bush jacket is suggested.

Resorts and Hotels

There are a number of accommodation options when visiting Chichen Itza. Visitors have the option of staying near the archeological site in hotels that usually include the entrance to the Mayan ruins for an affordable price. These small hotels in the surrounding areas offer small, comfortable guestrooms and access to the park. This is ideal for those who want to be the first to visit the park and avoid some of the crowds that form later on the day. These hotels sometimes also include entrance to cenotes and other attractions near the hotel. The other options include staying in the number of hotels in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Cancun, Valladolid, and even Merida. From there, you can visit the archeological site on your own or take one of the many tours available for you. These tours often include the meal, transportation and entrance to cenotes. Whatever you decide to do, Chichen Itza is a must-see site when visiting the Yucatan Peninsula.