Chichen Itza was one of the largest cities built by the Mayan civilization. Located on the Yucatán Peninsula, the site exhibits a variety of architectural styles, a result of the city’s importance as an economic and cultural focal point from around 700 to 100 AD. The ruling elite governed Chichen Itza’s diverse population, until the city experienced a “collapse”, where much of the ruling class left while a significant population remained living there, an alluring prize for Spanish conquistadors. After decades of conflict, the Yucatán peninsula was eventually claimed as Spanish land.
Three centuries later, Chichen Itza was introduced to the world by John Lloyd Stevenson’s Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, a recount of his tour through the Mayan cities. Numerous archeological digs explored the site’s many compounds, while tourists from all over the world came to see the majestic El Castillo. Chichen Itza is particularly popular on the spring and fall equinoxes, where thousands come to witness Kukulkan climb down the steps of the temple. Thanks to the advanced architectural and astronomical skills of the Maya, El Castillo was built in line with significant astronomical events. Every spring and fall equinox, the shadow of the Mayan Feathered Serpent God slithers down the northwest corner.
Chichen Itza is located on the highway between Mérida and Cancun, giving you the option of making a day trip or spending the night there. Entrance is 145 pesos, plus another 45 if you want to use a video camera. If you’re spending your vacation at a resort and are looking to get some culture in between drinking and relaxing on the beach, there are bus services going to and from Cancun everyday, priced between 100-300 pesos for a three- to four-hour ride. El Castillo is the main attraction, but if you want to really immerse yourself in Mayan culture, you will need more than a day trip.
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