Chichen Itza – wonder of the world
13 September 2020
The year 2020 is turning out to be a strange year. It started well with my visit to Mexico in January which was quickly followed by my Italian adventures in February. And just when I thought I would have a short break before embarking upon my next adventure, Covid19 hit and brought the whole world down on its knees. The world was closed for business; not just travel or leisure but all, save for essential businesses! I count myself lucky to have be able to enjoy two great trips before the world locked down!
Some of you will know of my keenness to see all the wonders of the world as well as the most visited tourist attractions in the world. The Great Wall, Machu Picchu, the Colosseum are three of the seven wonders of the world that I have visited. In addition, I’d visited the Great Pyramid of Giza which is actually an honorary wonder that had been added to the list. So it would not be a surprise that I had visited Chichen Itza in Mexico, which is the fifth wonder of the world.
Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Yucatan Province in south eastern Mexico about two hours drive from Playa Maya. It is a large complex, historically a ceremonial site, at the centre of which is the Temple of Kukulcan, also known as El Castillo; the famous step pyramid that attracts the most attention.
You may be wondering why I am kneeling in front of this temple. I had tried to take photos but I could not frame the whole temple due to its height. A friendly tourist approached me and suggested as way of overcoming this problem, that I crouched or knelt in front of it . He offered to take the photo, and it worked well. Of course I returned the favour. We were both chuffed with the results!!
I am keen on engaging the services of local guides where possible. It is worth paying just that little bit extra to get a professional guide. Most are experts in their fields and proud representatives of their countries. My guide did not disappoint. He presented the facts and information enthusiastically and in an engaging manner. I tried to capture as much details as I could either by making notes on my phone or by simply try to remember them, helped by the photos that I take.
There are clusters of temples and pyramids in the complex; each with its own history and significance. The four most well known structures in the complex are:
- El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan) – step pyramid
- Great Ball Court
- Great North Platform
- Temple of the Jaguars
El Castillo is built of stone in AD 600 and served as the temple to the god of Kukulcan. The Temple has four sides, each with ninety one steps with one extra at the top, making a total of 365 steps, representing the number of days in a year.
The step pyramid is very steep and so not easy to climb. The way round it was to climb it like a crab – side step to go up and shuffle down on your bottom on way down.
The stones naturally worn down over the centuries, There was a tragic accident in 2016 when an avalanche of people came down the ninety one steps. Three people sadly lost their lives and the whole complex was closed for a while. Climbing the pyramid is unsurprisingly no longer allowed.
The El Castillo was said to have been built on top of a sink hole (a cenote) and have found a second pyramid hidden deep inside the Kukulcan.
Another interesting piece of information was that the shadow cast by the setting sun created an appearance of a snake sliding down the side of the central column. You may have to use your imagination to see it in this photo – far end against the blue sky. This phenomenon was said to occur during the spring and autumn equinoxes.
The Mayans were said to be good astronomers.
I wanted a souvenir and my Guide recommended the Mayan Calendar because it captured the Mayans passion for astronomy. There was an instruction leaflet on how to read it. I am still trying to work it out!! Sales pitch? Perhaps. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful picture.
The acoustics were good. People gathered around the base of the temple to hear the unusual sound. I was no exception as I was fascinated by this information. And yes, I did hear the sound but did not see the snake!
Still in the complex of Chichen Itza, the Great Ball Court is a huge open space with two walls built facing each other – around 545 feet (166 meters ) long and 223 feet (68 meters wide). The Mayans played ball games with a solid rubber ball which they tried to put through a stone ring high above the wall. The game played was a huge and torturous even, but it entertained the Mayans.
Similar to the Kukulcan temple, the acoustics in the Great Ball Court were good. I naturally joined in the clap to hear the sound echoed at the other end of the court!
The scripted relics ran the whole length of the court. It was said to depict the victims of the various games.
Chichen Itza attracts over 2.7 million visitors a year and it is said to be one of the best preserved archaeological sites in the world.
I had a pleasant day. The complex was not too crowded and I saw several old ruins. Unless I missed something, I could not see what the wonder was. I was not impressed and pondered how Chichen Itza got to be one of the seven wonders of the world.
For me, the jury is still out.
Did you know?
The Mayans were excellent dentists – their teeth were very well preserved
Playing basket ball was heavily promoted but it didn’t take off – the Mayans are short
The Mayans believed that Humans are reincarnated as plants and not as animals or human beings
In the Yucatan province- locals prefer pork to chicken
Human skulls were celebrated on November 1st for children and November 2nd for adults
The Mayans ate a lot of corn – lots of different types existed then and now
Papaya fruit was used by the Mayans as a laxative