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Chichen Itza is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world, and that is a great reason to visit. This legendary city is the home of the Mayan culture. Here lie ruins and knowledge from thousands of years ago that today attract millions of travelers worldwide.
Chichen Itza is a city full of magic and culture that you have to discover just how fabulous it is.
In this article, you will find helpful information about the history of Chichen Itza. On your visit, you will have enough notion about the greatness of the place. You will be able to enjoy it in a better way.
Table of contents
- ¿What is Chichen Itza?
- ¿Why is Chichen Itza a wonder of the world?
- ¿What are the ruins of Chichen Itza?
- 7 interesting facts about Chichen Itza
- Get a tour with a local guide.
¿What is Chichen Itza?
The pre-Hispanic city of Chichen Itza was the most outstanding city in the Maya area at the end of the Classic and beginning of the Postclassic period. At its peak, Chichen Itza was the most populated city in Yucatan Peninsula. Nowadays, its ruins reflect a great civilization full of architectural wonders and ancient secrets that make this city an exciting place for those who like history and culture.
This ancient city is home to several architectural and natural wonders, including El Castillo, the Great Ball Court, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Sacred Cenote.
The legendary Mayan city of Chichen Itza is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 1988 and a Wonder of the World since 2007. This place stood out as the cultural and political center of the Mayan civilization. It was one of the largest settlements in the Yucatan Peninsula, achieving great importance worldwide. Gobierno de Yucatán. (2017).
To know better about Chichen Itza and the region of Los Mayas visit the offical web of the state of Yucatan http://www.yucatan.gob.mx
¿Why is Chichen Itza a wonder of the world?
Chichen Itza is one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” due to the great city’s ancient man-made buildings, its cultural significance, and its placement among the top 7 places during the international voting is due to the more than 100 million votes cast internationally through the “New 7 Wonders” campaign.
In 2007, the city of Chichen Itza was chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, recognized as one of the largest and best-preserved archaeological sites in the world because it is home to a myriad of Mayan ruins and a rich cultural history appreciated by travelers from all over the world.
¿What are the ruins of Chichen Itza?
The city of Chichen Itza is made up of several ruins that together form the whole complex that is this imposing place. Here is a list of some of these places:
“El Castillo” At Chichen Itza
The Pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, is the most impressive construction of the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. One of the tallest of all Mayan architecture was built in the XII century A.D. by the Itza Mayas in their capital, the city of Chichen Itza mentioned above. This Pyramid is the most famous in Yucatan and one of the most important in Mexico. Besides its splendor, it stands out for its essential contributions to mathematics, geometry, arts, etc.
This monumental building is a pyramid of nine stepped bodies 24 meters high, with a staircase on each side and a temple on top. The decorative motifs on the façade are the serpents and jaguars of Toltec influence, which confirms that the construction of the building corresponds to the period of the most remarkable flourishing of the Itzá at that time.
The Pyramid of Kukulcan
The place that receives the most interest in Chichen Itza is the Pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as the Castle.
During the equinox of September and autumn (March 20 or 21 and September 22 or 23), an effect calculated by the Mayans takes place by which the reflection of the sun and the shadows of the corners of the Pyramid recreate on the stairway a serpent pretending to be their god Kukulkan, whose head rests at the foot of the base of the Pyramid. In this way, the Mayas demonstrated their advanced intelligence by calculating the calendar for use in the harvests, reflecting their astronomical knowledge, which was infinitely more advanced than Europe at that time.
The Ball Game of the Chichen Itza Ruins
The Ball Game was widespread throughout Mesoamerica in the different civilizations. In Chichen Itza, there are several places where it was played. Competitions were held that transcended the sporting aspect as they had religious components. The winner had the honor of being sacrificed to the gods.
The astronomical observatory – El Caracol
This place was important because it was one of the places where the Mayas studied astronomical phenomena. Thanks to the correct orientation of the windows in the observatory, the stars could be observed to apply knowledge to the agricultural cycles of sowing and harvesting, which were the foundations of the prosperity of the city of Chichen Itza.
The platform of the Skulls
This platform, known as Tzompantli, contains skulls that imitate the skulls of the prisoners of Chichen Itza. The heads of the enemies were impaled on the Tzompantli as a symbol of victory.
The Mayan Cenote
In this place, sacrificial rites were carried out to the rain god Chaac to obtain fertility for the crops, children, and young women. The Cenote in the Mayan world was considered the entrance door to the underworld. That is why it was chosen for the sacrifices in Chichen Itza.
7 interesting facts about Chichen Itza
- The meaning of Chichen Itza: Chichen Itza means “the city at the edge of the well of the Itza.”
- The Pyramid of Kukulkan has a total of 365 steps: The temple of Kukulkan has four staircases of 91 steps each, totaling 364, and with the upper platform, they add up to 365 in total. Each step represented the days of the Mayan calendar of Haab, which fits perfectly with the calendar we use today.
- The descent of the feathered serpent: The design of this Pyramid was made by Mayan architects who mastered the knowledge of the stars and, in particular, of the sun. For this reason, they placed the Pyramid so that its shadow could be cast through the shade by the sunlight on the sides of the staircase, giving shape to the body of one of their deities, Kukulkan, the serpent whose head is sculpted at the foot of the Pyramid.
- The sound of the Quetzal: There is an electro-acoustic effect that occurs in front of a staircase of the main Pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza. When a person claps their hands, the sound is given in the form of a distorted echo and generates a sound that simulates the singing of a Quetzal.
- The giant ball game in Mesoamerica: The Ball Court of Chichen Itza is the largest in Mesoamerica, measuring 70 meters wide and 169 meters long. The idea of this game was to place a rubber ball in the hoop at the top of the wall, using elbows, knees, and head.
- Ceremonial objects at the bottom of the Sacred Cenote: Research teams have found ceremonial objects at the bottom of the Sacred Cenote and bones of animals and people. Some theories say that with these sacrifices, the Maya interceded with the lords of the underworld to mediate with the entities of Xibalba and thus ensure rain and good harvests in the region.
- Chichen Itza was bought by an American: At the beginning of the 20th century, the American Edward Herbert Thompson purchased the property where Chichen Itza is located, mainly to drain the Sacred Cenote and extract numerous objects such as jewelry and utensils made of gold, copper, and jade. After several actions by the Mexican government to recover the land that belonged to the state, today, it is the property of the state of Yucatan. Some of the archaeological artifacts discovered by Thompson were also returned to Mexico.
Get a tour with a local guide.
There are many possibilities to visit Chichen Itza, either on excursions or on tours with local guides who will tell you the history of this incredible ancient city.
A local guide will interpret each place of the Mayan region for you to understand, appreciate and enjoy your experience since the guide will help you to live and feel their land and will be able to transmit their values and the feeling of their inhabitants through their service. Also, in terms of cost, they tend to be cheaper.
Local guides can be hired in the Chichen Itza area itself, and generally, the services hired are of good quality.
Nowadays, the Chichen Itza Castle still stands out for its magnificent structure and its beautiful decorations, besides being one of the most important places of the ancient Mayan city, keeping in its amazing interior secrets that are yet to be discovered.
The Mayan culture was one of the most original and exquisite civilizations, characterized by its great intelligence since they achieved significant development in many areas such as astronomy, architecture, sculpture, painting, ceramics, and mathematics, among others.