Wondering at Chichén Itzá, Mexico


THERE’S HARDLY ANY NEED FOR ADVERTISEMENT WHEN IT COMES TO CHICHÉN ITZÁ, ONE OF THE WORLD’S WONDERS. NORTH AMERICA HAS ONLY ONE, SO IF YOU’RE ANYWHERE NEARBY, DON’T HESITATE!

El Castillo, or the Pyramid of Kukulkan, is the centrepiece of Chichen Itza
El Castillo, or the Pyramid of Kukulkan, is the centrepiece of Chichen Itza
WHY SHOULD I GO TO CHICHÉN ITZÁ?

We already said it in the intro but truth is we should give you a better picture. Chichén Itzá was a mega pre-Columbian city built by the Mayans more than 1000 years ago. Its usual representation is that of El Castillo (the castle), the large pyramid dominating the vaster archaeological site, also called the Pyramid of Kukulkán (the god of war). However, there is so much more to see at the site and one of the most remarkable structures is El Caracol, the ancient Mayan Astronomical Observatory. We were also particularly fond of the Monsas (Nuns) structures and the Juego de Pelota (Ball game) construction – probably the source of inspiration for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Quidditch Pitch. There are also a number of sinkholes in and around the site (they are commonly called ‘cenotes’) and in our previous post on Noh-Mozon we showed a video in one of Yucatan’s most stunning cenotes. Just like us but a thousand years ago, Mayans were using cenotes for their own entertainment. In their case it was not diving but sacrificing people and animals to gods and throwing their remnants in cenotes.

Chichen Itza is not just about its Pyramid. El Caracol for instance is the place Mayans used to observe planets and stars
Chichen Itza is not just about its Pyramid. El Caracol for instance is the place Mayans used to observe planets and stars
HOW DO I GET THERE?

Chichén Itzá is some 120km east of Merida, 50km west of Valladolid and 200km SW of Cancun in Quintana Roo. If you’re not by car, there are plenty of buses running to and from these cities to the site – in many cases you’ll be able to sign up for a tourist package, including extra services on top of visiting Chichén Itzá, such as a buffet or entrance to a cenote. As of October 2015, the entrance fee for foreigners is 150 MXN (~9.5 USD, 8 EUR) for Mexican tourists and 220 MXN (~14 USD, 12 EUR) for foreigners. Fair enough!

The archaeological site is packed with craft stands and many of the products are worth buying. On the way from Chichen Itza to Valladolid you can also find a 'Made in Jail' craftshop. Yes, you can buy your own reasonably prices, high quality hammock made in the adjacent jail!
The archaeological site is packed with craft stands and many of the products are worth buying. On the way from Chichen Itza to Valladolid you can also find a ‘Made in Jail’ craftshop. Yes, you can buy your own reasonably prices, high quality hammock made in the adjacent jail!
WHERE DO I SLEEP OVERNIGHT?

Before heading to Chichén Itzá, try looking up hotels on Despagar, Booking.com and HotelsCombined. We stayed in Dolores Alba, which was the most economical option – we paid some 640 MXN (~40 USD; 35 EUR) for a double room with breakfast. The hotel is located just next to the national road Valladolid – Merida, they have very spacious rooms, decent breakfast and two generous swimming pools. You’ll also find a cenote just across the road.

Monjas was one of the sections we enjoyed most - quite under rated we thought
Monjas was one of the other sections we enjoyed most – quite under rated we thought. In the end, sleeping in a hotel next to the site was a good choice as Chichen can certainly make you lose the notion of time
WHERE DO I EAT/DRINK?

We went to eat in Piste, the town just outside the archaeological site. You can check the best places to eat out in Piste on TripAdvisor here. If you’re heading to Valladolid you can eat there – also, most hotels will offer meals.

We really enjoyed Chichen Itza. It was unexpectedly chill and laid back, with a permanent air of a Sunday stroll despite all the flocks of tourists (us included)
We really enjoyed Chichen Itza. It was unexpectedly chill and laid back, with a permanent air of a Sunday stroll despite all the flocks of tourists (us included)
WHAT WE LIKED/WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE

(+) the site is amazing and most constructions are well preserved

(+) a great surprise was the size of the place and the design and structure of the other attraction besides El Castillo

(+) there are plenty cenotes around Chichén Itzá, so you can escape the tourist rush and immerse in one of them

(+) while there are plenty of tourists roaming around (the site is visited by more than 1.2 million tourists annually), you won’t feel suffocated and traffic runs smoothly

(+) it’s one of the world’s wonders, there’s nothing negative about it!

Don't miss out on the Columns complex and you should know Mayans had some awesome steam baths!
Don’t miss out on the Columns complex and you should know Mayans had some awesome steam baths!

Where should I go next?

Head to Merida, Yucatan’s capital, for some colonial architecture, the Maya Museum and marquesitas. For a quieter, laid back experience go to Valladolid and make sure you visit Casa de los Venados, an impressive private collection of Mexican folkflore handcraft. Keep driving east from Valladolid and you’ll soon reach Riviera Maya, Mexico’s own piece of the Caribbean. Obviously, after all what we’ve told you about cenotes, you need to try one. Our take on Noh-Mozon might convince you.

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