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Chichen Itza – World wonder worth the hype

Chichen Itza

Visiting the 7 Wonders of the World are bucket list things to do for many people. The 7 Wonders are famous for being some of the most impressive and historically significant structures in the entire world – and Chichen Itza in Mexico is just that!

Today, visiting Chichen Itza means exploring  46 different build ings that are over 1,500 years old. These structures represent the life of the Mayan people in this ancient city. A trip to Chichen Itza is a unique experience offering visitors the chance to travel back in time and learn about the culture of the Mayans all while appreciating the incredible architecture.

A “New” 7 Wonders

Chichen Itza

In 2007, over 100 million people voted on the “new” 7 Wonders of the World. With this vote came about a whole new list of the World’s 7 Wonders, and included on this list was Chichen Itza.

There was some criticism about this vote and how the new 7 Wonders were determined. Essentially, it was a popularity contest that some countries endorsed while others didn’t. In fact, some businesses helped voting by allowing free voting via telephone or providing advertising. These efforts were seen to some as “unfair” and also may be the reason certain structures won their spot over others that could be argued as more impressive.

To this day many people still criticise the 7 Wonders list saying certain places should not be included and other sites should replace them.

However, Chichen Itza is one of the 7 Wonders that is absolutely deserving of its title – let us tell you why!

History of Chichen Itza

detailed stone carvings

Chichen Itza is a historical pre-Colombian city that was built by the Mayan people. It is said to have been a thriving city between the time of 600 AD and 1000 AD. During this time it was a trading centre for many different things as the Mayan people were talented craftsmen.

The city was built near two large sinkholes or “cenotes” as they are referred to in Mexico. These cenotes provided fresh water for the city but are also said to have been used for human sacrifice as many human bones and other artefacts have been found in the cenote.

The Mayans were great astronomers and their knowledge of the stars and planets is represented throughout Chichen Itza.  During the solar equinoxes each spring and fall, a shadow is cast on the main pyramid (El Castillo) in the shape of a snake or serpent.

In 1021, a civil war broke out and Chichen Itza lost its throne to the Mayapan. During this war and over time many of the structures were destroyed. However, there are many buildings that have been repaired to their original glory. These include The Great Ball Court, The Warrior’s Temple, and El Castillo.

El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulkan

El Castillo

The largest and most famous structure of Chichen Itza is El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulkan. This pyramid has four sides and is made entirely of stone. It stands 30m tall and there is 365 steps to get to the top (one for every day of the year.) This temple is where the eerie serpent shadow appears at both the fall and spring equinoxes each year.

The Warriors Temple

columns of the warriors temple

This temple is a large pyramid surrounded by 200 round and square columns. These columns are all carved with images of Toltec Warriors and once would’ve held up a roof. At the top of the temple staircase is a statue figure called Chac Mool. Chac Mools were considered messengers of God which is shown by the bowls resented on their stomachs with offerings.

The Great Ball Court

Ball court

The Great Ball Court is a very interesting place to visit in Chichen Itza. It resembles ball courts seen today with a large flat area for playing, hoops on either side of the court and a seating area for spectators. This game involved a ball and hoops but not much else is known about the actual rules of the game. It is said that the losers of the game would be sacrificed.

Ik Kil Cenote

Mexican cenote

Near to Chichen Itza is a very popular cenote. Ik Kil is a beautiful cenote where visitors can swim and cool off after a day of exploring Chichen Itza. If you are going to venture all the way to Chichen Itza be sure to make time to also stop at Ik Kil – you won’t be disappointed! 

What to Expect When Visiting Chichen Itza

Once you arrive, you can tour around the grounds with or without a guide. Going with a guide is a great idea as this way you can actually understand the significance of what you are actually seeing.

There are 46 different structures to see at Chichen Itza. While you can’t climb El Castillo or any of the other pyramids anymore, you can explore from the base and take as many pictures as you’d like! It is also possible to walk on the Great Ball Court!

The grounds around the structures have been cleared so there isn’t much shade around. Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen. Comfortable walking shoes are also a good idea!

1.2 million people visit Chichen Itza annually making it one of the most visited places in all of Mexico. This also means that it can be very busy. Expect to see lots of tourists while at Chichen Itza! That being said, it is only this busy because it is that impressive! Going early in the morning or late in the afternoon is the least busy time to visit with fewer crowds and tour buses around.

Chichen itza grounds

Is it worth it?

Truthfully, Chichen Itza is an amazing place. You will be awe from the moment you enter by the impressive stonework. The pyramids are gorgeous and the way the Mayans built them relating to the Mayan calendar is nothing short of extraordinary.

It is definitely one of the world wonders that is worth all of the hype and place you should see for yourself!


Want to visit Chichen Itza? Our Costa Rica, Cuba and Mexico tour spends a day at Chichen Itza as well as cenote Ik Kil. Contact us today for more information!

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