Chichén Itzá, Mexico

A jaunt to the ancient Mayan world

You’ve certainly heard of Chichén Itza in Mexico. A very special place. It is one of the largest ancient cities of the Maya in Yucatan. Particularly famous is the great pyramid of the snake god, also called El Castillo (“the castle”). And the cenotes in the area. These are sinkholes with underground lakes. A dip in the crystal-clear water is just the right refreshment after a stroll through the ancient ruins. But Chichén Itza has much more to offer.

Estimated Reading Time: 19 Minutes

Where does the name of Chichén Itza come from?

The name of the city of Chichén Itza comes from the Mayan language and means u0022At the border of the fountain of the Itzau0022. The u0022fountainu0022 in the name of the city meant the u003cemu003eu003ca href=u0022 data-type=u0022postu0022 data-id=u0022235637u0022 target=u0022_blanku0022 rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022 data-schema-attribute=u0022mentionsu0022u003ecenoteu003c/au003e,u003c/emu003e now known as u003cemu003eCenote Sagradou003c/emu003e (u0022Holy Cenoteu0022). It is located north of the city center. And u003cemu003eItza u003c/emu003ereferred to the Mayan people who built this city.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eAlso south of the center, there is another cenote next to a small temple of the same name. This is the u003cemu003eCenote Xtolocu003c/emu003e.

When was Chichén Itza built?

The history and time of the Maya go back to the 4th millennium BC. The Mayan immigration to the Yucatan Peninsula took place either around the year 500 (according to u003cemu003eCodex Pérezu003c/emu003e) or around the year 700 (according to u003cemu003eChilam Balamu003c/emu003e of Tizimín, u003cemu003eChilam Balamu003c/emu003e of Chumayel), depending on the source.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eAccording to the hieroglyphic inscriptions, it is assumed that Chichén Itza was initially subordinated to the u003cemu003eEk Balamu003c/emu003e that was far more powerful in those times. But the city was greatly expanded in the 9th century and gained increasing power. At the same time, serious conflicts with the rulers of the neighboring u003cemu003eMayapánu003c/emu003e seem to have been looming.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eAround the year 987 a group of Toltecs from Tula seems to have immigrated to Chichén Itza. Their leader was called u003cemu003eQuetzalcoatlu003c/emu003e in their language, the Mayans called him u003cemu003eKukulkanu003c/emu003e. He probably died in 999. After the arrival of the Toltecs, the region flourished once again.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eAround 1461, most of the inhabitants of Chichén Itza moved to the island town of Tayasal in Lake Petén, far to the south, where they were able to maintain their independence until 1697.

When Chichen Itza was built?

Where is Chichén Itza located?

The ruins of the ancient Mayan city are located in u003ca href=u0022 target=u0022_blanku0022 data-schema-attribute=u0022aboutu0022 rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022u003eMexicou003c/au003e, about 115 km outside Mérida in Yucatan. They are easily accessible via highway 180 to the town of u003cemu003ePistéu003c/emu003e. Chichén Itza is located about 2 km outside Pisté. The ruins can also be reached by public transport. However, the journey from u003ca href=u0022 target=u0022_blanku0022 data-type=u0022postu0022 data-id=u0022861u0022 data-schema-attribute=u0022mentionsu0022 rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022u003eCancunu003c/au003e takes around four hours.

Chichén Itza on the map

The Mayan Ruins of Chichén Itza

Chichén Itza was once one of the most important ancient Mayan cities on the Mexican Peninsula of Yucatan. The city is located about 120 kilometers east of Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan. With an area of about 15 square kilometers, Chichén Itza is one of the most extensive sites in the region. The old Mayan city extends to the outskirts of today’s small town of Pisté further west.

The center of the complex is occupied by numerous large representative buildings. A large, well-preserved pyramid (“El Castillo“) is standing out between them. In the immediate neighborhood ruins of upper-class homes have been found.

The density of the buildings in Chichén Itza is uneven: Areas with several buildings close to each other on elevated platforms were often surrounded by low walls. In between there were usually zones that were almost undeveloped. They probably have been used for cultivation to supply the population. The various parts of the city were connected by more than 70 brick paths called Sacbé by the Maya.

UNESCO has declared Chichén Itza a World Heritage Site in 1988. And well… Chichén Itza actually is also a wonder of the world. Since the original wonders of the world according to a description of Herodotus around 450 B.C were largely destroyed a long time ago, seven new wonders of the world were chosen in 2007. About 20 million Internet users from all over the world and a jury of world-renowned architects were involved in the selection. And guess what happened? Chichén Itza is one of the seven new wonders of the world!

For tourists, only a small part of the complex is accessible. Most of the buildings have already been excavated and partially reconstructed there.

The Mayan Ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico

Top 10 attractions of Chichén Itza

As you wander through the ruins of Chichén Itza, you will soon find that there is a lot to see. This can be quite a challenge under the hot sun of Yucatan. But still – here are some important buil