Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destination, and rightfully so.
Chichen Itza is perhaps the largest, most famous and most accessible Mayan site, about 125 kilometres west of Cancun and Cozumel. This ancient Mayan ruin, a major tourist stop in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, is a rugged place of soaring pyramids, massive temples, startling carved columns and do-or-die sports fields.
The focal point of the region, an amalgam of an older Mayan city and newer Toltec settlement, is the towering Castillo pyramid, which is fraught with cosmological symbolism. Its four sides contain 365 steps (depicting the solar year), 52 panels (for each year in the Mayan century as well as each week in the solar year) and 18 terraces (for the 18 months in the religious year). Inside, the Castillo is an interesting temple accessible up a narrow stairway.
Mayan sports included a game with a soccer-sized ball that had its own intricate rules and provided exciting competition for huge crowds of spectators.
The enormous Chichen-Itza court where this game was played is the largest ever found and is lined with fascinating carvings that display the rules and details of the sacred game. One carving even shows the captain of the losing game being beheaded. The site also contains a sacred well, the astronomical Observatory, the imposing Temple of Warriors, the reclining Chac Mool figure, a form of classic Maya sculpture believed to have served as an altar for sacrifices, and the Nunnery.
During the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun's shadow forms an enormous snake's body, which lines up with the carved stone snake head at the bottom of the Castillo pyramid.