Tags: Chichen Itza, Maya ruins, Mexico

Date: September 29, 2020

While we were in Colorado, more places in Mexico started to open up. We figured that this would be a good time to see the ruins of Chichen Itza before the cruise ships come back. Normally, there are around 2.6 million visitors per year to Chichen Itza making it one of the most visited archaeological sites of Mexico. Because of all the crowds, we have never been there even though it is only around two and a half hours to drive there from Puerto Aventuras.

The best time to visit the site is in the morning before too many people show up, so we decided to stay the night before in the area. We stayed at Hacienda Chichen, at the site of one of the first haciendas established in Yucatan after the Spanish conquest. The hacienda was probably established some time in the 16th century, shortly after the conquest and functioned as a cattle farm up until the 1840s where it was abandoned during the Maya uprising in the so-called Caste War. The hacienda's main building and its church were both built from stones taken from the nearby Maya ruins. In the 1940s and '50s the hacienda was converted into a hotel and hosted the archaeologists exploring Chichen Itza. Small cabins spread out over the property were built to house the archaeologists and these cabin are still used as the hotel's "room". This is our "room":

A few more pictures from the grounds of the hotel:

The restored church of the hacienda is a popular place to celebrate weddings:

An arch:

When you enter Chichen Itza, the first thing you see is the great pyramid:

At stands on a large flat area called the Northern Platform. It was leveled by the ancient Mayas.

There were many many carvings of snakes in Chichen Itza. This one is a the bottom of the steps of the pyramid:

These are not normal snakes, but representations of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent god. The pyramid is also called the Temple of Kukulkan. The Spaniards called it "El Castillo" (The Castle).

Looking up the steps:

Not far from the pyramid is a building called Tzompantli or the Skull Platform. As the name implies, it is covered with skulls in a Central Mexican inspired style:

Next to this is the Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars. They are all eating human hearts:

Other details:

Here is a figure, whose body seems to be a skeleton, carrying a severed head:

On the whole, Chichen Itza seems to have been a rather bloody place at times. Here is a Chac Mool:

Chac Mools are found both on top of the Temple of Kukulkan and other important structures. Chaac Mools are believed to have been used as an offering table for the gods to receive gifts such as tortillas, tobacco and incense. The Aztecs near what is now Mexico City may have used Chaac Mools for offerings of human hearts or even as actual sacrificial altars.

North of the main area is the Sacred Cenote which has over 20 meters to the surface of the water:

It was used for sacrifices of both artifacts and humans. In 1894, Chichen Itza along with Hacienda Chichen (our hotel) was bought by the US consul to Yucatan and he spent many years exploring the area. He also built a machine for dredging this cenote. He found many artifacts here.

There are several cenotes in the area and even though the water is far down, it is accessible and consistently available, which might be one of the reasons the Chichen Itza thrived.

This is the path leading back from the Sacred Cenote to the area of the ruins:

We got here early enough that the street vendors were still working on setting up their stalls. They were not too pushy in terms of selling and they were limited to certain ares at the site.

Another picture of the Kukulkan temple:

It must be rare to able to get a picture with this few people on the plaza.

More will follow...