Chichen Itza A guided tourImage by Dennis Jarvis
The ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza is not just a must visit on any Mexico holiday- its aUNESCO World Heritage Site and was recently voted one of the new Seven Wonders of theWorld.Over a thousand years ago when much of Europe was in the dark ages, the now ancient city ofChichen Itza (just 100 miles from Cancun) was home to a complex civilization who practicedmathematics, astronomy and medicine, and whose sacrificial rituals, myths and treasure trovesare the stuff of legend.Although the great Mayan civilization is no more, you can visit the ruins of Chichen Itza - andeven pay to camp overnight in the citys grounds. But theres so much to see that youll need todo your research in advance and pin-point which of the citys temples and sites you most wantto visit. Thats where our handy landmark list should help … Image via Kuoni
El CastilloEl Castillo (or the Pyramid ofKukulcan) is the most famouslandmark associated with ChichenItza. This towering pyramid wasdedicated to the Mayan serpent godKukulcan, and was designed by theancient Mayans so that at the sunriseand sunset of the spring and autumnequinoxes, the pyramid casts ashadow of the plumed serpent godwhich seems to slither down to earthas the sun moves. Inside the interiortemple (at the very top of thePyramid) is King Kukulcans JaguarThrone - a stone throne painted redwith jade spots. Its thought to havebeen one of Chichen Itzas holiest andmost visited places - quite literally thecitys seat of religious and kinglypower. Image by Jim G
The Temple of the WarriorsAt the temple of the warriors, the ancient Mayansbrought conquered enemy soldiers and warriors to besacrificed to the gods by having their beating hearts cutfrom their chests. Image by Jim G
The Skull PlatformThe grisly named Skull Platform or "Wall of Skulls" is along carved wall where the ancient Mayans displayed thesevered heads of sacrifices and defeated warriors. It andthe Temple of the Warriors are must see attractions foranyone intrigued by the grisly sacrifices of ancient times. Image by Frank Kovalchek
The Court of the Thousand ColumnsJust outside the Temple of theWarriors is the thousandcolumns - an expanse ofbare, carved columns thatonce would have been roofed.Experts say the roof wouldeven have had guttering - tocollect and carry rainfall toother areas of the city, likeItzas steam baths. So it reallyis an ancient wonder that willmake you think about howadvanced the people whoonce built and lived therewere. Image by Pascal
The Great Ball CourtThe Nou Camp or CircusMaximus of its day - theGreat Ball Court at ChichenItza was a sporting arenawhere warriors competedin teams against oneanother to show their skillat ball games. Youll findthe ball court just to thenorth west of El Castillo.Make sure to look out forthe goal hoops embedded30ft high in the courtswalls. Image by Jim G
The Nunnery ComplexThought to have once been the royal palace of the familyruling over Chichen Itza, the nunnery complex is a hugetemple thats thought to be one of the citys oldestbuildings. One of the complexs entrances is carved in theshape of a face - with the mouth being its grand entrancepoint. Here the kings and queens of Chichen Itza wouldhave lived in splendour with their children and entourage- hosting audiences with other leaders of the Mayanworld and high priests. Its unknown what the Mayacalled the palace as the Spanish Conquistadors named itthe nunnery as some of the carvings reminded them ofSpanish monasteries and nunneries.
El CaracoleEl Caracole - or the observatory- was named by the SpanishConquistadors who toppled theMayan civilization, as itreminded them of a snail withits spiral staircase. Expertsbelieve the observatory wasone of Chichen Itzas mostimportant sites as here up to 8people would map and learnmore about the heavens. Asastronomy was so heavily linkedto their religious worship, itspossibly one of Itzas holiestplaces. Image by Frank Kovalchek
The Sacred CenoteThe sacred Cenote is awell worshipped by theMayans because of itwas believed that therain god Chaak livedunder the water. Intimes of drought, jewelsand human sacrificeswere thrown into thewell to help bring morerains. Image by Michael Miley
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