Chichén Itzá isn’t just one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, it is one of the most culturally significant sites in Mexico. Believed to date back to 600 A.D., the site was home to a great Maya civilization and includes impressively well-preserved structures such as the Kukulkan Pyramid, the Great Ball Court, an observatory and several smaller structures. As the most-visited cultural site in Mexico, Chichén Itzá should be on every family traveler’s bucket list, so read on to make the most of your experience.
Research Before Your Visit
Chichén Itzá has several structures reflecting different aspects of life for the Maya civilization that once inhabited it, but there is no museum on site and little explanation of the use or history of the buildings. Buildings like the Great Pyramid, known as Kukulkan, hold many secrets still being discovered today. It creates acoustic effects that can be heard around the site and optical illusions that appear when the sun is in just the right place. The Great Ball Court was the site of gruesome games involving human heads, but is a far cry from what we know of as a ball court today. To make the most of your trip, arm yourself with some knowledge so you know what you are seeing. Or consider hiring a guide while there to give you an in-depth explanation of the site, its history and its inhabitants.
Don’t Skip the Cenote
Cenotes, ancient water-filled sinkholes, are commonplace around the Yucatán Peninsula. Chichén Itzá is no exception, with a sacred cenote located not far from the complex of structures. A path leads away from the site through the jungle, lined with vendors selling local goods. Although the ground is unpaved and uneven, the walk is fairly easy. The path dead ends at the impressive cenote, where you can view the sinkhole from above. Direct access is not allowed, as this cenote is not suitable for swimming, but the view is impressive, and the history is humbling, as this was once a place where precious objects and human sacrifices were made by the Maya people.
Save Time for Shopping
Shopping from local vendors is part of the experience at Chichén Itzá. The outlying areas of the site are lined with vendors selling their local handicrafts, from textiles and ceramics to handcrafted masks and figurines. There are also plenty of fun items for kids, like whistles mimicing the roar of a jaguar. Calls of “Almost free!” will entice you to stop and examine the items for sale and, while some of the vendors can be a bit aggressive, haggling for the best price is part of the fun.
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