Throwback Thursday: 5 Key Sights at Chichen Itza

Throwback Thursday takes us to the magnificent Chichén Itzá, our destination in 2005 days after our Ruta Puuc tour. (Click name to see the earlier August post.) The site is four square miles, so give yourself a full day to look around.

  1. El Castillo – Temple of Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl)
Chichén Itzá Grounds Photo: Rebecca Cuningham
Chichén Itza Staircase Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

This tremendous monument was built in the 11th century! The temple has stairs on four sides, 91 on each, with one top step for all = 365 days, a solar year. The Maya were precise observers of astronomy. The pyramid has nine levels, each is divided in two, to represent the 18 Maya months. The terraces have inset panels, 52 to symbolize the solar and religious calendar convergence every 52 years. Since 2006, the steps are no longer open to the public because they are too steep and dangerous.

Maya Ball Court Goal Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

2. Maya Ball Court

The wall of the Great Ball Court at Chichén Itzá is 39 ft high (12 m). In Mayan, the game is called pokolpok. The ball represented the sun and the hoop was the sunrise or sunset. Players were forbidden from using their hands or letting the rubber ball touch the ground. They could only move it with their heads, hips, elbows and knees. The heavy ball left bruises, and players wore padding. The game was created most likely by the Olmecs, who formed and used some of the earliest known rubber balls from rubber tree sap.

3. El Mercado

The Spanish named this large expanse with pillars, El Mercado (The Market). Archeologists are not yet certain of the purpose of this space. No evidence has been excavated yet.

El Mercado/The Market Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

4. El Caracol Observatory

El Caracol/The Snail Observatory Photo: Random Stranger

The name Caracol, Snail in Spanish, was due to the spiral staircase in the center of the structure. The Maya had modern mathematics and astronomy. Sight lines for 20 equinoxes and solstices are part of this observatory structure. They had the concept of zero, centuries before the Europeans.

5. Sacred Cenote

The Sacred Cenote was a ceremonial place for the Maya to communicate with their gods. They threw gifts and sacrifices into the water to ask for relief from droughts. On the day we visited, we were fortunate enough to witness a young man in traditional garments. It was a special part of the visit, even though he admitted he was there to film a commercial…

Sacred Cenote Photo: Rebecca Cuningham
Cenote Visitor Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

What favorite trip memories do you have?

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! ¡Olé! –Rebecca

Kukulkan and I Photo: Evan Wedell
Rebecca Cuningham

14 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: 5 Key Sights at Chichen Itza

  1. A fascinating place to visit, explore, and be awed! Gone are the days when I could climb those 91 steps to the top of the El Castillo temple. I noticed that walking back down is also a challenge without handrails. I’d be going down on my buttocks, too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have yet to visit Chichen Itza, despite it being the closest Wonder of the World to me geographically. The El Castillo looks majestic; is there anything to see inside the temple after all of those steps? Thanks for transporting me on your travels, even if vicariously!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, the steps are closed as of 2006. There are etched drawings on the interior of the entrance stones (Or is that the Guerrero temple…) Still very much a worthwhile destination. Hope you have a chance to visit when traveling is easier again.

      Liked by 2 people

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