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mayan ruins at chichen itzaChichen Itza, though crowded, is a Jewel!

This area is known for the vast history of the Maya, their advanced mathematical knowledge, their incredible understanding of the solar system, and Fernando Valenzuela, at least I am pretty sure that he is Mayan (ha ha).

The hard working people who still inhabit the Yucatan Peninsula have quite a few testaments left to their once awesome civilization. Of these, Chichen Itza is as good as it gets. Many people avoid the crowded ruins of Chichen Itza, and there is reason for that. But if you visit the ruins the right way, you will avoid being roasted at high noon like a cochinita pibil and have a memorable experience.

Get There Early!

Chichen Itza gets crowded THIS IS NO JOKE! Yes it is one of the more impressive pyramids in the world With the popularity of Cancun and vicinity for both tourists, and cruise ships, well, there are only so many places to go, and Chichen Itza is on the top of the list. So would you believe it if we said you could be on that pyramid, (the one you see on every third TV commercial in the US) all by yourself? In April even? You can. Get there at 8am. Park in the empty lot just after the gates go up and run straight to El Castillo run up the tiny steps, and there is a good chance you will be there alone. How do you get there so early? Try the Valladolid for the night, Chichen and Rio Lagartos do it yourself tour.

Aerosaab will fly you to the ruins by airplane, you get there early and it only takes half a day. Caribbean Coast Travel can set you up with tours and transportation to all the popular Mayan Riviera destinations.

Snake Eyes

For those of you who run with the bulls in Pamplona and samba in the streets of Rio for Mardi Gras, the Yucatan offers the spring and autumn solstice at Chichen Itza. Twice each year, during the vernal (March 20 or 21) and autumnal (September 21 or 22) equinox as the sun rises the shadows that it casts actually make the form of a serpent on the steps leading to the top of the Castillo, seriously folks. You will know if you are going to see it, because you will be there with 10,000 of your closest friends. A worthwhile jaunt if your trip date happens to coincide.

amazingly restored mayan ruinsThe Superdome

Chichen Itza, not only has one of the best preserved and rebuilt pyramids of the Mayan world, El Castillo, but it is home to many other impressive groups. The Temple of the Warriors that houses the famous Chaac-Mool, where heads used to roll, is located amidst the group of 1,000 columns, Kodak must love this place. Bring film and some more film.

The awe inspiring ball court can only be truly appreciated by those who have visited other ruins. Coba, for example, one of our recommendations, has well reconstructed ball courts that are quite impressive. But these seemingly impressive fields look like the grapefruit leagues compared to the Superdome right there at Chichen This was obviously where the big boys came to play. Though the losers shared the sad fate of a horrible death, they had a chance to play in the Big Show!

Don't forget to walk down the path to the Sacred Cenote in the Jungle. A huge gaping hole contains water about 70 feet below the ground level. Peer in, but please leave the diving to the professionals in Acapulco! This was the resting place for not only lovely young virgins, but apparently bad children, some sick, and other seemingly healthy men and women of all ages. Artifacts of gold and jade found here can be traced from as far away as Colombia demonstrating the vast international dealings of the ancient Maya.

History 101

You are sure to be inundated with information about the Maya, the Toltecs, and a host of gods including Chac so here is a quick primer. It is widely agreed that Chichen Itza was first populated between 500 and 900 AD by Mayans and for some reason abandoned around 900, the city was then resettled 100 years later and subsequently invaded by Toltecs from the North. There are numerous reliefs of both Mayan gods including Chac and the Toltec gods including Quetzacoatl. For some reason the city was abandoned around 1300. If the Spanish did not make it a policy to kill all of the Mayan priests and burn books when they arrived in Mexico, we would all have a few more answers. Visit the ruins and form your own theories, the experience is well worth the effort.

See I'm the only one here!

Knopf Guide the Route of the Mayas

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