Exploring Chichen Itza, Mexico’s Famous Mayan Temple

by Isabel
mexico chichen itza

Some days you wake up feeling like a queen, and others, you feel even better. I say this, because that’s how I felt waking up knowing I was going to see one of the New Seven Wonders of The World, the famous Mayan temple of Chichen Itza. With an eager grin, I jumped out of my bed to get a start on the day.

After wolfing down a top notch breakfast at Hotel Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, the rest of the morning was spent cruising the streets of the centro histórico (old town) of Valladolid, named it as one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns) by the Mexico Tourism Board. Because of its important roll throughout Mexican history as witness to countless battles for freedom, this picturesque and iconic colonial city is beautiful to wander, exploring its old historic buildings, their colourful facades, and wide, winding streets.

After lunch, we headed to Chichen Itza, only a 40 minutes drive from Valladolid. There are different ways to visit Chichen Itza. If you don’t mind the crowds, then I would recommend taking a guided tour with transport arranged, which avoids any hassle getting there. But if you prefer to have some freedom to explore the ruins at your own pace, getting there on your own is easy and inexpensive.

We decided to go in the afternoon so we could avoid the scorching heat and the early morning crowds. Bear in mind Chichen Itza is one of the most popular destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico. We actually got there close to the closing time (5 p.m.) when the tour groups have gone.

Although the main attraction at Chichen Itza is the Pyramid of the temple of Kukulkan, known as El Castillo, there’s so much more to see than just this iconic structure. Make sure you explore all of the areas of this magnificent Mayan site, including the Temple of Warriors, the Great ball Court, the observatory known as El Caracol, the platform of Venus and the sacred cenote. You will understand why it earned its title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the New Seven Wonders on The World.

Astronomy fascinated the Mayans. Hence, the design of the main pyramid, El Castillo, is so perfect that on the spring and fall equinoxes (March 21st and September 21st), shadows from the corner tiers are set off in such a way that a moving snake appears on the sides of the staircase of on the northern side, from the sculptures of the feathered serpents. It is interesting to know that the four stair paths represent four directions of a compass and have 365 steps, one for each day of the calendar.

If you arrive late in the afternoon, most of the spots should be empty and you will be able to get photographs without crowds of people in the shots. However, since we were enjoying the place, we asked security if we could stay after the site was closed, and they kindly agreed. Although your luck may vary, having the place to ourselves was truly amazing.

Based on our experience, here are a few recommendation if you are visiting Chichen Itza:

  • Get there very early in the morning or by closing time to avoid crowds
  • Since you will have to walk a lot, wear comfortable footwear.
  • Make sure you bring a hat, shades, and enough water.
  • Don’t forget your insect repellent. Remember, this is the jungle!
  • Bring cash if you want to buy souvenirs.
  • Try to avoid going on Sundays or national holidays.

If you love history and want to visit one of the most famous landmarks, don’t miss this archaeological gem in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It’s definitely a rewarding experience!


This tour was provided as part of a press trip and content campaign with Visit Mexico and Yucatan Travel.

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