The epic Maya ruins of Chichen Itza
03/11/2013 - 05/11/2013 30 °C
Next stop was Chichen Itza, one of the biggest pre-Columbian cities ever built by the Maya civilization, covering about 5 sqkm. In 2007 the archeological site was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and it certainly lived up to the hype. We forked out for a personal guide with another couple and it was well worth it.
The entire site was captivating but a couple of highlights were:
- The main pyramid; built to such perfection that at the spring equinox one face is bathed in light and one in shade, except for a perfectly illuminated serpent which runs from the top to bottom. A smart way for those in charge to get the masses to believe they were in fact speaking to the Gods.
Below photo thanks to world-mysteries.com - showing the serpent lit up during the spring equinox
- The great ball court; here the Maya played an incredibly difficult ball game where two teams hit a rubber ball back and forth using only their elbows and hips. It could be described as a type of netless volleyball, with the option of making the ball pass through a ring high up on the side walls. The most interesting (and horrifying) part was that the player who won the game by successfully sending the ball through the ring had the “honour” of being decapitated as a sacrifice. His blood was then offered to the Gods as a way to break a drought and bring forth rains for the coming harvest.
If you look closely you can see the tiny circular goals up on either side of the walls
- The White Ways; there are white footpaths connecting most of the Maya towns in the Yucatan to Chichen Itza so the population could bring their goods to the largest market in the area. They were made white with lime so as to be illuminated in the moonlight as most travel was done overnight to avoid the heat.
The Tzompantli, or Skull Platform (Plataforma de los Cráneos) - a display of the heads of sacrificial victims. Also used to intimidate potential predators
But rather than plagiarizing Wikipedia with more interesting facts on the site, here’s a link for those keen to read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichen_Itza
We also visited another cenote nearby called Ik Kil of which we’d heard great things about from other travellers. The hot tip was to go early in the morning when it first opens to avoid the big tour buses that head there later in the afternoon. And a hot tip it was, we had the cenote virtually to ourselves for the whole visit. Open to the sky, the waters were an impressive 26m below ground level with a tunneled stairway down to the swimming platform.
It was here Brendan almost ruined our chances of ever having children. If you haven’t yet enjoyed the footage, here it is again:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6i-zr5KiAM (link in case the video above doesn't work)
- Note from Brendan: I was so scared before jumping, but I eventually convinced myself that the absolute worst that could happen was a bad slap on the back. I didn’t even think that a nut shot was possible. I literally checked for blood.
Ik Kil was also a stop on The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in both 2010 & 2011, in which they built a diving platform an extra 30m above the entrance – so 55m high! Take a look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bi9oe49pIDQ