The Mayan Ruins of Chichén Itzá
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Visiting Mexico’s collection of astonishing Mayan ruins is the best way to understand the culture and social customs of this fascinating civilisation.
Mexico’s star-studded collection of majestic archaeological sites draws visitors from near and far to admire the astonishing and remarkably well-preserved structures from the Mayan period, and to understand the culture and social customs of this fascinating civilisation.
The world-renowned Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá on the Yucatán Peninsula ranks as one of the very best archaeological sites in the world and a genuine must-see for anyone visiting Mexico. The park spreads out around the immense El Castillo pyramid, the most recognisable structure in the ancient city that was once the centre of the Mayan empire. It features 365 steps, one for each day of the year, and on both the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadowy snake slowly emerges as the sun sets, slithering down the steps to connect perfectly with the serpent's head, carved in stone at the foot of the great staircase. Other highlights include the Temple of the Warriors, the Caracol staircase and the observatory, as well as the beautiful Sacred Cenote. We stay close-by to avoid the daytrippers and the midday heat.
Around two hours away from Chichén Itzá are the ruins of the ancient Mayan town of Uxmal. Dating as far back as 700 AD, the site enjoys a spectacular location in the heart of dense jungle and is generally less crowded than its more famous counterpart. With its intricate stone lattice work and mosaics, the ruins are considered to represent the pinnacle of Mayan architecture, as well as demonstrating their mastery of astronomy and the clear social class system. The focal point is the 30 metre high Pyramid of the Magician, though there are many other beautifully preserved structures to admire throughout the site.
The 13th century seaport Tulum enjoys a unique location for a Mayan archaeological site; overlooking the Caribbean sea and its white sandy beaches on the Yucatán Peninsula. The most famous structure is El Castillo, perched above the turquoise waters below in a perfect postcard setting. But it is also noted for a pair of impressive temples; the Temple of the Frescoes and the Temple of the Descending God.
Other notable Mayan archaeological sites include Palenque, Chicanná and Calakmul.
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