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A Journey To Chichen Itza: Travel Information, Facts, and What To Expect on Your Trip

Updated on November 2, 2012

Mexico is one of the most popular countries for tourism and, if you've ever been there, it is no surprise why so many people love it. It has some of the nicest beaches and vacation resorts in the world. The climate is absolutely fantastic and there is plenty to do and see.

Not only is Mexico famous for its food and culture, it is home to some of the most interesting and beautiful archaeological sites anywhere. You can find ruins, temples, and the most amazing carved ancient statues, among other things when you travel there.

One of the most fascinating and commonly visited archaeological sites in Mexico, as well as the world, is the ancient city of Chichen Itza.

Where is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is located on the southern east coast of Mexico, in the municipality of Tinum, on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo)
Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo)
Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo)
Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo)

The Temple of Kukulkan

The Temple of Kukulkan is the large stepped pyramid that you might see in popular photos of Chichen Itza. It is also referred to as "El Castillo" (the castle). Kukulkan is a feathered serpent deity of the Maya.

The temple stands at 98 feet and has 365 steps, one for each day of the year. At the base of the steps are carved serpent heads. During the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, a shadow appears upon the steps and, as the sun sets, you get the illusion of a serpent descending the stairs.

The Great Ball Court

The Great Ball Court is another important structure within Chichen Itza that tourists are fascinated by. Ball courts were designed to play an ancient sport known as the Mesoamerican Ballgame. There were rituals involved in ballgames in which human sacrifice took place. The Great Ball Court is the largest of thirteen identified ballcourts in Chichen Itza. It measures 551 by 230 feet and the main playing area runs 312 feet long with walls 26 feet high. There are intricate carvings throughout the structure.

Tips For Tourists Visiting Chichen Itza

Whenever you travel somewhere new or unfamiliar, it's always good to have a little bit of information about the place.

These are some tips for traveller's planning to visit Chichen Itza.

Preparing For the Weather: The weather and climate around the Chichen Itza archaeological site is tropical with temperatures usually in the 90s. There is little shelter from the sun so it is advisable to dress in light, loose-fitting clothing and a hat. Sunglasses are also useful if you have a pair. There are refreshments and snacks available but it is always wise to have a water bottle with you to prevent dehydration as you will likely be doing a lot of walking and shops are only in certain areas.

Purchasing Souvenirs: You will find a lot of vendors selling thousand of items when you arrive at the archaeological site. There are both inexpensive and expensive items for sale. You may even find multiple vendors selling similar items. make sure you check around to see if you can get a better deal. You can bargain with most of the vendors to save some money. Some vendors will overcharge by a very large amount. You may see an item being sold, for instance, at around $20 U.S. and later in the day it is being sold by the same person for $5 U.S. Some vendors may come up to you offering goods. When a new group of tourists arrive, the vendors may ask their highest price, then begin to lower it as the initial customers begin to lessen in number. You will typically get a better deal if you wait towards the end of your trip. Remember that you will have to get the items home as well.

Sightseeing: To get a good view of the complex, you will likely need to do a lot of walking. If you are unable to walk, you can sit and rest on the grass. However, if you plan to explore, there is a bit of walking involved. You can choose to take a tour with a guide or venture out on your own. Just remember what time you need to return if you came on a bus.

Chichen Itza is located near the small town of Piste, where tourists can find hotels and small shops. You may also want to check a beautiful cenote, and maybe even swim in it. Even if you don't bring a bathing suit, your clothes will probably dry quickly.

Last but not least, you will want to remember to bring your camera to take as many pictures or as much video as you can. Chichen Itza is an amazing experience you will want to remember. Nobody's pictures are quite the same as your own!

Checklist of items to bring on your trip:

- Light, comfortable, loose-fitting clothing (a bathing suit if you plan to swim in a cenote)
- Comfortable walking shoes or something to sit with if you're not walking
- Sunglasses
- A camera
- Spending money for snacks or souvenirs
- A water bottle
- The information of your hotel in case you get lost
- A small bag to hold the items you bring as well as any souvenirs

Interesting Facts About Chichen Itza

  • Chichen Itza was voted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Chichen Itza was once the city center for Maya civilization and was in use from around A.D. 600 to 1200.
  • You can experience some amazing acoustics in Chichen Itza. For instance, if you clap your hands near the base of the Temple of Kukulkan, you will hear a sound that is thought to resemble the chirp of a quetzal bird.
  • The residents of Chichen Itza got their water from a fresh underground water source that ran beneath the city. The water is accessed by large sink holes or wells known as cenotes.
  • It is believed that the Maya people would sacrifice young women to a rain god by tossing them into the cenotes alive. Evidence of bones, jewelry, and other belongings have been found.

Have You Ever Travelled To The Chichen Itza Archaeological Site?

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    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Mexico was a favorite destination for my parents. They brought back beautiful photos and video of an exotic location as well as fascinating tourist sites. You provided a fine example by making a little known area such as Chichen Itza so extremely interesting.

    • nmdonders profile imageAUTHOR

      Nira Perkins 

      6 years ago

      It is huge. It's much bigger than you'd expect from the pictures.

      We weren't able to climb the steps when we were there. They had it closed at that time. I'm not sure if I would have gone up anyways because I'm slightly afraid of heights. It was an amazing trip nonetheless.

      Thanks for the comments :) I do appreciate it.

    • benisan85745 profile image


      6 years ago from Tucson, AZ.

      An Awesome "last minute" detour we decided to make on our way to Cancun. Glad we did make the stop, but I do regret climbing the steps...A helicopter ride down or a zip-line would have been nice.

    • flashmakeit profile image


      6 years ago from usa

      Fascinating huge ancient structure. Thanks for sharing.

    • nmdonders profile imageAUTHOR

      Nira Perkins 

      6 years ago

      I completely understand what your boss felt. It's definitely a different type of feeling you get when you're there. It has a kind of energy to it. I was amazed at the size of it and just by how awesome it all was. Hope you get a chance to experience it.

    • Georgie Lowery profile image

      GH Price 

      6 years ago from North Florida

      Chichen Itza is on my bucket list. An old boss of mine went there and had what she could only describe as a spiritual awakening - and she wasn't prone to those sorts of things. Thank you for this Hub and I'll definitely remember your tips when I do make it there! :)

    • nmdonders profile imageAUTHOR

      Nira Perkins 

      6 years ago

      I appreciate your compliment very much. Now I will have to work extra hard on future ones hehe. Thank you and take care.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub and so well presented.

      I now look forward to so many more by you.



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