One of the main reasons Mexico had always been on my bucket list was because of the many ruins dotted across the country. The Yucatan peninsula is no different, despite the mega resorts lining the coastline.
Chichen Itza is one of the new 'seven wonders of the world'. To get there, I lined up a guide and to get there ahead of the crowds, I was dressed and waiting in hotel reception at 5am. Yes. 5 o'clock in the morning. The struggle was very real! Special thanks to my hotel concierge for packing a lovely takeaway breakfast for me, which came in so handy as the breakfast provided by the tour was not to my liking.
The 5am start is so worth it though because we got there ahead of the hundreds of tourists who start really filling up the place around 10am. Our guide, Marco, an archaeologist , was a treasure trove of information about Mayan history and the history of the site, the excavation efforts etc.
El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulcan, the massive pyramid which is the centrepiece of the Chichen Itza complex stands at almost 30 metres high and served as the temple to the god, Kukulcan - the feathered serpent god. Every year, during the summer and autumn equinoxes, as the sun sets, the play of light and shadow creates the appearance of a large snake slithering down the pyramid. The various stories recounted by Marco really gave us some insight into the mysteries of the Mayans, who were clearly so far ahead of their time. The engineering mysteries, including the very spooky but amazing acoustics are testament to this.
|El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulcan - the highlight of Chichen Itza|
|Up close - with no crowds|
One of the most interesting areas, aside from the pyramid itself was the large playing field with dimensions which make it larger than today's American football fields. Ornate carvings show images related to the game that was usually played there - a game consisting of 13 players, trying to get a solid, heavy rubber ball into a hoop at the far end of the court. The story as told to us was that the captain of the winning team was usually decapitated and offered as sacrifice, as he would have represented the best of the best. The carvings show such a decapitation - creepy. Whether this was true or not, the majesty of the ball court, the perfect acoustics aimed at helping the king 'suss' out his visitors and the carvings throughout the complex - incredible!
Of course, I can hardly share everything Marco told us during the 3-hour tour. I really recommend this tour as there is so much to learn, and the site is really stunning. The early morning tour was worth it as it meant I was back in Playa del Carmen just after lunch time which allowed me to sun and recoup the sleep lost from the early morning start.