Chichen Itza , located in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico , is the largest of the ruined Mayan cities and one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world . In 2007, Chichen Itza’s El Castillo was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World after a worldwide vote.
The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, from what is called “Mexicanized” and reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico to the Puuc style found among the Puuc Maya of the northern lowlands.
The ruins of Chichen Itza are federal property, and the site’s stewardship is maintained by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia ( INAH). The land under the monuments had been privately-owned until March 29, 2010, when it was purchased by the state of Yucatan.
History & construction
Construction began in the 7th century and the city reached its peak after the arrival of the Toltecs in the 10th century.
Although many excavations have been carried out and tour guides tend to speak with an air of certainty, most of what is said about Chichén Itzá is merely an educated guess. But it is at least fairly certain that this area was settled by farmers as early as the 4th century and an urban society, with construction of the first temples, appeared in the 7th century.In this early period, stone temples and palaces were constructed in the traditional Puuc Maya style. These buildings can be found in the “Old Chichén” section of the city and most are dedicated to the rain god Chac.
In the 10th century the city came under the rule of the Itzaes, who arrived by way of the Gulf coast. In the following centuries, Chichen Itza saw its greatest growth and soon became the most powerful city in the Yucatan. Most of the grand architecture was built during this age, in a mixture of Maya and Toltec styles. The new ruler was called “Kukulcan,” and Chichén Itzá became a center for worship.
Sometime at the end of the 12th century, the city was captured by its neighbor and rival, the city of Mayapan. Chichén Itzá remained a place of pilgrimage for the Maya until it was conquered by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century.
The structures of Chichén Itzá were overgrown with jungle and slowly decayed until major archaeological excavations began in the 1920s. Ever since, more of the ancient structures have been cleared and restored and more and more tourists have come to visit.
It can take a whole day to see the extensive ruins of Chichen Itza, which occupy 2.5 square miles. At the entrance is a large, modern visitor center that includes a museum and a restaurant. The site has two areas: the central “new” zone, which shows distinct Toltec influence, and the southern “old” zone, with mostly Puuc architecture.
El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukulcan)
Across from the main entrance in the center of an open court is the towering pyramid known as El Castillo (the Castle) or the Pyramid of Kukulcan. Dedicated to the feathered serpent god Kukulcan, this is the most famous landmark of Chichen Itza. The main belief is that people were thrown from the top as a sacrifice to make their god happy and the ones who could survive were the ones who were believed to be seers.
Chichén Itzá is home to no less than nine ball courts, which hosted the famous Mayan ball game. The largest one, the Juego de Pelota (Main Ball Court) is northwest of El Castillo. It is the largest and best-preserved ball court in the Mayan world. Both walls are carved with scenes showing Maya figures dressed as ball players and decked out in heavy protective padding.
Tourism has been an important factor at Chichen Itza for more than a century. Chichen Itza draws many visitors from the popular tourist resort of Cancún, and from all over the world . It is definitely the perfect place for those who love to delve into the past and explore it.