If you’re heading to Mexico, once you have decompressed from whatever stresses you left back home, enjoyed a dip in the pool, walked on the beach and enjoyed a couple of tasty margaritas, consider doing a little ancient sight seeing; See the ruins.
Staying along the Riviera Maya offers a variety of day-trips. Mr. Sandonthebrain and I signed up for an all-day excursion inland to Chichen Itza aboard an air conditioned bus with stops for shopping, lunch and a swim.
The tour group was a reasonable size and the ride was comfortable. I enjoyed watching the scenery as we drove through the countryside.
We passed this field of blue agave. That’s not something I see every day.
Upon arrival to Chichen Itza, …not “Chicken Pizza”, our tour guide Ismael laughs… (It’s clear he enjoys his job and sharing history of “his people”, often turning in profile so that we can take note that the Mayans did not disappear…) He gets us organized and we head out to explore. He tells us that the site is one of the most important to the Mayan culture and was one of the largest cities. It covers nearly six square miles. Where at one time hundreds of buildings are thought to have stood, there are now about thirty seen in ruins.
A chac mool statue may date to 500 A.D. Amazing.
I am immediately impressed. If you’ve ever been to ruins, or other archaeological sites you know what it’s like to wrap your mind around how old they are. There we are, standing in front of the remains of structures … some of which may date well back to 625-800 A.D.
Where I live, buildings are built and torn down in my lifetime, so I am awestruck at something from so long ago.
The serpent is a key theme here. These stone serpent heads are thought to have been part of a building. Time and the harshness of nature have not completely erased the details.
There is an amazing Great Ball Court. We walk through it as Ismael recounts to us the significance of the “game”. The ball court is also the first structure where we learn that these people were highly skilled builders. In the perfection of the court, a whisper is said to be heard clearly at the other end of the the court over 500 feet away. Its too noisy with all the tour groups to try the theory. I will just have to take Ismael’s word for it, after all, there are numerous examples of the grasp of science that the inhabitants had.
The Observatory’s rounded top is said to be aligned specifically for the witness of certain astronomical events.
In the vast open area of the site is the Temple of Kukulkan or El Castillo. At nearly 100 feet tall, this is the building that I thought of when I thought of Mayan ruins. The builders of this structure positioned it exactly so that during the Spring and Autumnal equinox the light suggests an image of a great serpent, perhaps the feathered-serpent god Kukulcan, slithering down the pyramid. Or…maybe the builders intended no such thing, as you will find there are many debates about this. Me, listening to our guide tell the story, I can hardly wonder how this design could have been coincidental.
Regardless, I’m in awe of the structure.
At the time of our visit tourists were no longer allowed to climb the structure, or to go inside the buildings.
Or touch them. I swear I didn’t touch it.
What I did do was melt. 102F of Mexican sun was hot beating down on us. I wouldn’t have climbed the pyramid if I could have.
The walk across the grounds to get back to the tour group felt like crossing the Sahara. Shade. I needed shade.
There is very little shade available, though I commend Ismael for always moving his tour group into shade as often as he could. Eventually we head to groupings of some other structures where there are some trees doing their best to block the sun. Even an iguana seems to know better than to be out in the heat of the day. His fate may hang in the balance anyway as Ismael suggests that Iguana Quesadillas are on the lunch menu. He’s a funny guy.
Nearing the end of our visit to this hot and dry site, we find rows of vendors with their colorful blankets and various treasures for sale. This is where we purchase our souvenirs — for sure they were the best prices we had seen.
We pile back into the bus, thankful for the chilled wet face cloths they hand us, and for modern convenience of air conditioning. And beer. Cold, refreshing beer. The last stop on the way back to the resort is at a cenote where we can go for a swim. Many jump in to cool off, filling the space with echoes of laughter and splashes.
Returning to our resort, I have a new appreciation for the design and decor . Clearly the Iberostar Paraiso Maya is an ode to the ancient cultures of the Yucatan. We enjoy our stay here even more thanks to Ismael and the crew at Olympus Tours for a great day and visit to the ruins at Chichen Itza!
Have you visited Chichen Itza? What did you think? Share your thoughts with me!