It was time to visit the world-famous ruins of Chichen Itza, and as we were in Vallodolid, we did it as a day trip. Most people visit the ruins on a tour, but there is a colectivo service from Valladolid.
As you can see from the poster, the service starts at 7am – and if you don’t want to be overrun by teeming masses of tourists, then you had better start early if you are visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico…. we were on the road by 7.15am…
We arrived at around 8am and were pleased by the lack of crowds and the first sight that greeted us – the Temple of Kukulcán (El Castillo) which is very impressive indeed.
El Castillo has a height of around 30m, and at its base are two ‘plumed serpents’ standing guard. It forms the centrepiece of an ancient site that covered around 5 square kilometres, and was one of the largest Mayan cities at the time. Much of the ruins are very well preserved, and the site is full of intricate and detailed carvings which are very impressive indeed.
Apparently until 2006 you could ascend the stairs of El Castillo, but in January of that year an 80 year old woman from the USA fell down the steps and died, and they closed the steps of the temple. To be honest, even if that hadn’t happened I can’t imagine that the steps would be open nowadays – as Chichen Itza is pretty much the most visited tourist attraction in Mexico with around 2 million visitors per year?! Yes, by my reckoning that makes an average of over 5000 people every single day… I think the steps of the temple would be pretty worn out by now! So, all the buildings are off limits which I imagine helps with the preservation.
Chichen Itza is also famous for having an incredible number of sales vendors inside the ground trying to sell stuff to the tourists. The sheer number of vendors there is an ongoing issue as many tourists don’t like the hassle, as they shout out at you constantly to buy stuff. But on the other hand they are the local descendants of the Maya who receive nothing from their ancient city which is now a big tourist attraction. The vendors started to arrive about an hour after us in order to get set up and ready for the big surge of tourists.
After the main temple we set about seeing the other parts of the site, starting with the Great Ball Court – which is the largest and best preserved ball court in Mesoamerica.
Moving around the site we were struck by how many detailed and intricate carvings there were – they were literally everywhere that we looked.
Our favourite structure though was the ‘Skull Platform’ – we are suckers for skulls 🙂 The use of skulls apparently shows the cultural influence of the Central Mexican Plateau – where these types of structure were commonplace.
Next up were some more temple structures with even more intricate carvings.
Time was pushing along now, and so we made sure that we got our official ‘tourist photo in front of a pyramid’ shots done, before too many other tourists arrived and got in the way 🙂
Other important buildings at the site are the Observatory Temple (“El Caracol”), the Temple of the Warriors, and the Las Monjas complex – a cluster of buildings with very detailed carvings.
By now the vendors were in full swing selling their wares, and the tourist masses had started to arrive. Luckily, we only had a couple more things to see before we could make a quick exit before lunch…
So, after a very enjoyable morning we made our exit at around 12.30pm. Of course you know now that as is tradition, I am going to leave you with a photo of the tourist masses arriving in their droves to the ruins… 🙂