The largest of the ruined Mayan cities, Chichen Itza is one of the most visited tourist destination in Mexico. The mysterious temples and pyramids of the Maya lie within the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala and extend into the limestone shelf of the Yucatan peninsula. In the 7th century, construction started and the city reached its apex after Toltecs arrived in 10th century.
As early as 4th century, Chichen Itza was settled by farmers and with the construction of temples; the gradual development of an urban society was witnessed in 7th century. In the traditional Puuc Maya Style, stone palaces and temples were constructed during this time. Dedicated to rain God Chac, these buildings can be seen in the old section of the city. For about 200 years, construction activity in this city continued.
The city came under the rule of the Itzaes in the 10th century and commercial activity thrived in this time. Gradually Chichen Itza gained prominence and became Yucatan. Buildings are grand in this city and a mix Maya and Toltec architectural styles were used to build them. In the later half of 12th century, the city of Mayapan captured Chichen Itza and brought it under their control. Since the political power shifted somewhere else, Chichen Itza lost its grandeur and its prominence started declining. In 1920s major excavation work started here and most of the ancient monuments have been restored. Tourists in large numbers turn up to visit this place.
|Criteria||i, ii, iii|
|Region||Latin America and the Caribbean|
|Chichen Itza Inscription History|
|Inscription||1988 (12th Session)|
Chichen Itza is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was built by the Maya civilization. An unusual phenomenon is experienced every year at El Castillo which is a structure in Chichen Itza. During spring equinox, the sunrays falling in the pyramid create a shadow down its stairs that looks like a descending serpent. The literal meaning of Chichen Itza is “At the mouth of the well of the Itza”.
The climate in Chichen Itza is predominantly hot and dry. In summers it rains and the temperature fluctuates from 20 degree centigrade to 40 degree centigrade. The most comfortable days are in the months between October and March.
Chichen Itza is an awe inspiring archeological site and there are many places that attract tourists in large numbers. Piramide de Kukulkan or Castillo (Castle) is a pyramid having 365 steps, 52 panels and 18 terraces. During spring or autumn equinox, tourists are in for a special treat when the sunlight touches the steps of the pyramid on the north side and creating a shadow of a serpent that appears to move. It’s a mesmerizing scene and needs to be seen to be believed. One of the eight ball courts, Principal Ball Court is the largest games court in the archaeological sites in all of Mexico. Temple of the Jaguars is another site on which carved rattlesnakes and jaguars can be seen. Toltec or “Temple of skulls” lies between Temple of Jaguars and the Castle. An ancient observatory, El Caracol is an example of Maya and their obsession with time and astronomy.