Chichen Itza was one of the three Latin American sites that were included in the new list of Wonders. The complex is a more-than-a-millennium old complex of buildings and temples dating back from 600 AD. The structures are believed to have been made by the people of the Mayan Civilization. It was hard to imagine how a sprawling community could be supported by the arid area of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Fortunately for the ancient people of the Maya, cenotes or natural sinkholes that provided the much needed water supply for the big city of Chichen Itza.
Aside from the obvious allure of Cancun and other places in the Yucatan that allow tourists access to the inviting waters of the Caribbean, Chichen Itza provides the historical and archaeological counterpoint. Travel to the site is quite easy and tourists have already made it a must-visit site during their trips to the Yucatan Peninsula.
The most popular site on Chichen Itza is the El Castillo. This is the step-pyramid that has already been featured ad nauseam in films and postcards. Films like “The Fountain” and “Apocalypto” have featured the site in its storyline. The pyramid has nine levels (large terraces) and 91 steps. At the top of El Castillo is a ritual chamber. Interestingly, the sun rises and sets at the doors of the temple twice every year – during the spring and autumn equinox. The entire building is said to be reflective of the concepts of Mayan Cosmology.
Other sites like an ancient observatory can also be seen in Chichen Itza. It will be very exhilarating to see how people in early times used their buildings to track the movements of stars and other heavenly bodies. Structures like temples built in honor of the warriors can also be found elsewhere.
The most notable feature of the site is the infamous sports venue wherein the ancient form of basketball was once played. It is believed that the losers were killed shortly after the game. As for the winners – well, they were sacrificed. So it didn’t really make much of a difference. Playing that game was a bad career choice, apparently.