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CHICHEN ITZA

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B & B in Merida

 

CHICHEN ITZA

CHICHEN ITZA HAS JUST BEEN NAMED ONE OF THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE MODERN WORLD.

PROGRESO IS PERFECTLY SITUATED FOR AN ALL-DAY TOUR OF THIS MAYAN WONDER.

 

 

Chichen-Itza

* Fall Equinox September 22nd, 2007

The famous Mayan pyramids of Chichen-Itza are over 1500 years old and are located only 75 miles from Merida and about an hour and a half drive from Progreso. The name Chichen-Itza is a Mayan word: CHI (mouth) CHEN (well) and ITZA (of the Itza tribe). Some believe people were occasionally thrown into the nearby cenote as sacrifices, and those who survived were believed to be seers.

Chichen Itza pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula

Above: A rainbow arches over El Castillo, the main pyramid at Chichen Itza

The site is divided into three sections. The North grouping of structures is distinctly Toltec in style. The central group appears to be from the early period. The southern group is known as "The Old Chichen." All three can be seen comfortably in one day.

 

As the most famous of the Mayan pyramids on the Yucatan peninsula, Chichen Itza has been studied extensively and is the most popular Mayan ruin in Mexico. Much has been written about it. Below are some links to websites with in-depth information about the history of the site.

Serprent sculptures at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Above: Serpent head sculptures at
Chichen Itza

Try to visit Chichen Itza early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as the sun can be punishing at midday. The main attraction is the central pyramid, El Castillo del Serpiente Emplumado, which means "Castle of the Plumed Serpent," and is pictured above. The plumed serpent is a popular deity in various

Above: The famous Chac Mool statue that used to be inside El Castillo, now in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Mesoamerican cultures. Among other names, the Mayans called this god Kukulkán. It is sometimes possible to visit the inside passageway of the pyramid, but we would encourage visitors who are claustrophobic to skip that part of the adventure.

If you are up to the challenge, inside you will find a narrowly enclosed staircase that leads to a chac mool, an altar where offerings to the gods were placed. Climbing to the top of the pyramid is no longer allowed.

Just beyond El Castillo you will find a large ball court where Mayan men played a game called pok ta pok. Anthropologists believe that the object of the game was to hurl a ball through a ring that was mounted on a wall, seven meters above the ground.


Each team had six field players who would attempt to pass the ball - using any body part except their hands - to their captain who would attempt the shot using a racket of sorts. The captain of the team that made the first successful shot was then decapitated as a sacrifice to the gods. This was seen as an honor and guaranteed entrance into heaven.



There is a certain mystical energy about the ball court that begs to be experienced first-hand. One fact worth noting is the repetition of the number seven, which was sacred to the Mayans. There were seven players on a team, the rings were seven meters high and if you clap your hands or shout in the court, the sound will echo exactly seven times. There are carvings on the stone walls that depict the ball players (some of which are remarkably intact) and after the captain is beheaded, seven serpents grow out of his neck.

But the true mystery behind the ball court at Chichen-Itza is the Mayan prophecy that on Dec. 22, 2012, the great warrior serpent Kukulkán will rise from the ground beneath the playing field and end the world for good. Even if you're not one to believe in predictions, it's still exhilarating and eerie to stand in the middle of the court, close your eyes and imagine.



Above: The ballcourt at Chichen Itza.


At the entrance to Chichen Itza, there is an informative museum, a dining room, clean restrooms, a few giftshops and vendor stands. If you didn't bring a hat, it's a good idea to buy one from one of the vendors outside before you go in.

You can travel to Chichen-Itza by daily travel agency tours (about $370 pesos), rental car, or public bus lines that leave approximately every hour. If you drive yourself, parking is $10 pesos. You can easily do the trip and return to Merida or Progreso by the evening, or you can stay overnight. If you do stay, be sure to enjoy the wonderful Light & Sound Show that is held every evening.