Published on April 30th, 2013 | by Andrew Garcia0
7 Natural Wonders: Cichen Itza
Travel writers can tell a beautiful story when one is in the mood for a bit of escapism from their everyday lives, but when we are trying to plan for a trip some of us want the information a little more snappy. This article is meant to give you all you need to know about visiting Chichen Itza in a form that is easy, fast and useful. After-all you don’t need our frivolous descriptions when you are about to form your own opinions of the site yourself. Without further ado let’s get this show on the on the road.
Practical Travel Tips
1. The Vendors: Before you even get to the site you are going to be dealing with pushy locals trying to sell you “hand-crafted” knick-nacs. It is amazing to me that the sell the same hand-crafted all over Mexico, someone must have sent out a hell of a memo explaining to these people to make the exact same crafts from Cabo to Cancun.
These vendors are great for people looking to pick up touristy items, and you can get great deals if you are willing to haggle. For those of us from the first world it can be hard to learn to say no to these people. My best advice is eyes ahead, ignore being approached and say a firm no if someone tries to bother you. Basically give off the air of being a huge jerk.
2. You Can’t Climb El Castillo Anymore: This can be a major bummer for people dreaming of climbing up and down the shambles of 365 stairs. After years of tons of tourists it started to damage the pyramid, so it is now roped off.
You can still climb the pyramid at Coba which is notably closer to Cancun if you are staying in that area. Coba is also a lot less crowded with vendors and tourist than Chichen Itza.
3. You still will need to walk A LOT: The site is comprised of over 20 different sites, so you will be doing a lot of walking in the area. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, light clothing and drink a lot of water. I want to emphasize drinking a lot of water, because a lot of people forget they are in a tropical climate where dehydration happens a lot quicker than most are used to. Plus, if you drink as much tequila as I do in Mexico, you are going to need all the hydration you can get. There are lots of vendors that sell water around the site, but you can get water for a lot cheaper at grocery stores in Cancun.
4. Cameras: If it is deemed your digital camera is capable of taking video, they will not let you bring it in. This means leaving the fancier camera gear at home. Sorry home video makers and photographers.
5. Don’t Bother with the Light Show: It sucks so badly unless you are a five year old. Even if you have kids, it costs a lot for what it is. As of January 2013 they have shut the light show down, but if they open it back up don’t be roped into going unless you are curious to go ghost hunting at the site after dark.
6. Don’t Take the Bus if You Can Help it: On the bus it takes an additional hour each way making for 6 hours in a bus. If you drive yourself on the toll highway it is 2 hours each way.
7. The Libre Way versus the Toll Road: The Libre way winds you through an extremely bumpy road where humans and animals quaintly scamper along. It can be fun to explore this area, but it also takes a very long time. It is also not all that safe at night time. On the toll road you can get from Cancun to Chichen in just two hours.
8. Bring a Bathing Suit: Stopping to take a swim in one of the many cenotes along the way or you can swim in the beautiful Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza. This cenote used to be used for sacrifices, and during excavations a lot of human bones were taken out. Creepy fact, but still a beautiful and refreshing place to swim.
Facts on the Fly
- El Castillo has 365 steps and stands 98 feet high.
- During the spring and autumn equinoxes as the sun sets the image of serpent appears descending the stairs.
- The Maya population collapsed around 900 after the Toltecs invaded the North who continued to build on Chichen Itza. This makes the site a unique combination of Toltecian and Mayan architecture.
- The ruins of Chichen Itza are federal property, and the site is maintained by Mexico.
- An estimated 1.2 million tourists visit Chichen Itza a year.
- The Maya name “Chichen Itza” means “At the mouth of the well of the Itza.