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Ball Game, Equinoxes & 2012 (the end of the world?)

  • Feb 4, 2010
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Back in Oct. 2003, I made a trip to Cancun & the Yucatan Peninsula from Toronto. It was just for a couple of days since I had never been to Mexico and others have talked about safety concern in Mexico City. I figure I'd be pretty safe in Cancun and its resort areas. So, here I came, Mexico! However, lazing around beaches was never my favorite pasttime although I did go a couple in the world. I tend to go further and upon discovering a World Heritage Site nearby and after exploring the area a bit, I took upon myself to check out Chichen Itza and the surrounding region. Other than Cancun, I managed to see Playa del Carmen (another laid back beach town) & Tulum (beach area with a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city).

Chichen Itza has since been voted & elected by the world at large in 2007 and is now one of the New Wonders of The World. This is the 3rd of my series of World Wonders, the first 2 are Great Wall of China & Machu Picchu.

All in all, I spent only about 2 days in Chichen Itza discovering its ruins and treasures. Having arrived in the afternoon after taking a coach from Cancun, I was at the sacred site in no time after checking into the hotel nearby. This is one of the greatest Mayan centres with a history of a millenium. It was actually abandoned by the Mayan around 1400 to the forest but Chichen Itza was in fact a very prosperous city in the 9th to 13th centuries. I am not sure about others but I do see some similarity between Chichen Itza and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Both were abandoned to the forest and both were once very prosperous city. Even visiting it today, both will require an individual to climb almost a hundred steps (91 to be precise) to see its full splendour. More about the climb in a bit.
Now, the Mayan people are an indegenious group of people. They are proficient in Math, Astronomy and even in predicting the Eclipses & Equinox. The 365-day calendar was developed by the Mayans through careful observation of the stars. In the center of the ruins is a pyramid named the Temple of Kukulkan (Mayan language for Quetzalcoatl, a plumed serpent), popularly referred to as "El Castillo" or the Castle. This square site has stairways up on all its 4 sides to the temple at the top. 
Other than El Castillo, there are other buildings which have survived as can be seen from the map. It's not a big area here and a day visit is enough. Two days is great because for the climb to the top of the Pyramid, you'll need to do it early in the morning before it gets way too hot! There are 91 steps on each side, making the total on all four sides to 364. An additional platform under the temple resulted in 365 making it the same as the number of days in a year. The Mayan apparently believed there is a relationship between their Gods and the Sun, very similar to those of the Egyptians. 

El Castillo front is at the North. “The North is where Gods in the sky live, and the South is where underworld Gods live. The East and the West are where the Sun resides, rising from the East and then setting in the West. It represents a whole universe. The sun is born in the East and sleeps in the West. The sun fights against the underworld Gods at night and is reborn, passing through the top of the world in the North where the Gods reside. The sun goes around a whole universe."

For the guys, you may be interested to know that there's a Great Ball Court measuring 150 m (490 ft) to the North of the Castillo. It's most impressive and the Mayans used it for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. It is the largest ball court in ancient Mesoamerica.

At the Templo de los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors), special offering of a human heart was made every 20 years (that's when the Mayan calendar changes). It's believed that the human heart would revitalize the power of the sun and a new period would begin. Recently we have heard about the Mayan Calendar ending around 2012 & this phenomenon has been speculated by many as the end of the world. The movie 2012 is based on this (I believe) and articles have also been speculated in the internet. If you're interested in it, you'll find plenty of information and misinformation about it.

Another interesting structure to look out for is the Observatory temple (El Caracol). According to Wikipedia.org, "Mayan astronomers knew from naked-eye observations that Venus appeared on the western and disappeared on the eastern horizons at different times in the year, and that it took 584 days to complete one cycle. They also knew that five of these Venus cycles equaled eight solar years. Venus would therefore make an appearance at the northerly and southerly extremes at eight-year intervals. Of 29 possible astronomical events (eclipses, equinoxes, solstices, etc) believed to be of interest to the Mesoamerican residents of Chichén Itzá, sight lines for 20 could be found in the structure. Since a portion of the tower resting on El Caracol has been lost, it is possible that the other measurements will never be ascertained to have been observed."

Interestingly enough, during the Spring & Autumn Equinoxes, the sun cast a shadow in the shape of serpent. I was not there during those times so I didn't get to see that. However, here is a Youtube video which you might be interested to check out.

Ball Game, Equinoxes & 2012 (the end of the world?) Ball Game, Equinoxes & 2012 (the end of the world?)

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Quick Tip by . February 07, 2010
One of the most famous pyramids around. Climb it you must! It is now 1 of the New 7 Wonders of The World!
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I'm a traveler at heart & have been nicknamed Travel Queen by friends & colleagues alike. Traveling has been my life passion for the last decade or so. As we enter a new decade, I'm excited … more
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Chichen Itza (pronounced /tʃiːˈtʃɛn iːˈtsɑː/;[1] from Yucatec MayaChi'ch'èen Ìitsha',[2] "At the mouth of the well of the Itza") is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilization located in the northern center of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Yucatán state, present-day Mexico.

Chichen Itza was a major focal point in the northern Maya lowlands from the Late Classic through the Terminal Classic and into the early portion of the Early Postclassic period. The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, from what is called “Mexicanized” and reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico to the Puuc style found among the Puuc Maya of the northern lowlands. The presence of central Mexican styles was once thought to have been representative of direct migration or even conquest from central Mexico, but most contemporary interpretations view the presence of these non-Maya styles more as the result of cultural diffusion.

The ruins of Chichen Itza are federal property, and the site’s stewardship is maintained by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History, INAH). The land under the monuments, however, is privately-owned by the Barbachano family.


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