Chichen Itza: 5 things to know about visiting this world wonder
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Chichen Itza was a major city for the Mayan civilisation It is now a remarkably well-preserved archaeological site that attracts thousands of visitors every year during their holidays in the Mexico. Find out more about Chichen Itza in this article!
What does Chichen Itza mean?
"Chichen Itzá" is a name of Mayan origin composed of two words. "Chi" meaning the mouth, and the word Itzá referring to the ItzáesA Maya tribe that ruled the city of Chichen Itza for some time. This Maya-Chontal tribe from the west founded Chichen Itzá.
Chichen Itzá" can therefore be translated as "Chichen Itzá". Boca del pozo de Los Itzáes "literally "the mouth of the well of the Itzáes". The name Chichén-Itzá originally has Mayan roots and means "at the well of the Itzáes".
Chichen Itzá's name is also linked to its location, as the archaeological site comprises what is known as a "Cenote"(a sort of large natural well). It has long been regarded as a source of life and fertility, but also as a 'portal' to the underworld and the Mayan gods. According to the Maya, the human sacrifices performed in these Cenotes ensured the continuity of the universe, and would guarantee a certain permanence to civilisation.
This Cenote was particularly important to the Maya in their culture and religion. The the archaeological site of Chichen Itzá is now considered one of the most important and significant sites of the Mayan civilisation, hence its popularity with visitors from all over the world.
Chichen Itza is now one of the seven wonders of the modern world
Since 1988, the archaeological site is listed as a UNESCO heritage siteIt has a unique architecture, cultural and historical importance, as explained above in relation to the origin of this place, which allows a better understanding of the history of the Yucatán.
Since this registration, the protection, preservation and restoration of the site of Chichen Itzá and its monuments has been strongly reinforcedIt is also important to preserve its natural environment.
This event also contributed to the increase in its reputation among visitors from all over the world. A very positive economic impact for the Yucatánand for Mexico in general.
Nevertheless, efforts are still underway to ensure that this increase in tourism is sustainable. Responsible practices are put in place to minimise negative impacts on the environment of the site and its local communities, and to preserve as much of this cultural heritage as possible.
In 2007, Chichen Itzá was chosen as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in an international vote organised by the Swiss foundation New7Wonders.
Why Chichen Itza?
This designation is explained by the fame of this Mayan archaeological site, one of the best preserved in the Yucatán region in particular.
With its remarkable architecture, testifying to the advancement of the Maya people.
It is mainly the pyramid of KukulcánChichen Itza is also home to many other buildings, sculptures and engravings rich in history, such as the Temple of a Thousand Columns and the Observatory. But Chichen Itza isn't just that: it also has many other buildings, sculptures and engravings steeped in history, such as the Temple of a Thousand Columns and the Observatory... If you take a guided tour or a excursion in Chichen Itza, make sure that it takes you on a tour of Chichen Itza that is both "new" and "old". This is the case, for example, with Pixan Riviera which offers a complete tour of the archaeological site. Unfortunately, the ancient part is sometimes forgotten.
The archaeological site of Chichen Itza is now one of the world's most important attractions tourist in Mexico.
The impressive pyramid of Kukulkan
Also known asEl Castillo"This is Chichen Itzá's most emblematic building, and a major reason for the site's popularity.
Built of limestone in the 12th century by the Mayans, it is the tallest pyramid on this archaeological site, standing 30 metres high with nine platforms symbolising the celestial levels, each leading to a higher platform. The entire pyramid is decorated with sculptures and Mayan motifs in relief. It stands in the middle of the archaeological site, towering above the other buildings. At the top of its 9 platforms is a temple where Mayan religious ceremonies were held.
The pyramid of Kukulcán is dedicated to the snake god of the same name, but also known as "Quetzalcoatl".
The architecture of this pyramid is particularly well thought-out and ingenious, and perfectly represents classical Mayan architecture: the corners of the pyramid are aligned with the 4 cardinal points, and each side of the pyramid has a total of 91 steps, which including the upper platform makes a total of 365 steps, in other words the number of days in a year!
Twice a year during the spring and autumn equinoxes (around 20 March and 22 September), you can observe an impressive illusion: shortly before sunset, the shadow of a snake moving down the steps of Kukulcán appears. This phenomenon is considered one of the greatest feats of Mayan astronomy.
One of the greatest "ball games
In the Maya period, the fascinating ball game also known aspelota game"was the sacred sport of their culture. It was played in adapted complexes throughout Mesoamerica.
The games were held during important religious or political ceremonies, and were considered a ritual associated with human sacrifice. Indeed, in order to " appease the Mayan gods "In this case, participants could be sacrificed. According to most historians, the winners were sacrificed.
At 168 metres long and 70 metres wide, the archaeological site of Chichen Itza is home to the largest ball court in the world. Mesoamerica. The surface on which the games were played is bounded by two vertical side walls, with a stone ring on each side. The objective was for the players to pass a rubber ball through the stone rings without using their hands or feet, simply by using their hips.
These games were also considered an art form, with engravings and carvings on the walls depicting the "match", the players, and Mayan deities.
5 - Chichen Itza: A sacred site for the contemporary Maya
Although the archaeological site of Chichen Itza has become particularly popular with visitors from all over the world, the contemporary Maya, who still regard it as a sacred place, continue to go there to ask for blessings and cures for health problems or personal difficulties.
Some also go there to perform rituals on significant dates in the Mayan calendar such as the equinoxes and solstices. Their celebration includes purification ceremonies, traditional dances and offerings.
According to them, the spiritual energy of each individual affects the site of Chichen Itza, which is why it is imperative to behave with humility and ask permission before visiting.
For the contemporary Maya, Chichen Itza is not just a tourist attraction, but a sacred place of cultural heritage.
Chichen Itza is a must-see when visiting south-east Mexico. The archaeological site takes 2 to 3 hours to visit. To fully understand its history, we recommend that you take a guide, if possible a local Mayan guide, who will share his passion for Chichen Itza with you.