One of the more baffling things about my boyfriend is his experience of Chichen Itza in Mexico. Having traveled the lengthy (and rather uncomfortable) bus journey across Central America to the pre-historic site he only managed to see the car park. I might add it isn’t a particularly nice or impressive car park. Unless of course you have a penchant for over zealous Mexicans selling sombreros and wrestling masks. On my own visit I did actually manage to get within the gates but was unceremoniously struck down by heatstroke. We speculated that perhaps mythical forces had been at work, detecting our heathen sentiments and unleashing their wrath to ruin both our visits. However I think the real message was fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
Subsequently I have decided to share some first hand advice on making the most of your time at Chichen Itza;
1. Get to know your enemy
Chichen Itza has been on the site in the Yucatan Peninsula since 600 AD when it was constructed by the Mayan people as a civil and religious centre for their growing population. It was invaded as part of the Spanish conquests in 1526 when they planned to make it their new capital.
El Castillo is the most well recognized feature in the city – this is the structure that is famous for its use in spring equinox celebrations. The mind-blowing astronomical knowledge of the Mayan people is displayed as the design of the Castillo casts a moonlit shadow of a snake across the ground at exactly midnight. The city is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
2. Attack at dawn
Since the city was reclassified as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’ in 2007, its popularity has boomed. With the world and his dog now trying to fulfill aspirations of an Indiana Jones style discovery, make sure you plan your journey in advance and if possible aim to arrive at the site before the tour buses and hoards of slow walkers at midday. This will reduce crowding and enhance your experience tenfold. International flights can be taken to Cancun, which is 125km drive to Chichen Itza and has regular transport links. Some of the larger structures including El Castillo are currently being renovated, so they are available to visit but will be covered in scaffolding until January 2013.
3. Defend yourself against the elements
Last but most certainly not least, after making the mistake of considering myself impenetrable to the sun’s rays, I suggest you do not do the same. Given the nature of tours – covering 1.9 square miles with little shade – it is strongly advised to wear a hat, sun cream and take full provisions of water. This may seem obvious but heed the warning, or risk overlooking the beauty and impressiveness of the site whilst bolting from the cover of one tree to the next.
Having said all this, Chichen Itza is undoubtedly worth a visit if for nothing else but to admire the intellect of the people who mastered the moon without telescopes and gave us chocolate long before Cadburys.
But since they predicted the world would end in apocalyptic doom on the 21st December 2012, let’s hope they didn’t know everything.
For further information about the Mayan ruins of Mexico.
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Category: History and culture