Tag: cozumel

Chichen Itza, Mexico: Ancient Mayan City

chichen itza Mexico

El Castillo (“The Castle”)

Chichen Itza, Mexico: Great Mayan City

Chichen Itza, Mexico is on the Yucatan Peninsula. This ancient city boasts some of the most spectacular Mayan ruins in the world. Chichen Itza has stood the test of time superbly, considering it dates from 600-900AD. The phrase “Chichen Itza” means “the well at the mouth of the Itza.” Although remote, Chichen Itza is frequently featured in bus tour excursions from Playa del Carmen (2 hours, 7 minutes), Cancun (2 hours, 15 minutes), and Cozumel (3 hours, 25 minutes). If that sounds like a long trek, don’t be discouraged. The treasures to be found once you’re at Chichen Itza make every second on the bus worth the journey!

The Castle

El Castillo is, perhaps, the most enthralling architectural marvel of all here. El Castillo, Temple of Kukulcan, or “the castle,” is a 98 foot high enormous ziggurat temple. (Art History tip: when there are steps it is a ziggurat, not a pyramid.) Sacrifices were performed on the platform at the top. This structure may be the most iconic symbol in the world of the ancient Mayan civilization.

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Templo de los Guerreros (“Temple of the Warriors”)

Mayan Warrior Tradition

The Temple of the Warriors is near the castle, where a forest of columns is adorned with depictions of the most honored fighting champions. The Mayans took pride in their fighting prowess, and they’ve immortalized this tradition here. Polities fought over limited natural resources such as obsidian, water, and land for farming. The capture of sacrifices, which is now considered a gruesome part of their spiritual traditions, also sparked violent conflict.

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“Great Ball Court”

Mayan Athletic Skill

Athletes were champions, too. And a favorite structure with visitors here is the Great Ball Court, the largest (551 by 230 feet) and most well-preserved Mayan ball court in the world. The court is surrounded by “stands,” or audience seating areas. Different classes were assigned to different seating areas, becoming increasingly more lavish and “with a better view of the action” as the audience member elevated in social class. It reminded me of the seating structure of the amphitheaters of Ancient Rome, although a whole ocean away. Notice the donut-shaped carving (top left on the photo above.) The ball had to get through this hole, and seeing this, you contemplate the tremendous skill of the Mayan athletes!

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Carvings on the wall of the Ball Court

Sport in Art

Carvings on the walls of the ball court are extremely detailed, and tell the story of the ball game and its athletes. The “winner” had the privilege of being selected for sacrifice through decapitation (also depicted here!) The artwork at Chichen Itza is extremely well preserved and maintained, so it’s a joy to ponder the Mayan culture here! For example, it’s fascinating to consider how much ancient Mayan culture differed from cultures of today!

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“Venus Platform”

More to Explore!

There are many other buildings here to explore, so take your time to notice the intricate detail on many of these structures. There is absolutely no better way to learn about a time and place in history than from the original people, who, here, eternally tell their first-hand story through their artwork. No modern tour guide can tell it so well. The crowds can be enormous here, but there’s lots of room to spread out, making the experience more comfortable than smaller ancient sites. But be sure to bring some sunscreen and cool clothing, because there’s little shade here and it tends to get stiflingly hot, even in shoulder season!

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Overhead view*

*Open source (credit: dronepicr, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org)

In conclusion, you can explore more of Chichen, Itza, Mexico in my full video tour here!:

For videos on more destinations, as well as hotel and cruise ship tours, check out my YouTube channel here!:

Ultimate Travel Adventures YouTube Channel

And for more Mexico, check out my camel riding in Cabo San Lucas blog here!:

Camel Riding Cabo San Lucas

Travel Flashback: Carnival Triumph to Mexico in September

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By the time this blog publishes, I’ll be sipping Pina Coladas in the Caribbean Sea, (yes – the Caribbean again… hey I like my winter 75 and sunny!) so it was time to pre-schedule a saved blog post from September as a “flashback” this week! Given the trip was unforgettable, didn’t seem to matter that it took place last fall – it feels like yesterday!

We sailed on the Carnival Triumph to Cozumel and Yucatan. The New Orleans departure port offered us a great excuse to take a long road trip, and we stopped in Biloxi at Harrah’s for a couple of nights of unbridled fun gaming and amazing gulf coast seafood! I had never experienced such great table games with low minimums and friendly dealers at any other casino I’d ever been to. Then it was off to New Orleans and the ship. For the first port excursion, I visited the ancient Mayan city of Tulum, and being an Art History major in college I was completely overcome with awe! From the 13th-15th century, the structures of Tulum have held up impressively well considering their age. There are many different buildings; particularly interesting are the temple and palace. I love museums, but there is nothing quite like being surrounded by ancient architecture in a wide open outdoor space to help visualize and imagine how it was back in the day and bring it to life. Of course, these are ruins and heavily damaged, but they really give you a sense of the expanse of the city and some of the day-to-day rituals that were important elements of people’s lives in the time. And then there is the modern population now calling this place home – iguanas! They were crawling all over the ruins, and one of the locals advised me they are the “guardians!”

After the visit to Tulum we visited a community of modern-day Mayans. They provided us a delectable meal including the most mouth-watering, piping hot and fresh off the griddle homemade tortillas. After a stop at a cenote for a refreshing swim it was back to the ship.

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I wanted to choose an excursion suitable for my disabled husband at the next port, so we signed up for the Mi Casa Es Su Casa VIP beach house. We were looking forward to a relaxing day on the beach, in the pool, on the hammocks, and having our appetite satisfied and thirst quenched by attentive waiters while we settled in on loungers drenched in warm, golden sunlight. The highlight of the day was the on-site masseuse who only charged $30 for a half-hour massage that prepared us well for our day of blissful relaxation. After an indulgent massage it was time for spicy margaritas and an array of delicious Mexican specialties on the buffet before a dip in the pool – and ocean. It was a luxurious day of pampering and peace.

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After our Mexican adventure it was back to the ship and the port of New Orleans. Feeling lucky after such a terrific trip, we stopped in at Harrah’s New Orleans for some gaming fun before the long drive home. Sure enough, I left a winner, and had a deposit for the next adventure!

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