8 fun facts about Chichen Itza that perhaps you didn’t know

perro en chichen itza

This post is also available in: Español

After so much time without being able to travel, you may already be preparing for your next trip. If you have any doubts about your destination, Mexico is a country that will certainly not let you down.

And since Chichen Itza is one of the most popular tours in Riviera Maya, we will tell you 8 fun facts about Chichén Itzá, the most visited archaeological site in Mexico after Teotihuacan.

World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Wonders of the World

As you probably know, the pyramid of Chichen Itza is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. But, unlike what most people think, it is only the pyramid of Kukulkan that is within this list, and not the area itself, known as Chichen Itza.

pyramid chichen itza

In addition, in 1988, the entire area of Chichén Itzá has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Since then, Chichén Itzá receives more than one million tourists every year.

Meaning of the name Chichén Itzá

The name of Chichén Itzá comes from the Mayan culture, which built this place. If we divide it, “Chi” (mouth), “Che’en” (well), “Itz” (magician or sorcerer), and “Há” (water), its name literally means “the mouth of the well of the water sorcerers”.

It refers to the Sacred Cenote (Xtoloc), a large natural well that the Maya considered one of the main entrances to Xibalbá, their underworld.

Cenotes were a place of sacrifice and water cemetery

There are different theories about religious beliefs and the use of cenotes by the Mayans.

On the one hand, there are those who believe they were places of human sacrifice, especially of virgin women. These sacrifices were often for the God of the Sun (Itzamná), with the thought that the sun was born and died every day, thus feeding it and ensuring its return to Earth.

Another belief is that they used the cenotes as a cemetery. Once the funeral ritual was celebrated, they would throw the bodies into the cenotes. This would explain the large number of human remains found at the bottom, of all ages.

What there was, however, was a general agreement that all of these rituals had the purpose of mediating before the entities of the Xibalbá to guarantee rain and good harvests.

But don’t be afraid to go swimming in one of the cenotes on your tour in Chichén Itzá, these rituals have gone out of fashion.

A drought between the years 800-900 led them to abandon the place

To put you in the picture, experts in the evolution of cultures talk about the availability or scarcity of water as a predominant recurrent aspect in the evolution of human civilizations.

Although it is not known to what extent the climate was the trigger for the fall of the Mayan Empire, there are studies that say that this period was key to its subsequent disappearance.

The data say that between the 9th and 10th centuries, in the Yucatan Peninsula, there was a prolonged drought that altered the Maya ecosystem in the area. This drought is believed to have been intense enough to cause serious social changes and possibly was the beginning of the end of the Maya.

Spring Equinox

Every March 20th the spring equinox takes place, that is a day in which the day and the night have the same duration.

The Mayans, with a great knowledge of astronomy, decided to orient the Temple of Kukulkan so that each spring equinox, it would be reflected in the temple.

If you have the possibility of traveling to Mexico on March 20th, the shadows of one of its sides will reflect on its central stairs forming a snake, symbolizing the descent of the God in the form of a feathered serpent, Kukulkan.

The snake descends from heaven to Earth in a matter of minutes. According to Mayan beliefs, the serpent was the union between the divine and the human.

If you can’t make it around this time, seeing Chichen Itza at sunrise will be another incredible experience.

The stairs of Kukulcan add up to 365 steps

Another example of the Mayan’s knowledge of astronomy is that the Kukulkan Temple has four steps, of 91 steps each, which in total add up to 364. With the upper platform, there are 365 in total, just like the days of the year. In total, the height of the pyramid of Chichén Itzá is 30 meters.

Each step represented the days of the Haab -Mayan calendar-, which matches perfectly with the calendar we use today, the Gregorian calendar.

If you had planned to go through all these steps, we are sorry to tell you that since 2006 it is forbidden to go up. The wear and tear in the construction caused the decision to close this activity.

Perfect acoustic

For us, this curiosity is one of the best Chichén Itzá fun facts. It is that the constructions of this archaeological place in Yucatán have something in common, and that is its incredible acoustics.

For example, in The Ball Court, you can hear without any problem what is spoken from one side of the field to the other. Despite its 139 meters in length, its walls allow this great acoustic effect. So watch what you say…

tourists in chichen itza and fun facts

As for the Kukulkan Temple, the guides have relatively recently discovered by chance that the temple kept a secret regarding its acoustics. If you clap your hands from the base of the pyramid, this sound goes up to its stairs, finally bouncing off its upper temple.

The result is a distorted echo called the song of the Quetzal since the sound is very similar to the song of this sacred bird of the Mayas.

Now that you know all the fun facts about Chichen Itza, are you already preparing your bags to visit this marvel that the Mayans left in Mexico?

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