Compared to other destination resorts in Mexico, Chichen Itza is but a bump in the road. It certainly isn’t known for it flashy hotels, but it has one of the best archeological sites in Mexico.
Table of Contents
- Geographic Location
- History of Chichen Itza
- Accommodations in Chichen Itza
- Restaurants in Chichen Itza
- Nightlife in Chichen Itza
- Shopping in Chichen Itza
- Local Chichen Itza Cuisine
- Services in Chichen Itza
- Surrounding Areas of Chichen Itza
- Where To Go in Chichen Itza?
- Where To Eat in Chichen Itza?
- What To Do in Chichen Itza?
- Where To Shop in Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is located 157 km (97 MI) from Cancun and 120 km (74 MI) from Merida. Nearby are small but quaint villages.
History of Chichen Itza
Approximately one thousand years ago, Chichen Itza was the capital of the Mayan Empire. The history of Chichen Itza, meaning, “mouth of the wells of the Itza” is a debate among scholars. Some believe that the Mayan people settled here around 700 AD. The Mayans were said to have built most of the structures and temples seen. A few of the buildings are styled in Toltec design, however. One theory states that the Mayan people were invaded by the Toltecs and forced out of the city. The Toltecs then continued to build but in their own style.
Another theory says that the Mayans had extensive tradings with the Toltecs and were influenced by the design of Toltec buildings. The one fact that everybody has agreed upon, is that the city was abandoned for a length of time, perhaps even hundreds of years, yet no one knows why. Each theory has proof to support the claim, but no actual theory has been proven to be factual. Another oddity in El Castillo, a jaguar figure had been made out of red stone, and green jade eyes. The mystery? Green jade is not found in Mexico, in fact that type of jade is indigenous to China. How did the Mayan people acquire it?
Accommodations in Chichen Itza
There are a few luxurious hotels located close to the ruins. Most of the hotels have a restaurant, and a few have pools. The less expensive hotels are located in the village of Piste, only one and a half miles away. Rates for hotels in the Chichen Itza area range from $33 to $200 US dollars. Hotels fill up fast during the spring and fall equinox, so it is best if you reserve a room in advance. Hotel rates increase during this time also.
Restaurants in Chichen Itza
Hotel restaurants located near the ruins have delicious but expensively priced meals. The restaurant in the visitor center is really good and reasonably priced food. Restaurants in Piste are very popular as they can accommodate large groups. However, they fill up fast around lunchtime.
Nightlife in Chichen Itza
There are no nightclubs or disco in Chichen Itza. Likewise, there is little to do in Piste. A popular restaurant in Piste, the Puebla Maya, has live musicians.
Shopping in Chichen Itza
Although there is not much in the way of shopping in Chichen Itza, there is a bookstore and souvenir shop located in the visitor center near the ruins. Your best bet is to travel to Valladolid, 30 minutes away from Chichen Itza. Mayan dresses, leather goods, honey, and sandals are the popular items here.
Local Chichen Itza Cuisine
Most restaurants serve regional and Mexican dishes but items such as hamburgers and spaghetti are available.
Services in Chichen Itza
Banks: A bank is located in Piste, open from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. A money exchange center is located at the visitor center in Chichen Itza.
Transportation: Tour buses can be arranged at your hotel to drop you off at the entrance to the ruins and bring you back. Taxis usually hang around the ruins waiting for tours to finish to bring guests to their hotels. Cars can be rented to tour the areas, but lots of speed bumps are placed along the roads, making driving a little harrowing.
Surrounding Areas of Chichen Itza
Piste: A small city located just a 20-minute walk from the ruins. The only attraction here is that it is close to the ruins.
Valladolid: Located 40 km from Chichen Itza, this is a small colonial city. Two cenotes are present in the city
The Grutas (Caves) De Balankanch? These natural caves are located 3 ?miles from Chichen Itza. These caves were hideaways for people during the War of the Castes. Outside is a pleasant walk through a botanical garden.
Where To Go in Chichen Itza?
The ruins are pretty much the only place to go in Chichen Itza; they encompass a six-kilometer square area. An overnight stay is recommended to fully view and appreciate these majestic ruins. They are classified in three distinct groups.
North Group: In the North Group, you will find the El Castillo (the Castle). In the fall and spring equinoxes, when the sunlight shines through, the shadow of a slithering serpent is formed appearing to descend into the earth. Roughly 40, 000 people come to witness this event each year. The Ball Court, the largest and most elaborate ever discovered, the Sacred Cenote, as well as many other temples and pyramids are found here.
The Central Group: This group contains the High Priest Grave, where no priest was ever buried, a church, and a puzzling cluster of buildings known as the Nunnery Complex. Some thought this resembled a convent, but more than likely it was a palace. Also in this group is the second most famous building after El Castillo, El Caracol (the Observatory). This building was enlarged many times giving it an odd shape and style. El Caracol was probably used by astronomers to observe the sun and stars. Festivals, ceremonies, and other events were then planned around the cycles observed.
Chichen Viejo: The ruins in this group are poorly preserved. There are a few structures with hieroglyphic designs dating back to 879 AD. The House of the Phalli, built in the Toltec style, was supposedly a place where virgins came to “know” a man’s body. A 20-minute trek through the jungle will bring you to another group of badly decayed ruins. The Temple of the Three Lintels, the only structure in decent shape, is a three-room building used by healers to cure the sick. Although there are other ruins deeper in the jungle, it is recommended you go no further into the jungle without an experienced guide.
Where To Eat in Chichen Itza?
For a variety of foods, try the Cafeteria Ruinas located near the ruins. Dishes such as spaghetti, chicken, enchiladas, and burgers are on the menu. At the Puebla Maya a huge buffet table caters to the many tourists that fill the tables. An artificial lagoon, live musicians, and planters upon planters adorn this restaurant. The Restaurant Bar Poxil serves Mexican foods at good prices. Meals at the hotel restaurants can become quite expensive, especially if the hotel is located near the ruins. Take a short trip to Piste, 1 ?miles west of Chichen Itza, and you will find shops, restaurants, campgrounds, and hotels that offer cheaper rates than in Chichen Itza.
What To Do in Chichen Itza?
The main attraction in Chichen Itza is visiting the ruins. A few activitiesare enjoyed here though.
Horseback Riding: At the Hotel Mayaland, you can make arrangements for a two-hour tour of Chichen Itza.
Son et Lumier: A nightly sound and light show performed in Spanish. Headsets are available for rent in several languages.
Where To Shop in Chichen Itza?
Located on the outskirts of Piste you will find the Pueblo Maya, a Mayan village that is home to a shopping area and dining facilities for tourists. Handicrafts, gifts and souvenirs are sold at the Parque Ik Kil, located across the street from the Dolores Alba hotel. There is a small souvenir and bookstore located near the ruins.