Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, Petra in Jordan; all are places awarded the prestigious title of ‘New wonders of the world’, but let me ask, do these places really live up to their hype?
Well…the answer…YES absolutely…as if that was even a question.
Recently I visited the famous ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico, and my experience was as the title suggests, world-wonderful. When I arrived at Chichen Itza, I had some preconceived perceptions about what I was about to see. I figured it would be your typical ‘ruin tour’ experience, you know…a healthy sized park, ropes blocking off the archeology from many meters away, and a couple thousand too many tourists in the way coming from nearby Cancun or cultural capital Merida.
While Chichen Itza did own up to many of these qualities, the thousands of people thats for sure. The sheer size of these ruins made the experience seem open and relaxed. The people were spread throughout the park, and…well yes, there truly were that many people; with some spending time in the cenotes, some near the large main pyramid, and others exploring the many extensive sections of this ancient city, I never once felt overwhelmed or that my personal experience was compromised. In fact these ruins went on and on, so long that a second day would have been an absolute gift making Chichen Itza a must on any Mexico itinerary.
The ruins, while blocked off in many areas, were not so far out of reach to not feel a personal connection with them. I felt this issue when visiting the Tulum ruins where ropes had us so far from the archeology that binoculars would have helped when looking for the slightest bit of detail. The beautiful part of Chichen Itza was that, maybe due to its reputation, people seemed to be respectful of both the ruins, and others viewing them and so maybe this is why I did not feel so far away from everything.
There were options on options on options for ways in which to view these ruins. From a group tour for $25USD which could be picked up at the entrance gate, and which was provided in an unreasonable amount of languages, to a $50 private tour from a guide of your choice also available at the gate. There was also a mini-movie you could opt to watch to help teach the history of Chichen Itza if a guide was not for you.
The park itself was well manicured. There was freshly cut grass throughout the expanse of Chichen Itza with trees and bits of forest intertwined into the ruins and picnic tables strategically located if one needed a rest. It was this that really made if for me. The resting and relaxing, the ‘no-need to rush’ attitude which enveloped this area. The people eating lunch, playing in the field, and enjoying the warm air in the midst of this ancient civilization allowed for a calm and enjoyable feeling to cover this experience.
The ruins..ohhh, the ruins, how expansive were they? Not only were they well maintained, they were huge. I mean there was just so much more than the pyramids that we imagine when we think of Chichen Itza. There were the dwellings, the observatory, places for offerings, sacred cenotes, a special space for women, the plaza of 1000 columns, the temples of warriors, and the famed ball courts…should I keep going or do you get the picture? The most amazing part to me was the fact that there was even more archeology to be uncovered and maintained. This is just the start of Chichen itza.
To add some fun, every path between sacred spaces has its very own Mexican market. As you walk from one end to the other there are artisans and salesmen hollering at you to purchase cute little souvenirs, and they are 200% willing to haggle. So have some fun, it is in great spirit.
Finally to close out the Chichen Itza experience, there is an absolutely stunning resort on site (for the people who just may have more money than me) that offers rooms to stay in, gift shops, and a beautiful restaurant that depending on which ticket you picked upon entry, you can dine in. A delicious way to end a day.
It is hard to write about Chichen Itza in some ways, and easy in others. It truly is a destination to be explored if the opportunity exists. It is difficult to explain in words what there is to see at Chichen Itza as writing cannot describe the size of its reality. It is easy to describe the feeling and the moments created by this one of a kind wonder of the world. Chichen Itza is open. It is historical. It is religion. It is science. It is exploration. It is swimming in Cenote Ik-Kil. Its art, its culture, its a market, its a resort and its restaurants; all are worth the price of admission. Finally, it is the perfect day out, so is it really all its cracked up to be? Yes, yes it is.
ps. When you decide to visit…clap your hands at the bottom of the pyramid, you will find a little calculated surprise.
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