NileGuide Expert Says:
Recently voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, this is the most famous site of Mayan ruins in the region.
A "must-see" on anyone's list, this popular site can get crowded, particularly during equinoxes and solstices.
Roughly 125 miles west of Cancún.
NileGuide Expert tip:
Bring water, sunscreen, and a hat. It gets hot in the jungle and the sun is intense. To learn about Chichen Itza and to fully understand the great importance of this ancient site, hire a guide when you arrive at the park.
Chichen Itza, located approximately 120 miles west of Cancun, is the largest and most important site of Mayan ruins in the region. The expansive park can be seen in two or three hours and its main focal point is a large pyramid, called the Temple of Kukulkan (also known as "El Castillo").
Each year, crowds flock to the park for both the spring and autumnal equinox. On those two days of the year, as the sun sets, shadows appear on the stairs of El Castillo in such a way that it looks as though a snake is slithering down the stairs. The Mayan people had a great understanding of astrology and mathematics. The pyramid was built with such accuracy and regard to astrology that the phenomenon of the slithering snake can only be seen on the days of the two equinoxes.
The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012 and there is great debate about what will happen at the end of the cycle. Some people believe the world will end, but experts on the Mayan civilization believe it will simply be the beginning of a new era; a rebirth. To learn more about the Mayan calendar, and about Mayan history, visit Chichen Itza between now and the end of 2012.
Photo by Celso Flores