Riviera Maya Photo Gallery - Chichen Itza

Besides enjoying the beach at your resort, there are a few historic sites worth day trips out of Cancun. There are many types of group and smaller tours available from your hotel's tour desk.

Chichen Itza is the most famous Maya site in the region, although elements of it differed from actual Maya tradition. Easily accessible today by highway from Cancun, get there early before the tour buses arrive.

The Gran Juego de Pelota is the largest ball court of its kind, stretching 90m long. Historians are not sure how the game is played or its significance, although panels with scenes are found at the bottom of each side.

At the end of the ball court is Templo Norte.

It is believed human sacrifices took place here, judging from the Tzompantli's carvings of human heads.

The Plataforma de Venus is guarded by feathered serpents and was used for rites.

The highlight of the site is the El Castillo, with stairs going up each side through 9 terraces. Designed with the Maya calendar in mind, each staircase has 91 steps, totalling 365 after including the 1 step at the main temple entrance. Special shadow effects also take place during the equinoxes.

A long path of shops leads towards the Cenote Sagrado 300m away. Almost perfectly round, it is 60m in diameter and over 30m deep, and fueled by a natural well. Believed to be the entry into the underworld, offerings were made, including human sacrifices.

The Templo de los Guerreros and Groupo de las Mil Columnas is quite impressive for its details and colonnade-filled courtyard.

This part of the site is more leafy and not as busy with selfie-taking tourist crowds.

The southern section is a sacred area although the buildings are in less pristine condition.

There is a large variety of tour options to Chichen Itza. If a private tour is not an option, a smaller group traveling in a minivan is far more flexible with less waiting time for each other at bathroom and lunch stops. Getting to the site early enough before the many tour buses arrive is key. On the site, the buildings are spread wide enough so everyone can get a decent photo, although having one with the El Castillo just by yourself would be difficult, even in a private tour.

Coin and bank note images from the Banco de Mexico.

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