Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan complex resplendent in jaw dropping pyramid views, Mayan ruins, and huge Iguanas. The most recognizable structure here is the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. This glorious step pyramid demonstrates the accuracy and importance of Maya astronomy.
Devising a 365-day calendar was just one feat of Maya science. Incredibly, twice a year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow falls on the
pyramid in the shape of a serpent. As the sun sets, this shadowy snake descends the steps to eventually join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase up the pyramid’s side.
Read more about this Unesco World Heritage site here: National Geographic Chichen Itza
The Chichen Itza complex is stunning, with ruins of an ancient ball court, temples and loads of interesting artifacts scattered throughout the complex. To get the most out of your visit, hire a local guide or go with a reputable tour group to help you navigate and interpret what you are seeing.
Be prepared with water, a sunhat, sunglasses and charged camera batteries. You’ll spend several hours wandering the site out in the open sun, taking photographs and exploring the area. Keep a lookout for the many iguanas roaming the site and decorating the ruins and seeming to pose for your photos. After a few hot hours you’ll be ready for some refreshment. Pack a lunch or hit up a local taqueria as you head on down the road to a magical place you must see to believe: Cenote Il Kill.
Cenotes are natural swimming holes formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which has revealed a secret subterranean world of
groundwater pools. Most cave cenotes have fresh water that has been meticulously filtered by the earth, making them so clear and pure that you can see straight through to small fish frolicking in the plant life below. Open-air cenotes also have clear water, and often are home to vitamin- and mineral-rich algae that nourish and protect your skin. Underwater photographers will be thrilled with the clear waters, which allow for aquatic-playground shots in high-definition clarity.
The Mayans revered cenotes because they were a water source in dry times; the name cenote means ‘sacred well’. Mayans settled villages around these spiritual wells and believed that they were a portal to speak with the gods. Today you can still see why cenotes held the Mayans in awe. Swimming in the pristine waters feels like stepping into prehistory, where giant tropical trees and vines form wild cathedral walls leading up to shafts of sunlight. Read more: Secret Swims in the Yucatan
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