After a well-earned rest in the town of Valladolid we cycled about 50 km to a small village called Piste which is right next to the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. After a short search for appropriate accommodation we decided to camp in the garden of the Pyramid hotel.
With fading colors in all areas and a big pool with abandoned pool bar the Pyramid hotel looked like a nice place – maybe 50 years ago when it was buildt. We pitched our tent under a palm tree, trusting the still green coconuts not to fall down. Three other travelers camped there as well and joined us as we hung out around the pool waiting for a hot day to go by. It was our plan to visit the ruins of Chichén Itzá first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. Will we make it?
Beating the crowds at Chichén Itzá
It was twenty past seven when we rolled out of the old Pyramid hotel and made our way to the nearby ruins of Chichén Itzá.
Together with the pyramids of Gizeh, the Great Wall in China, Macchu Picchu in Peru and the Taj Mahal in India, Chichén Itzá is on the list of the seven world wonders. Since 1988 it is a UNESCO world heritage site and therefore visited by thousands of tourists.
Arriving at the entrance gate we locked our bikes to a pole and joined the queue in front of the ticket office.
Mexican entrance fees
It was MEX$ 242 entrance fee per person! Plus, Brad had to pay an extra MEX$ 45 for bringing his GoPro. We didn’t know that ahead of time and he didn’t use it for filming in the ruins. Unnecessary costs for travelers on a tight budget!
I stood next to an older French guy who had a close look at the price table. For people over 60 years of age the entry was free. But a sentence a bit further up made clear that all the discounts are only valid for Mexican citizens.
I thought about having something like that in Germany and all the discussions about discrimination that would follow…. I actually really like what the Mexicans are doing here. It’s their country and why shouldn’t it be cheaper for their own people?!
As soon as we had our tickets we shooted past all the other tourists and made our way to the big pyramid to get a tourist-free photo. Here’s the result:
Walking around the ruins of Chichén Itzá
At Chichén Itzá all the buildings are behind a fence and you cannot climb any pyramids since 2006. This is to protect the ruins and what’s left from the huge amount of tourists visiting every day. Most of them take a day-trip and come by bus from Cancun or Merida. In the nearby village of Piste you can see the impacts of tourism that was once flowering and now is fading due to the good infrastructure and available bus tours.
With 6.5 square kilometers the ruins of Chichén Itzá are the biggest on the Yucatán peninsula. There’s a lot to see and walk through. After taking photos from the main pyramid we started to explore the rear part of the areal as all the tourists would still be in the front.
While walking around we could see lots of Mexicans setting up their small, wooden souvenir booths along the walking trails. At some stage it was just too much! The ruins itself were very well maintained and I was impressed by the amount of pillars that are still preserved.
El Caracol – The Observatory
Walking around we got to see another unique stone building called “El Caracol”. Caracol means snail in Spanish and the building is named like that because of the spiral staircase inside the tower.
The buidling is also known as “the observatory” and the Maya used it to do exactly that: observe the stars. Does it not look a lot similar to todays observatories?
The stone carvings of Chichén Itzá
The ruins of Chichén Itzá feature many well preserved stone carvings where you can see the traditions of the Mayan culture. Lots of animals are displayed with snakes and jaguars being the most common.
The ballcourt of Chichén Itzá
Same as all other Mayan ruins Chichén Itzá has a ballcourt. The ball game was a very important part of the Mayan culture. I have already seen a ballcourt in the ruins of Ek Balam but what I saw at Chichén Itzá was impressive. The ballcourt was huge! Maybe you can see it in the photo as some tourists are in and a good reference for the size of the whole area.
We took about two hours for walking around in the ruins and left again at ten when too many people were already in. As we left Chichén Itzá we planned on doing the same and show up early at the upcoming ruins of Cobá and the famous beach ruins of Tulum. We didn’t know by then how much our plans would change….
Back to the overview!