Mexico · Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza (chee-chehn eet-sah) in Maya, was a sacred city of the Itza and the name literally means: “Mouth of the well of the Itza”. Located 75 miles east of Merida, the capital of the State of Yucatan, Mexico; it covers an area of approximately six square miles where hundreds of buildings once stood. Now most are mounds but more than thirty may still be seen by tourists. It is probably the most important city of the Mayan Culture in the Yucatan peninsula and has the most amazing buildings of any other Mayan ancient cities. It is also the largest and most impressive of the Mayan ruins.
The ruins of Chichen Itza are divided into two groups. One group belongs to the classic Maya Period and was built between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D., at which time the city became a prominent ceremonial center. The other group corresponds to the Maya-Toltec Period, from the later part of the 10th century to the beginning of the 13th century A.D. This area includes the Sacred Well and most of the outstanding ruins.
The Pyramid of Kukulkan is one of the most iconic examples of Maya architecture of all time. Each year, during the spring and autumn equinoxes, the famous feathered serpent slides down the steps of the temple showcasing the precise coordination with which the Maya were able to harmonize nature and their surroundings.
The site also contains a sacred well, the astronomical Observatory, the imposing Temple of Warriors, the reclining Chac Mool figure, a form of classic Maya sculpture believed to have served as an altar for sacrifices, and the Nunnery. During the fall and spring equinoxes, the sun’s shadow forms an enormous snake’s body, which lines up with the carved stone snake head at the bottom of the Castillo pyramid.
Chichen Itza is list as one of the seven wonders of the modern world and was granted World Heritage Site status in 1988 by UNESCO World Heritage Site.