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The New 7 Wonders: Guide to Chichen Itza

Mystery surrounds the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico. Pyramids, columns and temples reveal architectural styles and astronomical knowledge that still baffle archaeologists today. Here's our quick guide to one of the New 7 Wonders of the world, Chichen Itza.


What is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza, which means ‘at the mouth of the well of Itza,’ is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This now derelict city was reportedly established by the Maya people and was a thriving political and economic powerhouse of the Late Classic and Terminal Classic Period 600-900 AD. Its well-preserved ruins are home to one of the largest and most famous Mayan archaeological sites in the world, featuring ancient pyramids, palaces, temples, an enormous ball court, as well as an array of striking sculptures.

Why visit Chichen Itza?

Wandering around the ruins of this once-thriving trade hub takes you back to a time of astronomical epiphany and huge architectural achievement. Learn about the Mayans’ extraordinary accomplishments and astrophysical discoveries, as well as their sophisticated logosyllabic writing system, creation of dynamic art and command of advanced mathematical skills. It’s hard to fathom just how these skilled craftsmen and intelligent scholars built such precise structures and undertook such complex calculations without the tools, machinery and computer equipment that we have today. Chichen Itza is a mindblowing journey of discovery that needs to be seen to be believed.

What are the highlights of Chichen Itza?

From the hallowed waters of the Cenote Sagrado, where sacrificed treasures are preserved in its mossy depths, to the bloody Ball Court, where players were decapitated for losing and the Toltec Plaza that is littered with astonishing sculptures; there is so much to see and explore at Chichen Itza. The buildings to the north are dominated by the imposing presence of El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, which is a stone representation of the Maya calendar. Three hundred and sixty-five steps on four sides represent the solar year, and the pyramid is designed to cast a shadowy illusion of a serpent sliding down the monument during the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Where is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is located in Mexico, 125 km west of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula. Join our Highlights of Mexico Discovery Tour to step back in time and explore this timeworn complex, as well as journey through the rest of this vibrant country.

When is the best time to visit Chichen Itza?

Avoid the crowds and the intense heat of the midday sun with a trip to Chichen Itza early morning. On our Mexico small group tours, we explore the ruins during quieter times to allow you more time to soak up the feel and ambience of this magical setting.
"Having spent 2 years travelling and tour-leading in Mexico and Central America I can safely say that Chichen Itza is one of my absolute favourite pre-Columbian sites. Even after visiting it over 8 times, I am still struck not just by the sheer size of the ancient city, but by its architectural diversity (combining Maya with Aztec themes), the grandiose buildings and the detailed sculpture. The journey there is through rather unprepossessing scrub, little preparing you for the view of the Temple of Kukulcan. This is absolutely stunning – a huge stepped pyramid built in time-honoured fashion over the top of younger smaller temples."
John Telfer - Deputy Managing Director


Explore Chichen Itza and Mexico

Discover the incredible cultures, food, scenery and people of Mexico on one of our small group tours in Mexico.

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