The Chichen Itza ruins are remains of the Mayan empire. Built over the course of 1,000 years, these monuments of stone tell the story of a civilization that flourished before the Spanish settled the New World. The location of Chichen Itza, at the north of the Yucatan Peninsula, makes the ruins easy to visit—the ruins are a quick trip from Cozumel and Cancun and their many Pacific Ocean resorts.
The name means "at the edge of the well of Itza." The Itza were a population flourishing before the Spanish Conquest, living at the site hundreds of years after the stone structures were built. These Chichen Itza facts are amazing to think about and even more amazing to discover in person. On tours of Chichen Itza, a local guide can take you to the structures and explain the story of the people who built them. They'll also talk about the archaeologists who discovered the Chichen Itza ruins and shared them with the world. Since their work in the 1920s, the ruins have become some of the most visited places in Mexico and symbols of the Mayan world.
The most famous of the ruins are the Temple of the Warriors, El Castillo, and El Caracol, the circle-shaped observatory. All three were carved from stone by expert crafters working at a time before computers and power tools. El Castillo is perhaps the most iconic of the three. It's the temple with stairs on all four sides, open to climb. The temple was built sometime around 1,000 A.D. as a monument to Kukulkan, a snake deity with feathers. Each of the staircases has 91 steps, which adds up to 365. The observatory was built a century earlier, most likely, and was used to track the movement of Venus and other celestial bodies. Even though it's now part of the Chichen Itza ruins, it still can be used to watch the skies with great accuracy.
The Chichen Itza location is home to many more structures worth exploring. The Mayans also crafted monuments, roads, and a host of temples. Today these treasures are part of an archaeological park, and one entry fee will take care of anything you want to see. The ruins also have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protecting these treasures for generations to come.