The fourth part of our roadtrip around the Yucatan peninsula led us from Izamal to Valladolid via the beautiful Chichen Itza.
1. Chichen Itza
Going to Chichen Itza was a dream come true! I remember learning about this amazingly well preserved pyramid in my World History class and I had always wanted to go there ever since. I could not stop taking pictures once I was actually facing this beautiful monument. It is incredible to think that it was built such a long time ago, and that it is still there, in this amazing state of conservation, as if the Mayas had just left.
The city reached its golden time during the 13th century with about 35 000 inhabitants. Today it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, together with the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, the Christ Redeemer in Brazil, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Roman Colleseum in Italy, the Taj Mahal in India.
The main building is the Temple of Kukulkan, a Maya feathered serpent god. It is generally referred to as “El Castillo” (the castle). Carved heads of a serpent can be seen at the base of the pyramid. With a height of about 30 meters and a series of nine square terraces, it is not the heighest mayan pyramid but it is the best preserved.
The Temple of the Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors complex consists of a pyramid flanked by rows of carved columns depicting warriors.
The Great Ball Court
This ball court is impressive by its size: 168m by 70m. This is where was played the “juego de pelota” (ball game), a popular game in Mesoamerica. The aim of this game was to put the ball inside a circular stone goal. Players were only allowed to touch the ball with their hips and forearms!
At one end of the Great Ball Court is the North Temple, also known as the Temple of the Bearded Man.
The Osario pyramid
This pyramid is rather similar to El Castillo but much smaller. It also has four stairways, one on each of its sides, as well as serpent heads at this basis.
The observatory and la Iglesia
The observatory is another remarkable feature of the site. This round building is also called “El Caracol” (the snail) because of its spiral staircase. This building was probably used as an observatory.
La Iglesia is another structure located near the observatory.
The Sacred Cenote
The sacred cenote of Chichen Itza is one of the most impressive cenote of the peninsula with its 60-meter diameter. It is surrounded by cliffs that drop to the water some 27 meters bellow.
It was a place of pilgrimage for ancient Maya people. Thousands of objects have been removed from the bottom of the cenote, including material such as gold, carved jade, copal, pottery, flint, obsidian, shell, wood, rubber, cloth, as well as skeletons of children and men.
After a day exploring Chichen Itza, we hopped back into the car in direction to San Felipe, a lovely little town on the Gulf of Mexico.
2. San Felipe
Going to San Felipe was like going to a fairy tale town. This beautiful fisherman town is made up of tiny little houses in many different colors. I loved walking around the little streets lined up with these colorful houses.
We arrived just on time to see the fishermen coming back. It seems the catch had been good that day. They were proud to show us a baby shark. If you are a sea food lover, you will be in heaven. You will easily find lobster for a very cheap price.
Valladolid was the last colonial town that we visited during this trip and probably the most beautiful. Like all other colonial town, it was founded during the Spanish conquest (around 1545) on the site of a Maya city.
The main plaza is very pleasant with its colorful buildings and its beautiful church. If you happen to be there on a Sunday night, do not miss the fiesta hold on the plaza. There will be music and all generations of Mexicans happily dancing to the sound of Latin music.
Most importantly, do not miss the incredible cenotes. What is very surprising about Valladolid is that there is a cenote in the city center, two steps away from the cathedral! Going to this cenote is like going to an open-air swimming pool. You have to pay a small entrance fee but it really is worth it. You will reach this little piece of heaven right inside the city.
A bit further from the city center, I discovered the cenote which most impressed me in the whole trip. Imagine going into a cave and finding this natural pool with crystal clear water. There is a hole at the top of the cave and the roots of a tree are plunging right into the water… I was speechless as I had never seen anything like this.
Next and final stop: the beautiful island of Holbox.