Chichen Itza, one of the new seven wonders of the world is truly a wonder to be witnessed by the naked eye. The amount of science and math involved when these structures were built will leave you in awe and wonder. Even though you cannot enter or climb the Mayan Ruins, you will be able to learn why an observatory was constructed, how ancient games were played while standing in the playing field, and understand why your claps generate sounds from the top of El Castillo.
The best way to enjoy Chichen Itza is to take your time. We rented a car so we could manage our own time, and we also decided to get a local tour guide to talk/walk us through the experience. These two factors immensely maximized our trip experience, and are highly recommended.
Weather: The weather in the Yucatan Peninsula varies from warm to hot year round, but there are two noticeable wet and dry seasons. The wet season, (also known as the hurricane season) typically starts in June and ends in October. The dry season begins in November and lasts through May. An optimal time to travel is in May after Spring Break and before June. Prices tend to be a little lower, the volume of visitors have decreased, and the weather is still great. If you plan to book your trip in the summer months be sure to check the weather patterns.
Basic Style Etiquette for Men and Women: Casual and sophisticated. Men and women should pack clothing that is light and breathable; leave your jeans at home. For women: when you are touring around, it is acceptable to wear a bathing suit with a tank top, shorts, and sneakers. Men can wear similar attire when touring; bathing suit, shirt, and sneakers. If you plan on spending the night in Chichen Itza or dinner attire is smart casual.
Culture: Many of the tour guides and vendors are from the surrounding towns. They are very much connected to the local culture and history. Ask your tour guide questions. I was particularly interested about the construction of the city itself and how the townspeople uphold traditions of their ancestors through the modern day.
Shopping: If you are looking for a variety of handmade goods, be sure to make time to check out what the vendors have to offer. Be ready to bargain; you will have multiple vendors selling the same product. Inspect the quality of the product, and make sure it resonates with your style. Personally, I wished I would have picked up hand painted bowls, and slightly regret not doing so.
Some Suggested Activities In Chichen Itza:
Clap In Front of the Mayan Temple of Kukulcan (the feathered serpent god): The sound of your clapping generates sacred sounds of the quetzal bird. As we said before, it is all about science and math. The number of steps, sides, and dimensions were designed to create this sound. The spring and autumn equinoxes are also a great time to visit. It has been said that Kukulcan returns to earth to provide blessings before entering the sacred water on his way to the underworld, expressed in this picture below. You can see a serpent crawling down the temple; a little creepy yet fascinating.
The Observatory: El Caracol is named after its interior spiral shaped staircase, is a Mayan ruin built to observe a 360 view of the stars, to track eclipses, and equinoxes. Windows were constructed to follow the movement of Venus in conjunction with the movement of Earth.
Juego de Pelota - The games played in this field were no joking matter. The losing team is dishonored by sacrificing the winning team leader in front of all spectators. By killing the winner, they now have the honor to be with the Gods.
If You Are A Foodie: It is a little difficult to find restaurants near Chichen Itza. Surrounding hotels tend to provide a buffet lunch after you have toured the ruins. The Lodge at Chichen Itza was a place we discovered en route after taking the toll road from Riviera Maya. If you are driving, expect to have people from the lodge stop you to offer a packaged deal exclusive of parking, easy access to an entrance, and lunch. The deal was hassle free, and the local food was delicious.
Safety Tip: Carry water, sunblock, a snack, and an umbrella and/or a hat when you are touring. You do not want to get dehydrated or sunburnt on your trip, do you?