Chichen Itza, Yucatan
El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukulkan), Chichen Itza's most spectacular Maya relic. Sadly, you can no longer climb this monumental pyramid, nor the Temple of the Warriors.
Chichén Itzá: This ruined 5thC Maya city in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula features Kukulkan/El Castillo, the prettiest pyramid in the world (though not the biggest, that's the still overgrown Cholula) and many other stunning stone buildings, monuments and carvings.
Some of the more popular monuments are: the Great Ballcourt; the Temple of the Jaguars (attached to the ballcourt complex; with stone jaguar; feathered serpent columns and murals); the Cenote Sagrado; the Observatory (El Caracol); the Platform of Skulls and various Sweatbaths which played an important rule in ancient Maya spiritual traditions as places to purify the mind, body, and emotions.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichén Itzá (the accent marks denote Spanish language stress on those vowels), a Maya city at its peak of importance around 600 AD. The Kukulkan Temple is made of stone and measures 65metres high, 200 metres each side.
Unlike Egyptian pyramids which were solid stone, Maya pyramids were usually built over a mound of earth or rubble.
The view from the top of the Kukulkan pyramid towards the Templo de los Guerreros (Warrior Temple) and giving a clear view of the flat, dense green vegetation of most of the Yucatan peninsula.
The Maya often constructed fresh, larger pyramids on top of older ones so tunnels have been excavated allowing tourists a view of the earlier temple of Kukulcan inside the current one.
Look for the door at the foot of the north stairway and go up a steep interior stairway to the room at the top where you can see King Kukulcan's Jaguar Throne, carved of stone and painted red with jade spots. It's impressive but the climb up the constrictive passageway may be a struggle against screaming claustrophobia.
The Templo de los Guerreros frieze. More Chichen Itaza Pictures.
Getting there: One day is not enough for Chichén Itza; the best way to optimise the experience is to spend at least one evening and the next morning there.
It's well worth overnighting at a Piste hotel or guest house, the little town 2 kms away (or at the lovely Mayaland hotel if you can afford it; it's inside Chichen Itza grounds!) to avoid the 10.30am tourist rush from Merida (1 hour), Cancun (2 hours) and so on.