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The 7 Wonders - Chichen Itza

What does it take to become a 'Wonder of the World'?
The phrase was declared centuries ago by the Greek historian Herodotus and scholar Callimachus of Cyrene as a tribute to some of the world’s most awe-inspiring and incredible sights, both natural and manmade.


This Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was the first of many, yet what with advances in technology and engineering, together with the damaging effects of time, this collection of wonders continues to be re-imagined and rewritten.

The Seven Wonders of the New World was drawn up in 2007 based on over 100 million votes from people worldwide. And while deciding on the world’s most beautiful and iconic natural wonders and manmade structures is a matter of subjectivity, there’s a reason some of these sites are at the top of many a traveller’s wish list – because they are quite simply as beautiful and iconic as the scholars would have us believe.

So many of the Explore staff have experienced these wonders, we thought it was only fair to share our facts and reviews with you, starting with Chichen Itza ...

Chichen Itza

Mystery and suspense continue to surround the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in the Mexican state of Yucatan. The stepped pyramids, monolithic columns and temples reveal a number of architectural styles, only serving to confuse archaeologists. While the ruins’ demonstration of the Mayan’s supreme knowledge of astronomical science also baffles the experts – the Mayans devised the 365-day calendar. Its undisputed masterpiece is the Temple of Kukulkan, which casts the illusion of a serpent crawling down the pyramid during the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Chichen Itza Facts:

  • Chichen Itza means “at the mouth of the well of Itza”
  • Chichen Itza is perhaps the largest, most famous and most accessible Mayan site, about 125 kilometres west of Cancun and Cozumel.
  • It was established before the period of Christopher Colombus
  • On the day of the spring equinox, the light of the sun creates a shadow effect on the Temple of Kukulcan that resembles a climbing snake. Thousands of tourists visit Chichen Itza every year to view this impressive show.
  • Its four sides contain 365 steps (depicting the solar year), 52 panels (for each year in the Mayan century as well as each week in the solar year) and 18 terraces (for the 18 months in the religious year). Inside, the Castillo is an interesting temple accessible up a narrow stairway.

Chichen Itza Review:

"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-Colombian sites. Even after having visited 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. The Great Ball Court is the largest in existence – frescoes depict a  decapitated player (presumably a loser) with blood spurting out of his neck. Another area has hundreds of column carved as warriors – and with the unsettling figure of a Chac Mool (a reclining  slightly alien-looking  figure on which was placed the still beating heart of a human sacrifice). As a birthday treat I once bought a miniature Chac Mool for a customer’s birthday – and decorated it with a  chicken heart from the kitchen for authenticities sake!"
John Telfer - Product and Operations Director

Our 15-day Kingdom of the Maya trip travels from Guatemala, through Honduras and into Mexico taking in some of Central America’s most spectacular sites, including Chichen Itza.

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