Wandering Chichén Itzá was nothing short of surreal. The searing heat caused me to nearly faint on several occasions only added to the experience. I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember, and then the day sneaks up and suddenly I was sitting among these archeological ruins left behind by the Mayan and Toltec civilisations since around 600AD.
I organised a private taxi driver for the trips I wanted to go on from Cancun, and found the lovely José who drove my brother and I the 2 hours through Yucatan to Chichén Itzá. I highly recommended getting a trustworthy personal driver, as it worked out to cost barely more than a large group tour bus would have. We made sure to arrive before the crowds did at 9am, and while our driver waited outside we found a sweet old tour guide to teach us as much as possible while wandering the site. He was the sweetest man in his late 50’s that also happened to be a local living just up the road his whole life, who started working as a tour guide everyday at Chichén Itzá alongside his brother since he was 17.
The site itself is spread over quite a few kilometres, majority being cleared land that is lined with trees and market stalls. We walked what used to be the ‘roads’ that joined the Toltec and Mayan around the site, learning how vastly different their cultures were. The Mayans focused on astrology, agriculture and architecture which were all reflected heavily throughout their buildings detailing praise to their rain god Chaac whom they praised to help their crops and even an observatory.
The Toltec’s had a large focus on warfare and gratifying human sacrifice. Their architecture showed beheadings after ball games in their enormous court, and coyotes, eagles and jaguars feasting on human hearts. My favourite details were the Tzompantli skull rack and the Temple of Warriors, where the sun sets between the snake tails on top (as shown in the guides photo book).