Many tourists visit Chichen Itza as a day trip, especially from Cancun, more than 100 miles away. This allows time to see only a portion of this large site. Those with more than a casual interest in seeing this grand ancient ruined city should consider spending a night at one of Chichen's hotels.
Chichen Itza was a center of pilgrimage for the ancient Maya for over 1,000 years. The Sacred Cenote (a large natural well) was holy to the ancient Rain God "Chac".
About 987 ruler of the Toltec people of central Mexico came here, and with his Maya allies made Chichen Itza the most powerful city in the Yucatan. The ruler called himself "Kukulcan", the name of the Mesoamerican Feathered Serpent diety (also known as "Quetzalcoatl") and Chichen Itza became a center for worship of that god as well. More buildings were built here in a mixture of Maya and Toltec styles.
About 1221 the Maya revolted against the rulers of Chichen Itza. The city was not abandoned, but as political power shifted elsewhere it declined and no major new buildings were constructed. Chichen Itza remained a place of pilgrimage for the Maya until it was conquered by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century.
The structures of Chichen Itza were overgrown with jungle and slowly decayed until major archeological projects began in the 1920s. Ever since then, more of the ancient stuctures have been cleared and restored and more and more tourists come to visit.
By road. Chichen Itza is on the main highway between the capital city of Merida, Yucatan and Cancun. Come by automobile or take the very regular bus service.
At the site you get around on foot. Wear sturdy comfortable walking shoes. Sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat may be good ideas too.
The regular stream of buses makes it no problem for those without a car to get back and forth from the ruins to their hotel and nearby attractions and restaurants.
The ruins of a facinating civilization of times past. Well informed guides speaking all major languages are availible for hire here, or explore on your own with a guide book and map.
If you stay a night here, come to the ruins early in the day before the sun is so hot and the site is less crowded before most of the day trippers arrive.
Be sure to drink lots of bottled water and soft drinks. Those not accustomed to the tropical heat and sun can otherwise risk dehydration.
There are several refreshment stands in the ruins.
There are a number of hotels by the ruins, along the highway nearby, and in the nearby town of Piste.
They include the Hacienda Chichen, a Club Med, and others in a variety of price ranges. Some have good swiming pools and restaurants.
Further away, one can stay in the small colonial city of Valladolid, Yucatan, some 25 miles distant.