April 26, 2021

The El Castillo: Ancient Mayan Temple

Tinum, Yucatan, Mexico
Moderate
4+hours

We are currently back in Mexico exploring! We had the amazing opportunity to wander through the ancient Mayan ruins, and the Temple of Kukulcán, also known as El Castillo. This exquisite sight is a step-pyramid that sits at the center of the Chichen Itza. The Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city as well as an archaeological site in the Mexican state of Yucatán. 

The Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza was a Mayan city on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The Chichen Itza was built by the Mayans. Historians are not 100% sure when this city was built, but some accounts place the establishment of the city in the early 400s A.D. However, the Chichen Itza was an essential center of political and economic activity by 600 A.D. By this time, it was considered to be one of the largest cities in the Mayan world.

The fall of Chichen Itza is thought to have been approximately around 1000 A.D. The people left no record of why they abandoned the city. It’s assumed that droughts, exhausted soils, and conquests could have contributed to the fall of Chichen Itza. When the Spanish conquistadors took over in 1526, they set up a temporary capital. Chichen Itza is now classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Today, this amazing location is an important tourist attraction, and also remains an active archeological site.

El Castillo

El Castillo, also known as “The Castle” or “The Pyramid of Kukulcán,” is an amazing structure popular for both tourists and locals. This temple was dedicated to the serpent god, Kukulcán. The god Kukulcán was a war serpent, and also a vision serpent. In Chichen Itza, he ruled over the sacrifices. 

The name “El Castillo” was given to the ancient pyramid by the Spanish conquistadors and was built between 800 and 900 CE by the Mayans. This structure stands at the center of the Chichen Itza with its base being 53.3 meters wide on all four sides, 24 meters tall, and has a 6-meter temple on top of the highest platform.  Each of the four sides of the pyramid has 91 stairs, with a total of 364. The platform at the top makes a grand total of 365 steps. This temple shows how skillful the Mayans were when building this amazing structure. The accuracy of the measurements is amazing to see as you explore this temple full of sheer wonder.

The Experience

As you can see in the photos above, there was also a small shopping market located right outside the Chichen Itza. Little shops and vendors lined the path selling things such as clothes, trinkets, and souvenirs. We had such an amazing time exploring these ancient Maya ruins. Exploring the site, while learning about its rich history, was truly an unforgettable experience. I would highly recommend checking out this monument if you are visiting Mexico. We also had the opportunity to view some of the Mayan ruins from a helicopter. You can read more about that experience here. In other words, thanks for following along. Stay tuned for more adventures to come!

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Big Guy Big World is a travel blog, following Mark Jacoby’s journey as a big guy on a bigger journey, exploring the world during a global pandemic. Follow along as we experience some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic places.