The stunning ruins of Chichén Itzá are evidence of a sensational ancient city that was the centre of the Mayan Empire in Central America. The largest and the most impressive of Mayan ruins, Chichén Itzá today has become the most prominent tourist attraction in Mexico. And the step pyramid, the one that is the most recognisable monument in the area, is called Kukulkan's Pyramid or El Castillo. These ruins are a great reflection of the advanced stage of science and astronomy that the Mayan culture was capable of. The step-pyramid itself has 365 steps, one each for every day of the calendar!
Adjacent to the great ballcourt is the tzompantli, a rack where the skulls of warriors, captives, sacrificial victims, and the winners of the games were displayed. The skulls were strung together through the sides, like that of barbequed meat. Beyond the tzompantli are two platforms, the Platforms of the Eagles and Jaguars, and the Platform of Venus, dedicated to the planet that figured so much in Mayan astronomy. Beyond it was the Sacred Cenote, the water-filled sinkhole that became a pilgrimage site for the Mayans. Archaeologists recovered human remains, gold and other offerings from the bottom of the cenote. It's not as big as the one in Hacienda Lorenzo Oxman though. On the east side of El Castillo is another stepped pyramid called Temple of the Warriors. On the top of the pyramid is a chacmool, a sculpture depicting a reclining human figure. On the figure's stomach is a bowl where human hearts are deposited during the ritual sacrifices.
El Castillo is not the only large-scale structure in the city though. To the west of El Castillo is the Great Ballcourt, which at 550 feet long, is the largest in Mesoamerica. It is where the game called ōllamaliztli was played in ancient times. Ōllamaliztli is similar to the modern-day raquetball. Players would hit the heavy ball made of solid rubber using their hips and try to shoot them through stone rings installed along the walls running along the court. The games were only witnessed by the powers-that-be of the Mayan society, and the ordinary people are not allowed to watch them (although people play them outside in their homes). The players were handpicked from the best of the best, and the prize for winning the game is to be ritually sacrificed in the temple. Losing the game would mean humiliation as losing players were considered unfit for the gods, while winning one would mean eternal glory, although at the expense of having one's heart cut out after being decapitated. At the end of the ball court is the Temple of the Bearded Man. The building, decorated with bas-relief, probably is where the nobility and the priests watch the games. Two more temples - the Temples of the Jaguars - were built on top of the walls flanking the court. One overlooks the court, while the other faces the main plaza. These temples were decorated with bas-relief too, with the serpent the predominant motif.
Dive into 130 feet deep waters of the Cenote Ik Kil in Mexico. Arguably one of the most beautiful cenotes in the country, it is open to the sky with vines reaching down to its crystal clear waters. However, it has not always been for recreational purposes—it is a sacred site of the Mayans who performed human sacrifices to their rain god here. You can jump into the hole from a platform or step down from the ladder—either way, it will be an experience you won’t forget for a long time.