This area has literally dozens of small Mayan ruins, but the most famous ancient historical site is certainly the Chichen Itza. The tour of the site starts at 8 a.m. and ends around 8 p.m., but I’m glad to say it’s well worth your time. Hey, we got to see the one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Kukulkan Pyramid. What really makes this 1000-year-old temple special is the acoustics. If you clap your hands at a certain spot in front of it, the pyramid generates what our guide called the “chirped echo”, a sound that ascends and quickly fails, like the cry of a bird.Friendly Advice – What to PackU.S. CurrencyThis was my first time traveling to Mexico, and many of my more experienced friends told me to get Mexican currency, but also to keep a hundred or so dollars stashed away. The reason is simple – the dollar has a higher value to the people who live there. If you don’t mind slipping a few extra bucks to people who work hard (as you should), this is actually a pretty cool idea.Sunscreen with High SPFForget about the spray-on tanning oil, if you plan to visit Cancun, make sure to bring some actual, high SPF sunscreen. Don’t be overconfident about your ability to tan without getting sunburn like me. The first day we went to the beach, I put on some SPF 15 and just lay under the strong Mexican sun for about an hour reading a book. I promptly turned red and spent the rest of the trip trying to avoid the sun as much as I could.Bring a Few Water BottlesYou probably have heard this before, but if you go to Mexico – don’t drink the tap water. The country has the largest per capita of bottled water for a reason, because if you drink just a couple of glasses you’ll get really, really sick. In fact, a couple of years ago, my friend went to Mexico and drank water she thought was safe, basically every day. After she got home, she felt sick for weeks.
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.