This morning we headed to the once thriving and largest city of the Mayans, Chichen Itza. We were greeted by a tour guide who directed us to a map of Chichen Itza. He briefly explained the different architectures and its relationship to astronomy, religion and Mayan culture. Then, he led us to the entrance while we were filled with excitement and anticipation of seeing the monuments with our own eyes. Finally there it was, the Temple of Kulkulkan! This sacred pyramid caught everyone’s attention and we were in awe with this 75 feet tall marvel.
An impressive astronomic feature of the pyramid is that during the equinoxes each year, an illusion of a shadowy serpent created by sunlight makes it way down the platform. Another interesting element was that every time our tour guide clapped his hands near the pyramid, we heard a mysterious echo of a bird’s chirp. Specifically, we were told it was the sound of the quetzal, a divine bird to the Mayans. Several of us attempted to replicate this impressive sound; unfortunately, we could not execute the clapping technique correctly.
Surrounding the Temple of Kulkulkan were many other major monuments, such as the Platform of Venus, Temple of the Warriors, Observatory, and the Great Ball Court which had acoustic sounds of its own when the tour guide clapped his hands underneath the court’s rings. Again, we could not execute the clapping technique! Our final stop was the enormous Sacred Cenote –also known as the sacrificial Cenote to the Rain God, Chaac. Jewelry, weapons, tools, as well as humans, were among some of the offerings. It was clear that all monuments had social, astronomical or religious significance. Chichen Itza was a prominent ceremonial center for the Mayans. Being able to see the marvels that the Mayans constructed was definitely one of the many highlights of our Mexico trip.
After walking around Chichen Itza in the hot sun for most of the morning, we were able to cool down and relax at the Xcajum cenote. The cenote was surrounded with amazing wildlife and a natural landscape. After spending over an hour and a half swimming around with the fish in the cenote, we ate at the cenote buffet which had some really great tacos. Following eating, some of us decided to hang out in the hammocks before heading back to the hotel.
On our way back, we decided to stop in Izamal, also known as the Yellow City. Almost every building in this city has been painted yellow.
In the center of the city is a convent and church, which was built atop a flattened Mayan temple/pyramid. This convent boasts the largest atrium in the Americas and the second largest in the world following the Vatican atrium. Pope John Paul II visited Izamal in August of 1993 and performed a mass here during which he celebrated not only the Mayan indigenous population, but all indigenous populations across the Americas. The people of this town were very honored and erected a statue in his memory which can be found by the entrance of the church. Scattered around the city you can also find crumbled remains of Mayan pyramids that once were.
After returning to our hotel, we decided to make the most of our last night in Merida and explore the night life once more. As some of us headed out around 9:30 pm, restaurants were just putting out their outdoor seating on blocked off roads inviting us inside. We found our way to Mercado 60, but not before stopping for the crunchy and extremely delicious marquestia filled with your choice of gouda cheese, nutella, or cajeta. Mercado 60 is an outdoor market with lots of food options and a live band. As the live band played, people would go up and start salsaing with others to the music. Two of our very own found the courage to ask some of the locals to show them how to dance!