Today we head inland to visit one of the largest Maya cities that ever existed: Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza translates to “At the mouth of the well of the Itzaes” and was built between the Late Classic (600-900 AD) and the Terminal Classic Period (800-900 AD). It is located near two large sinkholes called cenotes, Cenote Sagrado and Cenote Xtoloc. Cenotes are sacred to the Maya and other than a source of water, they are believed to be the portals to the underworld. Here Cenote Sagrado was often used to worship the Maya rain god Chaac. Chichen Itza was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World as well as a UNESCO World Hertiage Site. It remains the most important archaeological vestige of the Maya-Toltec civilization in Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza served as the primary ceremonial center for the Mayas until about 1000 AD when the Toltecs invaded the area. Toltec practices then fused with Maya ones to create a cohesive community.
Instead of taking a dip in the crowded Ik Kil with people jumping off the side into the water and others in life jackets bopping around, we went for a quick visit to the cute little town of Valladolid. In 1545, Valladolid was built on top of a Maya town called Zaci where original buildings were dismantled to make use of the stone in building the new Spanish colonial town. This town has witnessed many conflicts between the Maya and the Spanish including the Yucatan Castle War. Today, Valladolid became part of the Magical Villages Program where buildings, funded by the Mexican Tourism Department, were restored.
This concludes my two weeks in Central America. Stay tuned for my next trip to see the Giant Pandas in Chengdu, China!
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