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This Heritage Site Near Cancun Is Among The Most Popular On Earth

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The Yucatan state boasts over 2,000 Mayan archaeological sites, with new findings emerging yearly and potentially thousands more awaiting discovery.

Yet among these Mayan treasures, none have captivated the hearts of visitors quite like the majestic Chichen Itzá. 

Chichen Itza

Designated a World Heritage site in 1988 and recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World in 2007, this archaeological marvel serves as the embodiment of the enigmatic Mayan civilization.

The city welcomed a whopping 3.5 million visitors in 2022, with international travelers accounting for more than half of the total figure.

And Chichen Itzá’s growing popularity shows no signs of stopping. A recent report by gambling firm Betway positioned Chichen Itzá in the top 10 most Instagrammed world heritage locations on the planet.

With a staggering count of 1,070,895 Instagram hashtags, Chichen Itzá earned the 8th spot among the world’s most popular cultural world heritage sites, sharing the spotlight with iconic sites like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, and Petra.

@chitoseliva Whats included in the Mexican Chichen Itza Tour #chitours #chitoseliva #fyp ♬ love nwantinti (ah ah ah) – CKay

Considering that the study ranked more than 100 world heritage sites worldwide, Chichen Itzá’s ranking vividly illustrates its immense popularity among globetrotters.

So, what exactly sets Chichen Itzá apart from other legendary world heritage sites?

Let’s delve into the rich history of this archeological gem, explore the reasons behind its massive popularity, and more.

Chichen Itza’s Fascinating Past

The city’s origins trace back to 250 AD to 900 AD –  long before the Aztecs rose to prominence between 1300 and 1521. 

In its prime, Chichen Itzá was home to approximately 35,000 people and extended over an area of 4 square miles.

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Chichen Itza ground view

Towering at an impressive height of 30 meters, the awe-inspiring Pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as ‘El Castillo’, is undoubtedly the city’s most iconic structure.

Each of the building’s four sides features 91 stairs, facing north, east, south, and west, totaling 365 steps. 

If that number sounds familiar, it’s because it parallels the days in the solar year – a testament to the Mayans’ astonishing mathematical and astronomical skills.

However, the secrets of El Castillo don’t end there.

@drewhacks i love that dog at the end 🇲🇽 welcome to Chichén Itzá! #mexico #travel #drewhacks ♬ original sound – DrewHacks

The Descent Of The Serpent & Exciting New Section Reveal

If you happen to visit Chichen Itzá during the spring or the autumn equinox, be prepared to experience an extraordinary phenomenon known as ‘The Descent Of The Serpent’.

During this breathtaking spectacle, the sun’s rays align perfectly, casting shadows that give the illusion of Kukulcan, the giant serpent deity, descending the pyramid’s steps.

serpent at sunset in Chichen-Itza

Every year, hundreds of local and international visitors flock to Chichen Itzá to witness this mesmerizing phenomenon.

Beyond ‘El Castillo’, the ancient city showcases a collection of impressive structures, including the famous Great Ball Court, the Temples Of The Jaguar, and the North Temple.

On September 2, a new section of the city, known as Chichén Viejo (Old Chichen), will be finally open to the public after its discovery back in 1998.

How To Get There & Visitor Tips

There are several ways you can get to Chichen Itzá, including public transportation, car rental, or booking a private tour.

If you’re coming from Cancun, renting a car is a popular choice, with the journey taking approximately 4 hours. Alternatively, you can opt for the ADO bus, which often provides a convenient round-trip service with morning departures and afternoon returns.

chichen itza site

Many travelers prefer guided excursions as they remove the hassle of arranging transportation and guides. Moreover, some of these tours include visits to cenotes, meals, and a stop in the charming Magical Town of Valladolid.

Soon, Chichen Itzá will feature its own Maya Train station, which will make the trip much more convenient.

To maximize your visit, it’s advisable to arrive early, as Chichen Itzá can become crowded. Given the hot weather, wearing sunscreen, carrying water, and dressing comfortably are all good ideas.

Large Crowd at Chichen Itza, a Popular Mayan Ruin Near Cancun, Mexico

Lastly, hiring a guide can enhance your experience by providing in-depth information about the history and significance of the various structures at this fascinating heritage site.

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