Skip to main content
1-800-590-1161Help & contactEarn free travel
BlogDestinations4 things you’ll learn on a tour of Chichen Itza

4 things you’ll learn on a tour of Chichen Itza

Apr 02, 2016 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

A sought-after activity for visitors to Mexico’s Yucatàn Peninsula, a tour of Chichen Itza offers a spectacular look at the ruins of the Mayan civilization. Read on for some of the fascinating history you’ll learn on our Highlights of Mexico guided tour, then see what mystery still surrounds this UNESCO-recognized archaeological site.

Facts about Chichen Itza

1. Chichen Itza was an elite, cultural city

The Maya were an advanced civilization. They studied mathematics and astronomy and are thought to have created the hemisphere’s first written language. And Chichen Itza was considered a major regional capital, from the 7th century through around 1200 A.D. Citizens traded valuable gold and obsidian thanks to the city’s well-placed port, and they enjoyed the benefits of an educational system. Some archaeologists have suggested that the settlement may have been ruled by a council of elite members, as opposed to having a single ruler like in other Mayan societies.

The Temple of Kukulkan

2. The Temple of Kukulkan is more than just a temple

Known as “El Castillo,” this four-sided stepped pyramid is the iconic symbol of the complex. Its 365 steps nod to the calendar developed by Mayan astronomers, who were advanced enough to predict solar eclipses. Temple builders positioned the building so a snake-like ray of light descends the temple steps each year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a tribute to the feathered serpent for which it’s named.

Ancient Mayan sports

3. The Mayans were serious ball players

The ball court at Chichen Itza is the largest of those known in the Americas, and it’s where players participated in a game called “pitz” (also enjoyed by the likes of the Aztecs). While details of the game are unclear, it’s thought to have resembled modern-day racquetball, but with players using their hips to hit a solid rubber ball weighing around nine pounds.

The fate of the Mayans remains unclear

4. The settlement is still shrouded in mystery

The demise of Chichen Itza is still a bit murky, and we might never know what happened. The Maya abandoned the site for around 100 years but resettled there by A.D. 900. Then, a ruler called Kukulkan (he of the eponymous temple) lead the Toltecs to the area, where the two cultures lived together, seemingly quite peaceably. There is archaeological evidence to suggest the city was sacked at one time, possibly by the nearby Mayapan settlement, but not enough to be sure. When Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, they recorded encounters with locals but were unclear about whether the people still inhabited Chichen Itza or had settled elsewhere in the Yucatàn.

Have you ever been on a tour of Chichen Itza, Mexico? Share your experiences with us on Facebook!

About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

Explore Mexico & beyond on tour

Costa Rica: Rainforests, Volcanoes & Wildlife
9 days | 12 days with Manuel Antonio & San José extension

4.7 out of 5 stars

View tour
View tour
See all

Get more travel inspiration & insider tips for Central America

The complete Costa Rica Travel Guide: the best things to do, see, and eat