It was a very early morning to be ready to leave Merida at 6:30 am. It was a very good decision on our guide’s part, though. We got to Chichen Itza about the time they opened at 8:00. It was warm already, but nothing like it would be later in the day. There were only a few other vehicles in the parking lot. Because of it’s location, it is a big draw for tours like ours, as well as day tours from Cancun and cruise ships. The site is magnificent, and much more developed for tourists than the others we have seen. It is also quite large with many areas and buildings to see. Also, the paths are lined with vendors of all things Mayan. There were only a few when we arrived at 8:00. By the time we left about 11:30, there were hundreds, and the parking lot was full as well. Also men in full costume out front for photo ops.
The first thing you see when you go in is the magnificent El Castillo, the large pyramid/temple. It was built over and around an earlier temple with a jaguar throne. Due to the crowds, none of the monuments could be climbed or entered. The rain god Chac, symbolized by snakes was in evidence by carvings on most of the buildings. One platform was covered by carvings of skulls, and other carvings showed eagles and jaguars eating out the hearts, and priests holding the decapitated heads. Very bloody business!
Some of the other buildings include:
An astronomical observatory with a good portion of the tower remaining. There is a spiral staircase inside the tower.
The largest ball court we have seen, with the stone rings intact. This must have been the Olympic stadium equivalent.
The temple of the warriors complex, or Group of 1000 Columns had at least that many showing how massive the buildings were.
Many other buildings and platforms reflecting the richness of the city in its prime.
After catching our breath, it was back on the bus to Playa del Carmen. Unlike previous days, the driving today was all on the toll freeway which was smooth and straight as an arrow, with very limited services or access points. It went like a tunnel through the low forest growth. It was a more comfortable ride than most days, but not nearly as interesting!
Playa del Carmen is a busy resort town on the Maya Riviera south of Cancun. It was good to get some lunch and have a cool place to rest and recover from our early start. We said goodbye to Jorge, our driver, who had to turn around and head back to Mexico City as soon as he dropped us off. Of course he won’t be going the winding paths we took through the mountains—about 1800 miles (3000 km).
Tonight we have our farewell dinner before everyone goes their separate ways tomorrow. We will go to the airport to pick up our rental car, and then head for Valladolid.