Located in Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Chichen Itza is a huge complex of Mayan ruins, which has a history that is 1500 years old. The Maya word Chichen Itza means, at the mouth of the well of the Itza. It is derived from three different words – Chi for mouth or edge, Chen for well and Itza for the Itza tribe. Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, which was later referred to in Mesoamerican literature.
It is believed that Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities, with a core covering an area of at least 5 square kilometers. Among the three best known sites of these complexes, perhaps the most important is the Great North Platform, which includes the massive pyramid known as El Castillo, Temple of Warriors and the Great Ball Court. The 98 feet high El Castilo pyramid is actually the temple of Kukulkan, a Maya feathered deity. Digging from the top of the pyramid, a second temple was found buried under the current temple. The Temple of the Warriors complex is huge and massive. It consists of a gigantic stepped pyramid, flanked by rows of tall carved columns depicting the warriors. Archaeologists have identified thirteen Ball Courts, for playing the Mesoamerican ball game in Chichen Itza. However, the Great Ball Court, measuring 551 feet by 230 feet, is the largest and the best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. The games had important ritual aspects, and major ball games were held as a part of the rituals. Legends say that the winning Capitan used to present his own head to the losing Capitan, who then used to decapitate him. While this may seem to be a very strange reward, the Mayans believed this to be the ultimate honor and direct ticket to heaven for the winning captain.
The Osario Group includes a pyramid of the same name as well as the Temple of Xtoloc. The Osario, like the El Castilo, has four sides with staircases on each side and there is a temple on the top. But unlike El Castillo, it has an opening in the centre of the pyramid, which leads to a natural cave 39 feet below.
The Central Group includes the El Caracol (The Snail), Las Monjas (The Nuns or The Nunnery), and Akab Dzib. The Akab Dzib, which means Dark Writing (dark in the sense of mystery) in Yucatec Mayan, is located to the east of the Caracol.
The Yucatan Peninsula does not have any river or stream. However, it has certain natural sinkholes, known as Cenotes, which exposes the water table to the surface. One of the most impressive of these is the Cenote Sagrado or the Sacred Cenote, which is 200 feet in diameter, surrounded by sheer cliffs that drop to about 80 feet below.
It is assumed that Chichen Itza was an important pilgrimage place for the Mayas. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and one of the wonders of the world in 2006.