Our high school Spanish teacher had a real thing for Mayans and Aztecs so the bulk of our "cultural lessons" consisted of her presenting what seemed like long names we couldn't pronounce (that didn't seem to sound like Spanish to us) and exotic animal motifs. But there was something that stuck with me, even all these years later, and I had to see it for myself.
This Gringo Honeymoon, who has her own view of the ruins, prepped me that Chichen Itza could have it's downsides: it's crowded and "manicured" amongst other things so we went in with eyes open and planned accordingly based on her advice and were able to get quite a bit out of it.
We came to Chichen Itza from Tulum (which frankly is not the closest, you could save yourself part of the drive if you go from Cancun) and left bright and early at 6am. I'm not sure what I was expecting from highways in Mexico, but at least for the Yucatan at that hour of the morning, they're a dream. We maybe saw a handful of cars, and not yet a bus in sight. This will be key, since once the buses start rolling in, you can pretty much forget it.
The drive was pleasant, and the ruins open at 9am, and we made it with time to spare - I think we were the second couple to go in so we had the rare priviledge of having the Grand Pyramid pretty much all to ourselves. I have to say that in my mind, I had been picturing the pyramid much much taller - like a skyscraper so at first pass I was a little disappointed. But it's actually not the size that's so imposing, it's the spread of the ruins, the steepness of the pyramid, and the fact that you realize you really are in the middle of the jungle. After a few snaps, we sat down on a shady bench at the base and had a little picnic breakfast that we brought - not a bad view afterall, right?
We hit up the main sites, and then enjoyed a lot of the ruins that are back behind the pyramid which many of the tours didn't seem to go to, even once it started getting more crowded there was hardly anyone back there so lots of time to explore and get pictures. As you'll see below, jaguars (yes! my teacher was right on the exotic animal motifs!) figured prominently into the ruins and therefore my pictures. We took our time and wrapped up shortly before noon, just as the parking lot was jam packed of buses - paused for a little granita at the stand to help break the heat and moved on our way....As far as crowded tourist attractions go, I'd say we came up with a pretty good plan.
This Gringo Honeymoon asked me a question that hit on my only regret from the visit. And that was that I didn't purchase the handkerchief they sell as a souvenir (amongst a panoply of countless other items), and it was on my mind for a long time, just like the leather necklace I didn't buy at Coqui Coqui. The lady was selling them on the handball court and I just assumed we would see them again but since we were there early I didn't see another vendor. In the words of my mom, I guess I left something to come back for.
|spot the iguana.|
All photos by The New Diplomats Wife.