Chichen Itza is the most famous of all the great Mayan cities. This is somewhat ironic because its most famous structures do not have a typical Classic Mayan architecture but show strong influences from other civilizations from Central Mexico. It is also the most developed of the many Mayan ruins and can get crowded. But the combination of grant scale monuments and the mysterious precise astronomical calculation in the buildings make the Chichen Itza ruins truly amazing.
The Maya name “Chich’en Itza” means “At the mouth of the well of the Itza”. This well is probably the Sacred Cenote, one of two large natural sink holes found at the site. Itzá is the name of an ethnical Maya group that may have originated from the city of Motul de San José near lake Peten Itza in Guatemala. Itza means ‘enchanted waters’ and may refer to this lake. From there they migrated to Yucatan during the Maya collapse at the end of the Classic Period. After Chichen Itza collapsed itself centuries later they left the Yucatán region and returned south again to build the city of Tayasal (modern-day Flores) on a small island in Lake Petén Itzá.
Temple of Kukulkan. Photo by kyle simourd