When we arrived in Chichen Itza, we pulled up to a beautiful hacienda surrounded by some of the most lush gardens and grounds I've ever seen. Originally built in 1523, and purchased in 1900 by an American for $75, this 60 hectare piece of property was used as a cattle ranch and now houses guests in the original colonial bungalows and serves food grown all onsite. Because this property also includes access to a back entrance of the famous ruins, we got up early the next morning to beat the crowds and almost had the entire expanse of Chichen Itza pyramid to ourselves for the first hour. Named as one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, this Mayan/Toltec pyramid outdid the previous 2 sites we'd seen until now.
There's no way else to explain this ancient culture than to say something like, "uhgggh! really?!", as sacrificial images are everywhere. Jaguars eating hearts of human sacrifices. Eagles tearing out hearts of human sacrifices. Skulls of decapitated human sacrifices. Bones found at the bottom of a deep cenote from human sacrifices thrown in. Chac Mool statues which held the heart and other organs from human sacrifices. Ball courts (where a game between soccer and quidditch was played) in which the loosing team - you guessed it! get's sacrificed.
Later that night we returned to the site to watch a narrated light show about the Pyramids and the Mayan culture. It talked about the mathematics that went into building a structure like that and how perfectly calculated it is to the calendar, including a shadow that slithers down the side of the steps each solstice, showing the body of the snake, who's head is carved at the bottom of the structure.
The next day we headed to Merida, the last stop in our Yucatan week. This little bustling city was so colorful and lively, I wish we would have had more than one night there. After being shown around the "urban retreat" of Luz en Yucatan by the lovely hosts, including our super artistic and beautiful abode which was a series of rooms, screened porches, open balconies, a swinging hammock, and another room overlooking the garden pool, we headed out to wander the town. Finding a few nice places to escape the intense heat while we ate and drank, the afternoon passed by and for the evening we attended a show of Mexican Folkloric Dance put on by the University.
small video excerpt from the dance program
On to a pretty late dinner, then to bed...next day was the flight to Mexico City.