Chichen Itza: Ancient Rituals And Sacrifices

by Hey There From Here
December 9, 2021 | 5 min read

Chichen Itza: Ancient Rituals And Sacrifices

Chichen Itza is one of the largest and greatest mythical Maya cities, and one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico. It is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Located in Tinum Municipality, in the eastern portion of Yucatan State in Mexico, Chichen Itza was once a large Pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic Period before the disappearance of the Mayan civilization in the 14th century.

Two of the best known monuments in Chichen Itza are El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan), and The Great Ball Court.

El Castillo

El Castillo also known as The Castle or the Temple of Kukulcan is 98 feet high and consists of nine square terraces, each approximately 8.4 feet high with a 20 foot high temple at the top, where human sacrifices were thought to have occured.

The sides of El Castillo are 181 feet at the base and rise at an angle of 53 degrees which slightly vary per side and all 4 sides have stairways that rise at a 45 degree angle. At the bottom of the northeastern stairs are elaborately carved serpent heads.

Why does all of that matter you ask.

This is why.

Because of the meticulous and specific design of the architecture, a phenomenal event occurs.

Around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes in the late afternoon, the northwest corner of the pyramid casts shadows across the stucture that create the appearance of a serpent slithering down the staircase. This is thought to represent the feathered serpent god Kukulcan.


The complex mathematical calculations and precision of the angles against the sun to create such an event is mind boggling at the very least.

Hidden Temple

Around the mid 1930’s archaeologists discovered another temple buried under the current El Castillo monument. In the temple they found a Chac Mool statue and a throne in the shape of a Jaguar, painted red with spots and made of inlaid Jade. This throne room was open to the public until 2006 when, sadly, it was restricted after an American tourist fell to her death while descending the stairs from the top.

The Ball Court

The Maya Ballgame was a 2 week ballgame, played with a rubber ball, that originated over 3,000 years ago.

The Ball Court was a focal point of the Maya cities and a symbol of wealth and power. The arena was formed in the shape of an I and high platforms were constructed on each side to allow for a large amount of spectators.

The portable court markers were made of stone, graced with animal carvings, and human skulls were placed around the arena.

The Maya Ballgame was not only an athletic event, it was a sacrificial event where the unfortunate losers, and in some cases winners, were sacrificed to the gods. The Maya believed the game was necessary for their survival.

The Cenotes

There are 4 visible cenotes, or freshwater sinkholes, at Chichen Itza. Scientists have determined that there is another hidden cenote under Kukulkan which has yet to be seen by archaeologists.

Besides being a freshwater source Maya are thought to have sacrificed valuable objects as well as humans into the Cenotes as a form of worship to the rain god Chaac.

Copper, gold, jade, incense, pottery and human remains have been discovered at the bottom of the sinkholes.

Tips for your visit

  • The cost to enter Chichen Itza is 480 pesos, USD is not accepted but there is an ATM available on site. To be on the safe side bring pesos with you. There is an extra charge for use of a video camera or tripod as well.
  • Parking You can drive yourself and park in the lot for 30 pesos.
  • Tours can be booked at the entrance of the site or from any of the vacation areas such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen etc. Chichen Itza is an approximate 2 hour drive from Cancun. I would recommend a guided tour, you won’t want to miss out on the fascinating history and info that only an experienced guide can give. We booked our tour from Cancun to Chichen Itza through and loved every minute of it.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear good walking shoes and avoid the flip flops. The walkways can be uneven and they are unpaved so flip flops can be brutal. Make sure to wear light, loose fitting clothing as well. You’re gonna sweat, there’s no way around it. I went in May and it was sweltering so be prepared.
  • Bring an umbrella…no it’s most likely not going to rain but it is scorching hot and there is no shade. You’ll want shade, trust me. An umbrella or a really big hat will be a life saver.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen and bottled water! There are refreshments available for purchase on site.
  • Time give yourself a good 2 to 3 hours to meander around and check out all of the sites.
  • Shopping There are plenty of trinkets, T-shirts and souveniers to browse through after you finish your tour or take a break in the middle. You’ll find some shade here as well! It’s a win win situation.
  • Hours The site is open from 8am to 5pm daily. If you are visiting on your own and not with a tour group, I suggest visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. It may be just a little cooler then as well. Cooler is a relative word here.

Taking a day trip to the incredible and mysterious Chichen Itza is definitely an experience that you will never forget.

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Any thoughts, tips or questions?

Hey there! I’m Stephanie! I’m a travel nurse with a serious travel addiction….fitting, right? You won’t find fancy writing styles here (sorry!), but you will find my stories (and lots and lots of pics). I love sharing my passion for exploring and I hope it inspires you to get out there and create some amazing memories of your own.

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