The ruins of Chichen Itza are some of the most spectacular extant Mesoamerican ruins around. They are located about a two hour drive from the coastal resort of Cancun
, whose strip of luxury hotels punctuated by cheesy drinking establishments such as Senior Frog's
contrasts harshly with the Maya
n holy site.
In addition to the temple of Kukulkan described above, there are ruins of the ceremonial structure surrounding the well, a grand sports stadium, a bizarre field of columns, and various other buildings and walls.
The sports stadium was the site of a ritual game that took place in Chichen Itza every year in which two teams attempted to get a rubber ball through a high hoop without using their hands. The hoops are still attached to the high stone walls that ran the length of the playing field, about the size of a soccer field. Depending on which team won, the Mayan astronomer priests would be able to make predictions about the coming year. The captain of the winning team was sacrificed and this was a great honor. Elaborate fantastical scenes of such sacrifices of captains are visible on carved stone murals that cover the walls of the stadium.
Supposedly new layers of the temple of Kulkukan were built on top of the previous layers every 52 or so years, at the point in which two different Mayan ways of reckoning time, the lunar 'year' and the solar year, coincided. Thus the temple has some inner chambers, one of which contains a jade jaguar statue and can be visited.