We got an early collectivo from Valladolid and got there just after it opened. By about 10.30 it starts to fill up with coach parties from Cancun and Merida.
Chichen Itza was the first major Mayan site that we visited.
The most well restored part of the site is post-classic, dating from 925-1200 AD, and shows strong Toltec influence. This means that there is a lot more emphasis on human sacrifice and war than at most Mayan sites, and the biggest ball court in mesoamerica.
The first thing you see is El Castillo, probably the most familiar Mayan structure. Last time I was here you could climb it (although vertigo prevented me), this time it was closed.
The Ball Court at Chichen Itza has a playing area 149m long, with 90m sides and temples at each end, there is a whispering gallery effect, but when we were there it was very windy and we couldn't try it. The base of the sides show scenes from the game, and the sacrifice afterwards of one of the team captains (it's not known whether it's the winning or losing captain).
On the outside of the Ball Court is the temple of the Jaguars, with some nice carved relief's inside.
The nearby Tzompantli was probably used to display the heads of sacrificial victims, possibly killed on the Plataforma de Aguilas y Jaguares which is decorated with carvings of Eagles and Jaguars eating human hearts.
North of El Castillo is the Platform of Venus.
A sacbe (Mayan road) extends in a line from El Castillo, past the Platform of Venus to the Cenote Sagrado. As well as providing water cenotes were considered the entrance to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld.
The Templo de los Guerreros and Grupo de las Mil Columnas make up the other side of the plaza. In front of the Templo de los Guerreros are columns carved on all four faces with warrior figures.
On top of the platform is a Chaak Mool. This is shaped like a reclining figure holding a plate and may have been used to hold excised hearts. A classic photograph of Chichen Itza is of this Chaak Mool with El Castillo in the background. Unfortunately the platform was closed off and we couldn't even see the Chaak Mool from the bottom.
Next to the Templo is the Grupo de las Mil Colemnas. Originally they would have been covered by a roof.
The rest of the site is older (terminal classic, up to 925 AD)
El Osario is a more classical Mayan pyramid. When it was excavated it was found to contain six tombs, one on top of the other, with the entrance to the lower tombs through trapdoors in the floors of the upper ones.
El Caracol was an astronomical observatory. There is a similar circular structure at Ek Bahlam.
The Nunnery was a palace complex. The annex at the end is covered in masks of the rain god Chac