Read to learn six interesting facts about the history of Chichen Itza, one of the new 7 Wonders of the World.
If you are traveling to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or one of the many hotspots located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, there are a handful of sights you absolutely must-see. None are more breathtaking than Chichen Itza: one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
In this guide, our travel team here at Cancun Adventures provides a list of Chichen Itza facts — including a short history of Chichen Itza, interesting details, and additional information on the surrounding region and its many sights.
At the end of this guide, we provide resources and links to some of our many award-winning Chichen Itza tours, available for travelers staying in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Read on to learn more about Chichen Itza and book your tour with our team today!
Chichen Itza Facts
Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan ruins centrally located on the northern half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. In ancient, pre-Colombian times, Chichen Itza was a vibrant city with a diverse population of Mayan people extending well into the tens of thousands. Today, the site is home to the remnants of many ancient Mayan structures, including the famed El Castillo pyramid that dominates the site’s center.
The core of the Chichen Itza site covers an area of roughly 5 square kilometers (1.9 square miles) with smaller-scale residential architecture extending for a considerable distance beyond that. Learn more about the history of Chichen Itza and its many sights in the following sections.
How old is Chichen Itza? When was Chichen Itza built?
Archaeologists are unsure when, exactly, the building of Chichen Itza began, though historical records suggest that the city was in its early phases of development around 600-750 A.D.
The growth and development of Chichen Itza span several centuries. Most estimates put the city at well over 1,500 years old. Historical records show that Chichen Itza was a major focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands from the Late Classic (AD 600–900) through the Terminal Classic (AD 800–900) and into the early portion of the Postclassic period (AD 900–1200).
Through these time periods, the city gradually grew in size and diversity. Some colonial Mayan sources and archaeological Records suggest that Chichen Itza was sacked at several points during the 13th century. Chichen Itza was eventually conquered by the Spanish in the mid 16th century.
Who built Chichen Itza? Why was Chichen Itza built?
Chichen Itza was founded by the Maya, an ancient people native to the Yucatan Peninsula. Historians believe that Chichen Itza was built due to its close proximity to the Xtoloc cenote.
Chichen Itza was founded by the Maya, an ancient people inhabiting the Yucutan peninsula. Within the Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture and architectural style varied from area to area, with several groups establishing themselves across the region.
At its height, Chichen Itza was home to Mayan people from all areas of the Yucatan Peninsula. The city exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles found in the Northern Maya lowlands.
Historians believe that Chichen Itza was founded and rose to prominence due to its close proximity to the Xtoloc cenote, an underground source of fresh water.
Can you climb Chichen Itza?
El Castillo, the largest and most famous pyramid at Chichen Itza, cannot be climbed. However, Nohoch Mul, the largest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, can be climbed at the nearby Coba ruins.
Many travelers confuse the city of Chichen Itza with its largest and most famous pyramid, El Castillo. Like the other ancient ruins at Chichen Itza, El Castillo cannot be climbed. Archaeologists and local conservationists are protecting this ancient wonder for generations to come.
If you are looking to climb a pyramid from the ancient world, we recommend paying a visit to Coba, where you can climb Nohoch Mul: the largest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula.
What is the tallest building Chichen Itza?
The tallest structure in Chichen Itza is the ancient pyramid El Castillo. It is 98 feet in height.
Standing at 98 feet tall, El Castillo, an ancient pyramid constructed by the Mayan people sometime between the 9th and 12th centuries, is the tallest structure in Chichen Itza.
Other notably large structures include the Great Ball Court, an ancient sports arena with stone platforms measuring 95 feet in length and 25 feet in height, the Osario Pyramid, and the Temple of the Warriors.
How tall is Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza itself is noticeably tall when you consider when and how it was made. It also depends on whether or not you count the Temple at the top. So here are the measurements.
Height of Chichen Itza:
It is 24 meters or 79 feet tall without the temple
It is 30 meters or 98 feet tall with the temple included
The Temple itself is 6 meters or 20 feet tall
The Base Of Chichen Itza Itself:
It is 55.3 meters tall which is 181 feet
What is inside Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is home to a number of architectural and natural wonders, including El Castillo, the Great Ball Court, the Temple of the Warriors, the Sacred Cenote, and more.
At its peak, Chichen Itza was the most populous city in the entire Yucatan Peninsula. Even today, its ruins reflect a great civilization filled with architectural marvels and ancient secrets. Chichen Itza has several zones or “complexes” that reflect different architectural styles are periods of development.
The three best known of these complexes are the Great North Platform, which includes the monuments of El Castillo, the Temple of Warriors, and the Great Ball Court; The Osario Group, which includes the Osario pyramid as well as the Temple of Xtoloc; and the Central Group, which includes the observatory also called El Caracol, Las Monjas, and Akab Dzib.
Other complexes include the Casa Colorada Group, the Central Group, and Old Cichen. Chichen Itza is also home to several cenotes (natural pits of groundwater), including the Xtoloc Cenote or “Sacred Cenote”.
Why is Chichen Itza a Wonder of the World?
Chichen Itza is one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” due to its large concentration of culturally-significant, ancient manmade wonders and its placing in the top 7 of all nominees during international voting.
In 2000, the New7Wonders campaign set out to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World. These “New 7 Wonders” were to be nominated and decided by international vote to reflect a more global picture of ancient humanity’s most notable structures.
With over 100 million votes cast, Chichen Itza was chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World—and it’s really no secret why. As one of the largest and best-preserved archaeological sites in the world, Chichen Itza is home a myriad of ancient Mayan marvels and rich cultural history cherished by travelers across the globe.
Tour Chichen Itza With Cancun Adventures
Ready to see Chichen Itza with your own eyes? Join our expert tour guides here at Cancun Adventures for one of our many award-winning Chichen Itza tours based out of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
Some of most popular tours include our comprehensive Private Chichen Itza Tour and our highlight-filled Chichen Itza Tour – Pyramids and Ruins, to name just two. Follow the links listed to learn more about these great tours, and book yours with our team here at Cancun Adventure today!