Whether you’re the sun-seeking type or History buff, Mexico has a wide array of tourist attractions to keep you entertained during a week-long break.
Home to pristine Caribbean beaches lined by world-class resorts and charming colonial towns, it offers the best of both.
There are many categories of visitors to Mexico, but one thing they all seem to collectively agree on is that the country’s top-rated landmark, and the most awe-inspiring one, is an ancient city that predates the modern country.
Though it dates back centuries, it has continued to captivate visitors well into the modern era, having exceeded half a million visitors only in the first semester of 2023. This is why:
Chichen Itza Is Mexico’s Most Sought-After Ancient Attraction
Before the arrival of the gentrifying international hospitality brands, and much earlier even prior to the original settlers, which came in the form of Spanish colonizers, the Mexican Caribbean was mostly inhabited by the native Mayas.
They roamed the territory freely, running trading ports along the sandy coast and asserting their dominance over the Yucatan Peninsula, and as far South as the Central American isthmus.
During their reign, the Mayans established one of the most advanced civilizations known to mankind.
Their cities, scattered across Yucatan, rivaled Europe’s sophistication and urban planning, what with their wide boulevards lined by civic buildings, monumental step pyramids, and leisure centers. Albeit ruined, several of them have survived the colonization period.
One of the most famous, Chichén Itzá, thrived during a period known to Historians as ‘Terminal Classic’, when the civilization was on the brink of both reaching its apex and meeting its demise. Between 600 AD and 900 AD, it was one of the largest Mayan urban centers.
Over 2 Million Visitors Per Year
The city is easily Mexico’s most-visited Mayan heritage site, with over 2,500,000 buying tickets every year and traveling great lengths, notably from Cancun and the Mayan Riviera, to bear witness to its grandeur.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) may have reported a decrease in visitation of 12.7% compared to last year’s first yearly quarter, but now that more sections of the city are being opened to tourists for the first time ever, including temples in Chichen Viejo, and accessibility is improving, it will certainly see a rebound.
Mexico’s archaeological and museum tourism is increasing by 34.19 percent year-on-year, proving Americans, probably the country’s most important clientele, are eager to immerse themselves in Mayan History – but why are they flocking into Chichén Itzá specifically when there are hundreds of ruins to pick from?
Why Is Chichen Itza So Popular Among Tourists?
Chichén may have eventually fallen into disrepair upon the Spanish conquest, but it’s remained one of the most impressive archaeological zones in Mexico, exhibiting a plethora of architectural styles spanning centuries, including a few of the best preserved Puuc and Chenes-style structures of the Mayan World.
This is due to Chichén Itzá’s incredibly diverse populace, as it hosted Mayans from different ethnic backgrounds, who spoke different dialects, and who hailed from all over Yucatan and Central America. The most impressive structure on-site, however, is surely El Castillo.
A massive pyramid so high it could touch the day, it has a total of 365 steps, the exact number of days in a solar year, and it’s a testament to Mayan genius and their enviable scientific efforts.
Those visiting during the autumn equinox, later in the year, may spot the descending Kulkulkan serpent snaking up the steep stairway. It can only be seen this time of year as the autumn sun rises up in the sky, casting light on the secret carving.
The well-preserved state of the structure and its adjacent complex, which includes a ticketing booth, parking lots, and road signs also help make Chichén Itzá a major attraction, and the strict visitation rules which help maintain temples intact help make it a prized asset of Mexico.
Then, there is the fact that it has been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site listing, as well as considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
It Is Easy To Reach From Cancun
Then of course, it is easy to reach from Cancun, with numerous day trips departing daily to the site from the Caribbean city, sometimes for as cheap as $65 for a round-trip guided tour on Viator.
Come December, once the Maya Train launches, linking the busy resort zones of the Mayan Riviera to Chichen Itza, it is set to become even more popular.
Learn more about the Mexican Caribbean’s rich ancient heritage and its wealth of historical landmarks here.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com