Up at the crack of dawn to beat the day-trippers we sneaked in the back way to visit the world famous Chichén Itzá site.
Chichén Itzá is an ancient Mayan city with an impressive array of restored pyramids, temples, and ball courts. It’s considered one of the current Seven Wonders of the World.
The name Chichén Itzá is a Mayan word: CHI (mouth) CHEN (well) and ITZA (of the witch water). Some say this is because people were often thrown into the nearby cenote (sinkhole) as sacrifices, and those who survived were believed to be seers. The site is divided into three sections. The northern group of structures is distinctly Toltec in style. The central group appears to be from the early period. The southern group is known as 'The Old Chichén'.
Impressive though the main pyramid is, we were more staggered by the largest ball court in Mesoamerica, measuring 168 metres in length and 70 metres in width. This is where Mayan men played a game called pok ta pok. Anthropologists believe that the object of the game was to hurl a ball through a ring that was mounted on a wall, seven metres above the ground. Each team had six field players who would attempt to pass the ball - using any body part except their hands - to their captain who would attempt the shot using a racket of sorts. Some believe that the captain of the team that made the first successful shot was then decapitated as a sacrifice to the gods. This was seen as an honour and guaranteed entrance to heaven.
We also got to see the afore mentioned sinkhole (Cenote Sagrado) that measures 60 metres in diameter. All sorts of treasures have been found here including rings, necklaces, gold and jade objects, as well as the bones of young women who were thrown into the water as an offering to Chaac, the Mayan rain god.
And why “Disneyland Mexico”? Well, the previous evening we had visited the same site to watch a sound and light show. Each ancient monument was either lit up by brightly coloured LED lights or was projected with a hi-def video. This was accompanied with a deafening soundtrack. Guilding the lily perhaps?