Panorama of the Week: El Castillo at Chichen Itza, Mexico

As some zero in on the Mayan calendar coming to an end at this year’s winter solstice, others go on (that would include us, by the way). In that spirit, we spent the day yesterday with two archaeologists at Chichen Itza Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Yucatan province and dug a bit deeper into the story.

And here’s what we learned: that the end of the Mayan calendar cycle doesn’t mean the end of the world, but rather a new beginning, a new calendar cycle.  Think of it as a fresh start.  

So if you’ve been panting about the coming of the end of days, perhaps it’s time to breathe a bit easier.

Known affectionately as El Castillo (the castle), the Temple of Kukulkan is the largest of the Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza. On each of the equinoxes, the light cascades down its staircase making it look as though a serpent is gliding its way into the ground.

But it’s plenty cool, even if it’s not the equinox.  Check it out in the panorama below.

Panorama: El Castillo at Chichen Itza in Yucutan, Mexico

panorama directions

Disclosure: Our trip to Riviera Maya was supported by Visit Mexico. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own. Special thanks to Julia Miller and Alfonso Morales for sharing their deep knowledge and passion about Maya history and culture with us.

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  1. says

    Great panorama! I’m glad you heard it from the best authorities on the matter and had a chance to talk to some archaeologists. I wonder if people are as obsessed with the Mayan predictions there or know enough to, like you, just go on.

  2. Pete De Ritter says

    It’s amazing what huge structures the Mayans were able to construct. I also found it fascinating that the Olmecs in this region were able to carve such incredible sculptures in an even earlier era.

  3. says

    @Dean: Not all of the Mayan pyramids are this big, but the size of this one at Chichen Itza shows the power and wealth of the place in its heyday. This one is around 30 meters.

    @Chris: As I understand it, there seems to be more fascination with the Mayan long calendar ending from the outside world than from Mayans themselves. Mayan culture doesn’t have “end of civilization” stories, but instead creation and new cycle traditions.

    @Pete: The archeologists were telling us of an earlier Mayan site with a pyramid that is close to 70 meters. Just incredible that they were able to build in such size and quality without any modern tools. Don’t know much about Olmec culture or sculptures, but you’ve piqued my curiosity with your comment. Will do a bit of research.

    @Jeff: That’s the goal with these panoramas – to make people feel like they are there!

    @Mike: Glad to hear you also had a good visit to Chichen Itza.

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