Valladolid and Chichen Itza, Mexico

December 2008

After our time in Tulum, we boarded a bus and headed for the city of Valladolid. Most tourists use the city as a base for exploring Chichen Itza but it is worth visiting in its own right.

Catedral San Gervacio

We stayed near the Parque la Mestiza in the center of town. The park is surrounded by hotels and restaurants and is dominated on one side by the hulking Catedral San Gervacio. The huge Cathedral is made from stones carved by Mayans and pulled from the ruins of Chichen Itza by indigenous workers who were enslaved by the Spanish colonialists.

Convento de San Bernardino de Siena

The amazing Convento de San Bernardino de Siena has a similar colonial era story and is a fairly short walk form the center of town.


Cenote Zaci is also in Valladolid. Easy to overlook as it is a giant hole surrounded by trees, the cenote has cool turquoise water surrounded by hanging roots and lush vegetation. It is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.


Mexico has an awesome bus system and we were able to catch a very early bus from Valladolid to Chichen Itza.

El Castillo

We arrived just as venders were setting up their wares for the day. No crowds this early and so we took advantage by testing the acoustics in the Grand Ball Court near the center of Chichen Itza. This court is the largest in Meso-America and at nearly two times the size of a football field it was really impressive. We were able to whisper into the walls at the long opposite ends of the field and hear each other, the echo was also impressive, ricocheting back and forth. It must have been incredible to watch men literally play for their lives while trying to kick a 20 pound rubber ball through the tiny hoops up on the walls.

The largest ball court in all of Meso-America.
Hoop for kicking the solid rubber ball through
Losing this game meant you might get decapitated!
Death waits for the losers

We got another view of El Castillo. I photographed the side with a complete facade but the other sides of the temple have had stoned removed for construction of buildings elsewhere.

Another view of El Castillo
Feathered serpent at the bottom of the stairs of El Castillo

We also got a good look at the Temple of the Jaguar before it got too busy.

Jaguar Throne
Jaguar carving



As the tour buses began to arrive we walked farther out of the city center.

Part of the old water collection system

Carving at Chichen Itza

El Caracol, the Observatory

After we had spent hours wandering around Chichen Itza, we grabbed a taxi to some nearby cenotes. We were blown away by how incredible Cenote X’Keken and Cenote Samula were. Dropping down into these cenotes is like walking into the underworld, I can see why Mayan people would throw artifacts into the waters. X’keken was filled with cool, turquoise water and tons of fish along with tons of roots hanging down.

Cenote X’keken (photo not mine)

Cenote Samuel looked like something from an Indiana Jones movie, as we dropped down the stairs into the cenote a flock of birds whirled around the roots dangling into the water below.

Cenote Samula (photo not mine)

We were absolutely blown away by the ruins at Chichen Itza, the engineering that went into building these cities of thousands was unbelievable and that it has stood through hurricanes and earthquakes is testament to the skill of the Mayans.


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