11 Things to Know Before Visiting Chichen Itzá

A World Heritage Site, and home tone of the New Seven Wonders of the Earth, Chichen Itzá gets thousands of visitors. Sometimes it seems impossible to enjoy spending time there, but if you know what to expect and when to go, you’ll be able to get the most out of it.

The following list is far from complete, but it gives you an idea of what to expect when visiting.

1. There are a few easy ways to get to Chichen Itzá, but you need to fly to Cancun first.

From there, you can rent a car, take a tour or a local bus.  It’s easy to rent a car and gives you most flexibility. It is also my favorite way to get there.  Drive west on Highway 180 between Cancun and Chichen Itzá.  Or, if you are more adventurous and want to see more of Yucatan, take the local roads and stop often.  But if you prefer to stay at a resort and get on a tour, there are plenty to choose from.  Try to find one that you feel most comfortable with.  

2. Get there early if you drive a car, and prepare to stand on line.

No matter when you go, you’ll always find a crowd.  And if you get there too late, you won’t find a parking spot.  Don’t take it personally, but you’ll have to pay a separate parking fee. It is not much, just make sure you have some change for it. And expect to stand on line for a while before entering.

3. To avoid the parking fee, but mostly the crowds, stay in one of the hotels by the back entrance.

Sure, you’ll pay a lot more to stay there, but you need a hotel anyway. Besides, sometimes you can get a great deal if you are lucky.  

You have three to choose from, depending on your budget.  

The Mayaland Hotel is the oldest hotel and it is closest to the gate.  In fact, the gate is on its premises.  It is also the pricier choice, but if you like luxury hotels, it is your definite choice.  You’ll love it.  Enjoy the peacock walking around while you dine on the outdoor patio.  In fact, even if you don’t stay there, was through the gardens, or watch the show at the observatory.  

Hacienda Chichen

The Hacienda Chichen is your choice if you are also in more recent history.  It was originally a hacienda, owned by the first archaeologist who excavated the ruins.  The Hacienda is my personal favorite. The rooms are separate bungalows, with personal patios. 

Your third choice here is the Villas Archaeologicas.  It is farthest from the entrance and it is usually the cheapest, but still a great place, with rooms looking out to an inner yard and swimming pool.  

You can walk to the back entrance from either one.

4. Prepare to do some walking once you are on the premises,

Though you can’t walk to every structure on the premises, Chichen Itzá is a large site, and it will take a few hours to explore.  

Chichen Itzá

Don’t forget to take the trails to the Observatory in Old Chichen, and the one to the Sacred Cenote.

5. And don’t forget your hat and sunscreen

No matter what season it is, it will be hot and humid. Be prepared to sweat, and don’t let it bother you.  

Since you won’t find much shade around the ruins, wear a hat, use sunscreen and carry water.

6. Don’t let the vendors bother you on the trails

If you’ve never been there or it’s been over ten years since your last visit, you’ll be surprised of the number of vendors lined up on both sides of the trails. It used to be illegal for the to enter the actual site, but that is no longer the case.

Ignore their calls of of “almost free today”, or the newest one I heard, “less than free”.  Right, how can that be?

Avoid eye contact if you are not interested in stopping.  And try to ignore the “jaguar calls” of their newest noise maker. I know it gets very annoying.  But they are only trying to make a buck. 

Do stop if something catches your eye.  Before you buy it though, make sure it is geniune and local. Don’t buy a statue of a Mayan warrior looking like a Greek god. Look for a vendor who makes his/her own crafts on the premises.  You’ll find plenty of them. And don’t forget to haggle, you are expected to do so in Mexico.

7. Don’t be disappointed that you can’t climb the famous Pyramid of Kukulcan.

Pyramid of Kukulcan. Chichen Itzá

One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramid of Kukulcan is truly a work of art.  Did you know that it was built on top of an older one, which was in turn built on top of an even older one, which was built on top of a cenote? Yes, impressive, isn’t it? Then the realization that the number of stairs you would have climbed to the top coincides with the number days in a year might make it even more remarkable.

But the most dramatic thing about it is the Serpent Kukulcan, on the sides of the stairways.

Since it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it needs to be protected.  What would happen if the thousands of visitors per day would all climb it? Remember that you want to keep it for future generations to see.

So please understand why you can’t climb it.

8. Enjoy walking through the Great Ballcourt instead.

In the Great Ballcourt. Chichen Itzá

Clap or yell as much as you want while in the center. You’ll understand how the ancients used the principles of acoustics outdoors. It seems better than some of the most modern opera houses.

9. If you need to exit, you can return with your ticket on the same day

In fact, you might want to exit to see the small museum set up at the entrance.  If you come through the front, it is easy enough to stop be.  But if you entered through the Mayaland Hotel, you’ll need to exit to see it, and then return so you can get back to the hotel.  You can easily do it, you won’t be asked to buy a new ticket.

To be on the safe side, stop on your way out and tell them you intend to return.  It is probably unnecessary, but good practice.  At least it’s what we did. 

When you come back in, you don’t need to stand on line again to get your ticket scanned.  Instead, walk through the side door by the scanner, and show the attendant your ticket, he’ll let you back in.  

10. But he won’t let you return for the light show.

You’ll need to pay a separate, much higher, entrance fee.  But, it is well worth it.  Besides, it’s still much less than a ticket to Disneyland and you’ll have a great experience.

Don’t forget to pick up an Ipod to listen to the stories.  It is “free of charge”, more precisely, included in the entrance fee.  They do ask you to leave an ID until you return it. You plan on returning it anyway, so it should not be a problem.

You can choose the language you listen to the story of Chichen Itzá while at the site in the dark.  Walk through the ruins lit up with different color lights, and stop at each, while you listen to its story.  Walk at your own pace.  

Pyramid of Kukulcan during the light show. Chichen Itzá

Then sit down and enjoy  the light show projected on the Pyramid of Kukulcan. Among other things, you’ll see the shadow of the Serpent Kukulcan descending the stairs of the Pyramid.

11. If watching a simulation of the descent intrigued  you, plan your next visit to see the real thing.

Time your visit around one of the solstices. During that time,  you can see the shadow of the serpent Kukulcan descending the stairs of the pyramid. Huge crowds gather on the days of the each solstice to watch the spectacle.  Avoid these crowds.  

Most people don’t know is that you can still see the shadow a week before and after an equinox. Go later in the day and stay till closing time to watch the show.


Travel Notes & Beyond

 

Starting the New Year with a Trip to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

One of my favorite destinations, Yucatan is a place I can visit multiple times a year.  Which we did this time, returning after only a few months.  We were there in the spring of 2017, and we set off for the same destination once again, on New Year’s Eve.

View from the Top of Nohuch Mul, Cobá
View from one of the tallest pyramids of the peninsula, in Cobá. I have never seen the surrounding forest this green before. It’s winter, the wet season.

Air Travel on the Day of New Year’s Eve

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we set off to the airport on the morning of New Year’s Eve.  It was my birthday, and it was the second year that I spent half my birthday traveling.

Last year we were driving back from a short trip, but this time we were flying away for a week.  I’ve never been on a plane on a Holiday.  We try to avoid it, when we can.  However, this time it just worked out with our “free” tickets.  We travel on points many times, since we do have frequent flier miles and credit cards that add flying points from purchases.

The airport was almost deserted.  Getting through security was a breeze, and the flight itself was one of the most pleasant I have experienced in a long time.  The plane was half empty.

Since they had no stress that comes with crowded planes, too many different people to please, the stewardesses were at their most pleasant.  We could sit wherever we wanted, taken a whole row if we felt like it. When we commented on how we’ve never been on a plane so empty, and didn’t expect to be on one on a Holiday, the stewardess commented,

“Yes, because everyone thinks they don’t want to travel on New Year’s Eve.  You should not think like everyone.”

We landed on time, got our rental car, and by dinnertime, we were in Puerto Morelos, where I did make a reservation in a hotel, knowing that it might get booked.  We rarely make reservations, but this time I was glad I did.  It was the only way we got a room.  Though we could’ve slept on the beach, the weather was perfect, and there are no bugs by the ocean.

New Year’s Eve in Puerto Morelos

Once we got our room, we set off for dinner.  Our favorite restaurant, on the beach, was more crowded than I ever saw it, and they was closing for the night.

We stopped at one of the other ones we knew from the old days.  It was half-empty.

“Do you have reservations?”, asked the greeter.  We didn’t, so we couldn’t stay.

The same thing happened in two other restaurants.

We finally decided that we would eat some street food or a cliff bar for New Year’s Eve dinner.  But we walked around some more, off the main square.  We didn’t hope for much, all the restaurants that lined the streets were full.

Still, we stopped and asked if they had a table available at another one of the smaller restaurants we ate at in the past. Yes, they did, if we gave them a minute to set it up.  They moved a few chairs, and tables around, then invited us to sit.

Someone at a neighboring table tried to order two different things they didn’t have. We looked at each other and smiled. “Here we go again.” When our waiter got there, we asked,

“What do you have on the menu?”

“Almost everything”, he answered.  “Except coconut shrimp and any chicken.”

We still had a few choices. They did have fish, and that’s what I cared about. We were in a fishing village on the sea, after all.

The New Year’s celebration at midnight was subdued.  We watched kids lined up in front of a piñata in the shape of a person with 2017 written on it. They took turns hitting it, until it opened.  We weren’t close enough to see, but I think they had to break free the New Year, 2018.

A Week of Exploring Old and New Places on the Peninsula

 
We stopped at Xel-Ha Ruins, though I feel like I know every structure,  every stone and tree there.  It was the Mayan site I have ever seen, and as such, it will always have a special place in my hearth. We spent a few hours there, before moving on to our next destination. 
We always stop at Muyil (Chunyaxche), no matter how busy it gets (and it is still not too bad, once we pass Tulum).  The combination of great structures and a jungle walk makes it a treat. 
The Main Pyramid at Muyil Ruins
The Main Pyramid at Muyil Ruins
 
It was dinnertime when we arrived to Siiyil Noh-Ha. After settling in our hut, we climbed the Mirador – Lookout Tower – and enjoyed the view of the jungle canopy around us.
 
“We only have shrimp ceviche tonight”, our host told us, when we sat down for dinner. I never had it before, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but didn’t have a choice.  We ordered one to share and I found my new favorite Yucatecan food. 
 
After two days in the middle of nowhere, with very limited phone and no internet service, we drove to Coba.  Two days exploring the ruins and the the town was perfect, while we tried to figure out what we would want to do next.
 
We found a great deal in a hotel we knew, so we returned to Chichen Itza. I know, I did say that I was done with the place, but it ended up being much more pleasant than I expected.  That is because we only used it for a base, to explore the back roads, the small towns, little-known ruins, places that we haven’t seen yet.  Yes, we still found some of those, close to the well-known and busy Wonder of the World.
Chichen Itza. Temple in the Old Town
Chichen Itza. Temple in the Old Town
 

Another Great Trip to Yucatan

 
By the time we were ready to get home, we felt that we did a lot, once again. We didn’t swim much, except one day, since it was actually cold in Yucatan.  Relatively cold, meaning very pleasant for hiking and climbing pyramids.  
 
We explored sites we didn’t know existed.  Small sites, but still impressive, where we were the only visitors. 
 
We met volunteers who were cleaning another site. We talked to a Mayan who told us stories about the Caste War, the site and working with a renowned archaeologist I admire. I bought a beautiful huipil-like shirt made by his wife I met. 
 
We climbed cleared pyramids, and one that only has a trail leading up to the top, and is still covered by vegetation. 
 
We walked through the jungle and explored a colonial town we have never been in, where no one spoke English.  
 
As always, we left with plans to return soon.  

Pyramids Off the Beaten Track in the Jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula

I have been climbing Mayan pyramids, visiting ancient sites in the Yucatan peninsula with my family for over two decades.  We have seen a lot of changes during this time in most of the sites.  When we first visited, the Mayan Riviera didn’t exist, as it is now.  A narrow road let from Cancun down the coast, where most of the traffic we encountered was Mayan workers on their bicycles.
While twenty years ago we could climb every structure even in the most popular sites like Tulum, and in Chichen Itza, now it is impossible to do so in both sites.
<img src="pyramidkukulcan.jpg" alt="one of the Mayan Pyramids, pyramid of Kukulcan, Chichen Itza, Mexico">
“Look, don’t touch”, the rope around the pyramid keeps visitors off the structure. Pyramid of Kukulcan. Chichen Itza. 2017
Over time, we have learned to venture deeper into the jungles of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche, in search of lesser-known pyramids to explore.
 
Ancient Mayan sites are scattered all over the peninsula. Some are still covered by the surrounding jungle. They are off the beaten track, where you won’t find tourists. You just need to know where to look.

Climbing Pyramids in Lesser-Known Sites

Our last trip took us to Chacchoben, Kinichna, and Dzibilchaltun. We only shared the jungle and the ruins with spider monkeys, iguanas and birds of all colors and shapes. 
<img src="pyramidKinichna.jpg" alt="one of Mayan Pyramids, Kinichna. Yucatan"/>
We were alone with the ancient ruins. My girls climbing the pyramid at Kinichna

Calakmul

Calakmul is one of the most impressive and well-known sites on the Yucatan peninsula. But it is so remote that most tourists don’t bother driving to it. Located in a nature preserve with the same name, at the end of a 60 km long narrow, dirt road, it is still a challenge to reach.  Big tour buses from Cancun can’t make it through. And most tourists don’t bother to drive so far from the resorts. Most of the people we met on the trails were birdwatchers, and hardy travelers.
<img src="calakmulpyramid.jpg" alt="one of the pyramids in Clalakmul. Mexico. Wanderer writes.com"/>
On the way to the top of one of the pyramids in Calakmul.
The two major pyramids at Calakmul are tall enough to see the surrounding jungle canopy and other structures from.  We could climb them and feel on top of the world, eye level with the birds. 
Howler and spider monkeys, tropical birds, iguanas and ocellated turkeys kept us company.  

Balamku

<img src="Balamku.jpg" alt="Balamku inside temple. wanderer writes.com"/>
Inside the Temple of Balamku.
Not far from Calakmul, in the ruins of Balam-ku, we saw the most beautiful and well preserved Mayan murals. We were the only visitors there. The caretaker was kind enough to unlock the door that lead inside the pyramid where the murals are.  She also told us that underneath they have found an ancient tomb.  As we were walking around the other structures, only iguanas kept us company. 

Staying off the Beaten Track

 
As we prepare to return to Yucatan after the Holidays, we are looking for more treasures that are not overrun by tourists.  it is getting more and more difficult, but not impossible. One of our favorite spots is so remote, we can only get to it on a dirt road, and we only encountered locals there.  Mayans, who speak Spanish as a second language. In some ways it is easier to communicate with them. Since they speak slower, I can understand better. It also helps to pick up a few words in Maya. Not that I could communicate with them in their own language, though I wish I could. But it makes us all feel better when we try.
 
There are no pyramids very close to this place, that I know of, but we might find something new, unexpected. Yucatan tends to offer something new every time we visit.  
 
The best-known Mayan pyramids are so popular that they are hard to enjoy due to the crowds they attract. But the jungle still has plenty of hidden treasures. If you know where to look, you can still find solitude and adventure, even on the Riviera Maya. 

Revisiting Chichen Itzá and Its Pyramid of Kukulcan

Chichen Itzá is probably the best-known and the most spectacular ancient Mayan site. It is not only a World Heritage site but also one of the “new seven wonders of the world”. Architectural wonders, of course.

Over the years we visited the site often.  While we always noticed changes, our latest trip, seven years after our last, took us by surprise.

We Notice the Changes As Soon As We Return

Once upon a time, it was possible to visit the site without the crowds that it attracts today.  I remember climbing the Pyramid of Kukulcan, walking through its temple, and taking a tour inside of it.  We climbed the Temple of the Warriors and even sat on its jaguar throne. No one stopped us, all the visitors did it. Only a handful of us drove to the site anyway. We climbed the Observatory or Caracol and walked through its rooms. I remember with nostalgia watching our kids play in the enormous ball court, and being virtually alone in it.

Pyramid of Kukulcan. Chichen Itzá. 2017
Pyramid of Kukulcan. Chichen Itzá. 2017

While we knew that we couldn’t do any of those things now, we still decided to revisit the site.  Our youngest daughter was a tiny baby last time we walked through the site and she didn’t remember it. She wanted her to see this famous place.

At first I was disappointed. We stood on a long line for at least an hour to enter, even though we stayed in a hotel basically on the premises. As soon as it opened, the crowds were unbelievable.  Vendors lined up the trails, calling to us as we passed by, offering tourist junk made in China. Yes, it was annoying.

“Call something Paradise, kiss it goodbye” – in this case, call it a “wonder of the world”. So true.  However, we are trying to preserve these wonders for future generations.  So I understand and even agree that no one is allowed to climb or even touch the monuments.  When they get thousands of visitors a day, it is the only way to keep them from getting destroyed.

Chichen Itzá. Temple
Chichen Itzá. Temple
A Walk through the Ancient City

Once passed the shock of the changes,  we managed to have a wonderful time.

How could we not? The structures are all spectacular, even more so than we remember them. More of the facades are restored and the paint in some of the rooms looks more vivid from outside.

Chichen Itzá. Chac Mul
Chichen Itzá. Chac Mul

We didn’t have a lot to walk, most of the trails we used to walk on are closed, and to look to the structures takes less time than to climb them.  While I missed the old trails, it was nice to take it easy and be able to leave by noon.

Our first stop was the Sacred Cenote, where legend has it that virgins were sacrificed. I’m not so sure the legend is true though. Some of the early archaeologists searched the cenote and found lots of offerings.  Not necessarily human ones though.

The Sacred Cenote. Chichen Itzá
The Sacred Cenote. Chichen Itzá

Thousands of beautiful artifacts found their tomb in the bottom of the cenote.  Of course they found human remains as well, but not enough to prove the idea that they were sacrificed. It is quite possible that people fell into it by accident, either in the ancient times or much later. The edge is very steep, I remember worrying about my own kids a lifetime ago when we used to visit. It is not possible now to get close to the edge, so no danger of that kind lurks around it. The remains of the ancient temple sit on the edge of the cenote.

 

Walking through a Line of Vendors

Walking back towards the main plaza, we watched the vendors set up their fare.  We walked fast past them, avoiding eye contact. We didn’t want to hear their offering of things that we were not interested in buying.  I have trouble saying no to anything, and they seem to know it.

Though we entered the ruins as soon as they opened, by the time we were in front of the Pyramid of Kukulcan, the crowds have already descended on the plaza.  Fortunately, it is a large enough area that we could enjoy the monuments if we lingered a few minutes in front of each.

The Ball Court, Temple of the Warriors and Caracol

The Ball Court is the largest in Mesoamerica.  As I walked through it, I heard the familiar yells and hoots of the tour guides, demonstrating the acoustics of the place.  It still makes me smile.  The Maya figured out how to build an outdoor monument with perfect acoustics. If a person talks on one end, his voice is audible and sounds clear on the other side.  It rivals the best opera houses of the modern world.  And it is outdoors.

The Great Ballcourt. Chichen Itzá
The Great Ballcourt. Chichen Itzá

The Temple of the Warriors sits as magnificent as ever, though we couldn’t get too close to it.  The Mercado with its hundreds of columns is off limits, as well.  It is still beautiful to look at from the trail that goes around it.

Temple of the Warriors. Chichen Itzá
Temple of the Warriors. Chichen Itzá

We walked to the Observatory or Caracol and to the structures around it.  As we shared the plaza with hundreds of tourists, people watching became part of the game. The Observatory is spectacular from the outside as well.

Caracol. The Observatory. Chichen Itzá
Caracol. The Observatory. Chichen Itzá

Looking at it makes me think of the ancient Maya watching the sky, night after night.  Based solely on their observations alone, without the aid of modern telescopes, they understood the movements of the planets, the moon, and the stars.  They were even able to predict eclipses, both lunar and solar.  They based their calendars on the movements of these celestial bodies they watched from structures like this one.

The Pyramid of Kukulcan

Still, the greatest structure in Chichen Itzá remains the famous pyramid.  I am lucky to have climbed it once upon a time and even walked inside it.  But even looking at it from outside it is spectacular.

The Temple of Kukulcan. Chichen Itzá

It sits in the middle of an open plaza, dominating the center of the site.  Stairways lead to the top on all four of its sides, but the most spectacular one is the one facing north. It is the only one where two huge serpent heads adorn the bottom of the stairs.  These are the representations of the mythical great serpent-god, Kukulcan.  Hence the name.

The Shadow of Kukulcan descending. Chichen Itzá
The Shadow of Kukulcan descending. Chichen Itzá

During both spring and autumn equinoxes, at sunset, the whole serpent is visible, descending the stairs of the pyramid.  How did they know to face the building in this way?

A few years ago we ended up in Chichen Itzá soon after the spring equinox.  Though it was about a week later, we were still able to see the shadow of the mythical serpent descending the stairs of the pyramid.

In addition, the number of stairs on the four sides of the pyramid equals the number of days in a year. Each side has 91 steps (91×4=364), and one extra step on the top leads into the temple.

Leaving Chichen Itzá

We knew that it was probably the last time we would visit this amazing site.  We’ve seen it many times, we have explored it, we have even seen the great serpent Kukulcan, descending the stairs a few years ago.  We happened to be there about a week after the equinox.  At the right time, it was still visible.  We have seen the night show, where they reenact the great serpent descending, with artificial lights, as they tell stories from the ancient city. The show is spectacular, especially if you understand Spanish.  You can listen to it in English as well, with headphones, but this version is never quite as vivid.

If it is your first time, it is worth the time and effort.  Try to get there early though and remember that you need to deal with crowds.  Sort of like Disneyland.  If you don’t let the crowds and the heat (during the day) get to you, you’ll have an amazing experience.

Uxmal and the Pyramid of the Magician

Uxmal is one of my favorite ancient Maya cities in the state of Yucatan.  Over the past twenty-five years, my family and I visited it often.  No matter how many times we see it, we don’t mind coming back to it over and over.

Revisiting the Ancient City of Uxmal
We were some of the first visitors of the day to the ancient Maya site of Uxmal. We enjoyed the cool breeze when we started walking, since we knew that later it would be hot and sticky.  In the hills of Yucatan a breeze is a rare commodity and the humidity is high enough to make the heat unbearable.
Like every time we find ourselves in the region, we got up early to arrive to the site when it opened. Once again, we managed to beat the crowds that show up late morning in the tour buses from Cancun.
The Pyramid of the Magician
Pyramid of the Magician. Uxmal
Pyramid of the Magician. Uxmal
The first structure we noticed upon entering the site was the Pyramid of the Magician. Its massive frame dominates the plaza, and the whole site.  One of the largest reconstructed pyramid on the peninsula, it is also my favorite.  Its rounded sides have more of an appeal to me than the sharp corners of the pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza.
But part of the reason I love this particular pyramid has to do with the legend of its creation.
 
According to this legend, a dwarf, hatched from an egg, built it in one night. While doing it, he proved himself worthy to be the king of the ancient city.  Read the whole legend, as well as a different point of view of my trip to Uxmal here.
Revisiting the Nunnery Quadrangle
The Nunnery. Uxmal
The Nunnery Quadrangle
Early in the morning we were sharing the site with only a handful of visitors. We made our way to the main compound of the Nunnery Quadrangle. The name doesn’t fit, it has nothing to do with nuns or any kind of nunnery. The Spaniards mislabeled it when they first saw it.  The plaza surrounded by four major structures resembled their idea of a nunnery.
Archaeologists think that the plaza was a palace for high officials. In the center, it has a stage for ceremonial dances.  Walking though it, we marvel at the elaborately decorated facades of the buildings. We can no longer enter any of the rooms, though we remember being inside them during previous visits. They are each very similar, in shape and size, with small variations.
Archway Entrance to the Nunnery. Uxmal
Archway Entrance to the Nunnery
Ball Court in Uxmal

We left the Nunnery Quadrangle, and walked through the ball court.  Not quite as large as the one in Chichen Itza, it is still spectacular. This time it looked better than I remembered. We could tell that work was done to reconstruct it in the past few years.

Ballcourt. Uxmal
Ballcourt.
Walking through the Palace of the Governors

We walked over to the Palace of the Governors, a long building on top of a high platform.  My favorite feature of it is the facade. In fact, it is the longest facade in the Yucatan featuring the Rain God, Chak.

Palace of the Governors. Uxmal
Palace of the Governors. Uxmal

These rooms were not closed, so we were able to enter them once again. We revisited the rooms that Stevens and Catherwood, the first Western explorers of the region, lived in while here.  We talk about them as we walk through the rooms, and recognize the signs of fire in one of them.  I remembered reading an interesting entry in their book about how a native built the fire for them. They wrote the Incidents of Travels in Yucatan over a century ago, but the book is still a good read.

Facade on the Palace of the Governors. Uxmal
Facade on the Palace of the Governors

Facade on the Palace of the Governors

Casa de la Tortugas

We walked over to the Casa de Las Tortugas, the small structure decorated with turtles. It was starting to get warm as the day progressed. We were prepared for the usual hot and sticky feeling we always get while exploring Mayan ruins. This time, Chak must have been in an unusually good mood. Clouds rolled in and a welcomed breeze cooled us down.

Casa de las Tortugas. Uxmal
Casa de las Tortugas
On the Grand Pyramid
We moved on to one of the structures we can still climb, the Grand Pyramid.  We sat on top of it for a long time, enjoying the breeze, and the view of the site.  
The pleasant breeze was soon accompanied by a few drops of rain. We visited this site often during the years, but I don’t ever remember rain here.  Chak, the rain god, was happy indeed.  We stood on top for a long time, enjoying the water hitting our hot bodies.
On top of the Main Pyramid. Uxmal
On top of the Grand Pyramid
While we were enjoying the light rain, we didn’t notice the crowds coming into the site. We looked down and realized that the major parts of the site were overrun by huge tour groups. When one of the large groups started climbing the stairs of the pyramid, we decided that it was time to leave.
The Cemetery
We took the opportunity to revisit the cemetery. Most tours and visitors don’t bother walking so far, so we found ourselves alone once again. Later, we encountered one lone visitor here, among the stones decorated with skulls. Like us, he was enjoying the quiet that this out-of-the-way part of the site offered.
The Pyramid of the Old Woman
Later on we took the less traveled path towards the Pyramid of the Old Woman, the mother of the legendary dwarf. Overgrown by vegetation, the trail doesn’t seem to be used, though is not closed down. Few visitors wonder out this far off the beaten path.
The pyramid of the Old Woman is still in rubble, though for the first time since our many visits, it is roped off. ‘Will they work on reconstructing it?’, we wonder. It is a good size pyramid, though far from the center of the city.
According to legend, this Old Woman was a witch and lived in a small hut.  After her son, the dwarf, became king, he built this pyramid for her.  It must have been beautiful in its time.
 
On the way out, we had trouble navigating the crowds in the main plaza and the entrance area. We were glad that once again we managed to enjoy the site while sharing it with only a handful of fellow visitors.