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Chichén Itzá Excursion, Mexico

The famous Mayan pyramids of Chichén Itzá are over 1500 years old. 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 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".

You will find the largest ball court in Mesoamerica, measuring 168 metres in length and 70 metres in width, 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. 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 into heaven.

At Chichén Itzá you can also visit the spectacular Cenote Sagrado, a large sinkhole 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 that were thrown into the water as an offering to Chaac, the Mayan rain god.

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Audley Travel Specialist Tessa

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