The Grand Site of Chichen Itza

The most famous site of the northern lowlands

British Museum

Get to know the site

The ancient Maya site of Chichén Itzá lies on the Yucatan peninsula. It was an important city in the northern lowlands during the Postclassic Period and, although it was uninhabited when the Spanish arrived, it still played an important role among the local populations at that time.

The Great Plaza

The Great Plaza was the vibrant heart of Chichén Itzá. This area has been leveled out and is where the main buildings of the city can be found.

It is also the midpoint where different roads (sacbe’ob) departed to different parts of the city, such as the cenote on the north side of the site.

El Castillo

Today, Chichén Itzá is known as one of the New Wonders of the World and the awe-inspiring El Castillo, the pyramidal structure in the main plaza of the site, is one of Chichén’s largest building.

The Sacred Cenote

The Yucatán peninsula is formed by a limestone bedrock, under which a large body of water circulates. Sometimes the limestone collapses, and the resulting sinkholes are known as cenotes. These pits were important to the Maya and offerings were thrown into them.

The Sacred Cenote of Chichén Itzá, in the northern part of the city, is one of the most famous cenotes.

Along with the bodies of the sacrificed, vessels and objects made of jade, stone, shell, and gold were found. Some of these objects came from far away, like the golden objects from Colombia and Central America, and from earlier centuries, such as the objects of the Classic Period from Palenque.

The Temple of the Warriors

The Temple of the Warriors, at the east of the Great Plaza, stands out due to its huge colonnade in the lower section and its well preserved columns in the shape of serpents at the entrance of the temple.

The Temple of the Warriors owes its name to the reliefs on its pillars, containing figures of warriors and prisoners with tied hands. These pillars preserve a considerable amount of its original colors.

The Osario Complex

This complex is one of the southern groups of Chichén Itzá and has similarities to the Great Plaza.

The Ossuary

Also known as the High Priest's Tomb, this structure stands out in the Osario complex and is very similar to El Castillo. The structure sits over a cave and has been decorated with beautiful birds and the head of the god K'awiil.

El Caracol

Perhaps one of the most famous buildings of Chichén due to its peculiar shape, this structure owes its name to its inner spiral stairway. It also receives the name of The Observatory, because it probably used for astronomical observations.

Casa Colorada

The interior of this building was painted in red and that is why it has the name Casa Colorada (red house). Its other name Chichanchob (small holes) refers to the roof on top of the structure.

The Nunnery Complex

The main building of this group, which has several rooms, reminded the Spanish of their convents, and that is why they named it the Nunnery. 

The structures of the complex display the decoration typical of the Puuc style, which implies that this group was built during the first period of splendour of Chichen Itza (800-1000 CE). The Puuc style can be observed in other sites of the northern Yucatán Peninsula with whom Chichén maintained close relationships.

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