Chichen Itza Facts: The Spring Equinox Mystery

With March 20 right around the corner, many are looking forward to the Spring or Vernal Equinox with excitement as this is one of the two times throughout the year where the sun shines directly on the equator. Many mysteries surround the Spring equinox and one of them takes us to Mexico to wonder at the precise mathematics and astronomy demonstrated by the Maya at Chichen Itza.

What is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is an archeological site located in the Mexican state of Yucatan, near Cancun. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and attracts approximately 2 million visitors each year.

The pre-Columbian site was built by the Mayan civilization between AD 600 and AD 900. While many of the archeological remains were lost after the Spanish colonization, the foreboding structures that remain have allowed researchers to learn a lot about the culture and lifestyle of their builders.

One of the most relevant architectural remains of the world-known site is the Temple of Kukulcan. This Mayan pyramid is famous because it seems to come to life during the Spring and Fall Equinoxes.

The Snake of Kukulcan

The Mayans built the temple of Kukulcan with such precision that a shadow in the shape of a snake appears every year during the Spring and Fall equinoxes. As the sun moves across the sky, it seems as though the shadow descends (or ascends depending on the equinox) from the top of the pyramid all the way down to the bottom, where the head of Kukulcan snake awaits.

In addition to this, the number of steps located on each side of the temple add up to the days of the Mayan calendar, making it a perfect three dimensional almanac.

Planning Ahead to Enjoy the Spring Equinox

To enjoy the unique experience of seeing the Spring equinox at Chichen Itza, it is important to plan your visit ahead of time. The shadow of the snake appears between 4:00pm and 4:30pm. If you’re staying in Cancun, be sure to leave the Mexican city early in the morning to arrive midday at the Mayan site, and have some time to explore the area.

Consider taking advantage of a guided visit (available in multiple languages).

As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza can be a busy place, especially on March 20th. Thousands of tourists from Mexico and around the world will gather in front of the pyramid to witness this phenomenon. Maybe you'll be among them one day, and take home a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t see anywhere else.

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