fun things to do with kids in chichen itza mexico   Travel for Kids
  | Yucatan Peninsula

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza, the largest of the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula, was once a cosmopolitan Mayan-Toltec city. The complex is divided into two major areas: the older Classic Maya city (7th -10th century), and "New Chichen" (11th-13th century) that incorporates elements from the Toltecs. The ruins are in tip-top condition, and Chichen Itza is great place for kids.
Chichen Itza

The ruins – When you first arrive in Chichen Itza, head over to the big pyramid, El Castillo, (also called Kukulkan's Pyramid) in "New Chichen." Alas, you can no longer climb to the top (for fabulous views of ruins and jungle in distance).

    Other highlights of the "New Chichen" ruins are the huge Ball Court and don't miss three rows of skulls carved in the stone on the Tzompantli, the "wall of skulls" platform. (Heads of dead enemies were displayed on the platform). All those columns in the Temple of Warriors are a great place to run around.
    Cenote Sagrado, the "sacred well of sacrifice," might look a little green, but into this well the Maya tossed people, gold and precious items as sacrifices to the Mayan gods, such as Chac the rain god.
    In "Old Chichen," check out the Caracol, the observatory. The Maya made amazingly accurate astronomical calculations using sight lines from the door and windows on the Caracol. The little cells and passageways in the Nunnery Quadrangle are another place to run in and out.
      Mayan house – Don't miss this re-creation of a Mayan family home. The mud walls are painted red, the roof is thatched, the floor is dirt. A Mayan house was simply furnished with clay pottery cooking pots and mats to sleep on.
      The Visitor's Center has a good video presentation on Mayan culture and a model of the Chichen Itza complex overall. You can also buy souvenirs, such as your child's name in Mayan hieroglyphics.
      There is a Sound and Light show in the evening. Being out under the stars with El Castillo and the Ball Court all lit up is impressive, but my kids found the narration uninteresting, even with simultaneous English translation.

Horseback riding tours are available around Chichen Itza. A great way to see the jungly landscape.

    Cenote Ik Kil – If your kids are good swimmers, go for a swim in the Cenote Ik Kil, the "sacred blue well." Stairs leading down to the water make it easy to climb in and out. The water is incredibly clear – bring your snorkels.
  Balankanche Caves – The Yucatan Peninsula sits on a limestone plain. As water seeps through the limestone, caves are formed with stalactites and stalagmites. The Balankanche Caves were used by the Maya to make ceremonial offerings to the rain god. The highlight of the cave tour is a huge cavern with an enormous stalagmite in the middle, like a pillar reaching to the ceiling. Mayan ceramic ceremonial objects are arranged around the stalagmite. The trail through the cave is wide, but be prepared for warm temperatures.
kids books mexico
The Ancient Maya  
The Ancient Maya
Jackie Maloy

Get to know the ancient Maya, their cities, temples (including Il Castillo) and palaces in the rainforest, society, arts and religion, plus fun facts about the ancient Maya – flat foreheads and large noses were considered beautiful, wealthy Maya wore jaguar skins, jade was highly prized. (Picture book)



Eveningstar Macaw defies the evil influence of the Mayan high priest, Great Skull Zero. After the high priest sacrifices her brother, she herself is thrown into the sacred well, but survives and returns with a message from the gods. (Chapter book)


The Well of Sacrifice
Mario's Mayan Journey  
Mario's Mayan Journey
Michelle McCunney

In his dreams, Mario flies with the flamingos to Chichen Itza, explores the rivers and jungle around the Mayan ruins, listening to the sounds of howler monkeys, jaguars and macaws. (Picture book)


Me Oh Maya
Jon Scieszka, Adam McCauley

Hilarious adventures of the Time Warp Trio, Fred, Joe and Sam, as they are warped to the Maya ball court at Chichen Itza. When the High Priest of Chichen Itza ("Chicken Pizza") declares the boys a sacrifice to the harvest, it's time for the trio to play ball. (Easy reader)


Me Oh Maya!
(More children's books on other Mexico pages)
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