Horseback ride to the old ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan

Just south of the main ruins of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico are the seldom seen temple ruins of old chichén, an area relatively few people know exists let alone visits on a journey here. In mid April we were graciously invited to tour this mysterious part of Chichen Itza by our new friend at the Mayaland hotel, Quincy. The hotel generously donates lodging to the archaeologists who are excavating the site and Quincy can arrange the only horseback tour to old chichén.

This is an easy 2-3 hour tour where you ride a short distance on groomed jungle trails, then dismount to explore overgrown pyramid mounds and a landscape of cut limestone blocks from toppled Mayan temples. Many of these blocks have been labeled by the archaeologist and turned face down to protect heavily carved sides. Others stand upright staring endlessly across time to all who visit. I sense a certain power seeing temples like this, in their natural state, and perhaps they are more authentic as the remains of an ancient civilization. Regardless, they are not to be missed if you have the time to visit here.

Things get started once Sylvestre (below with his white mare Madonna) arrives with the horses. The tour starts from the Mayaland grounds and arrives at the ruins after a leisurely 20 minute ride.

tour of old chichen itza in the yucatan

Temple mound on the Old Chichen tour

Kay stands partially up the side of this mound like so many early explorers must have before her.

One cannot help but marvel at the size of this mound and wonder what its original purpose could have been. Many Mayan ruin mounds were once finely sculpted buildings or pyramid temples, faced with carved limestone, often containing internal passages. Most are thought to have been built in reverence to specific Mayan deities or to commemorate momentous events. Others were used as observatories to the stars and planets. The Maya had an amazingly accurate knowledge of the cosmos. The calendar they used is actually more accurate then the one we use today.

unescavated ruins at chichen Itza

Fallen blocks from ruined temples are scattered across the landscape

old chichen in the yucatan

Surreal serpent heads with faces in their mouths and skulls- all these had significance

serpeants heads from mayan ruins

More serpents and faces- the archaeologists’ task is to determine the placement of the stones

more mayan scultpures found at Old Chichen

The task of organizing begins with recording original locations, then collecting related pieces.  This is an archaeological jigsaw puzzle where the pieces seldom fit together perfectly. It is a formidable challenge to make the educated guesses required to place the stones and re-build a temple, and it is all based on what we know of these places and the prevailing theories of our time. The fully detailed truth may never be known because in the aftermath of Mayan wars, famine, disease and conquest many of the clues have been lost or destroyed. In most cases only the stone remains to tell of past glories, beliefs and achievements.

mayan stones from a mayan ruin

Partially up a hillside this part of a wall remains a rectangular block that has detailed carving.

mayan sculptures found at old chichenAnother intact wall fragment hints at what must have stood before on this mound

mayan wall at a mayan ruin in the yucatan

Facing stones of finer buildings were exactly cut and excavation of a buried internal passage in a mound

unescavated mayan ruins in old chichen

Ghostly sentinels of the past- these column statues stand near the main plaza excavation

mayan statues at mayanhotel

Update on this tour in the Yucatan

With great regrets, we were sadly informed that Mayaland cannot continue this tour to the general public. We are so pleased that we captured these photos and shared with you!

Check out Mayaland hotel near Chichen Itza and spend some time in this part of the Yucatan.