The Yucatan Strategic Plan Foundation, together with David Alpizar Carrillo, the State Secretary of Economic Development, announced plans for a new tourist development around the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, which lies about two hours west of Cancun and two and a half hours northwest of Tulum.
“The archaeological site of Chichen Itza will be ‘a master-planned world class resort,’ the first of its kind based on the cultural attractions,” writes The Yucatan Times. “One of the objectives of the project is to entice tourists to spend the night in the Mayan city and archaeological site of Chichen Itza.”
According to Jose Canto Vivas, who serves as president of the Yucatan Strategic Plan Foundation, top priorities right now include the modernization of urban transportation services and the creation of a condominium law in the area – both of which he hopes will be accomplished before the end of 2014. In addition to federal funds, the foundation reportedly has already allocated more than three hundred thousand dollars to kick-start the initiative, which will also include the construction of a golf course near the ancient city, along with a variety of other attractions.
The new resort community near Chichen Itza was first detailed as part of the 2014-2018 National Infrastructure Plan of the Federal Government, which was released a few weeks ago in Mexico City. In total, the federal government’s plan calls for $14 billion to expand and modernize Mexico’s tourism infrastructure, including the construction of new hotels, renovating existing facilities and enhancing public places, such as important destinations like Chichen Itza, which has been one of Mexico’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1988.
“This sacred site was one of the greatest Mayan centres of the Yucatan Peninsula,” writes UNESCO.org. “The fusion of Mayan construction techniques with new elements from central Mexico, make Chichen Itza one of the most important examples of the Mayan-Toltec civilization.”
Chichen Itza has long been one of the most popular one day (or better yet two-day) trips from Cancun and other popular vacation destinations along Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, this sprawling archaeological site covers around 25 square kilometers, but only 8 have been opened for public viewing at this time.
“Walking among these stone temples, pyramids, and ball courts gives you a feel for this civilization that books cannot approach, and there’s no other way to comprehend the city’s sheer scale,” writes Frommer’s. “Chichen Itza has two parts: the central (new) zone, which shows distinct Toltec influence, and the southern (old) zone, with mostly Puuc architecture.”
Without a doubt, El Castillo, which is also known as the Pyramid of Kukulcan, is Chichen Itza’s most impressive structure. Rising nearly 100 feet into the air,it was built using the Maya calendar and boasts four stairways with 91 steps each that lead up to the central platform – added together and including the platform, this equals 365 to reflect the days of the year.
Perhaps most impressive, the pyramid is aligned so the spring and fall equinoxes trigger an optical illusion, with the setting sun casting a shadow on the northern stairway that is reminiscent of a giant serpent, which appears to slither down the pyramid as the sun sets. Even pop star Jennifer Lopez is fascinated by Chichen Itza - enough to shoot a music video here in 2012 anyway, when she donned a snake skin-patterned flowing dress for an on location performance of her single “I’m Into You.”
The numbers are encouraging for Chichen Itza, as well as other parts of Mexico. Tourism accounted for $13.82 billion of Mexico’s foreign exchange inflows in 2013, when nearly 24 million international tourists visited the country. So far this year the numbers are even more encouraging, with foreign currency inflows generated by the tourism sector growing 15 percent from January through April.
Have you visited any of Mexico’s ancient Mayan sites? If so, share your story with other readers in the comments section below!