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Watching the Spring Equinox at Mexico’s Ancient Mayan Sites

16 March, 2019

Watching the Spring Equinox at Mexico’s Ancient Mayan Sites

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has gained worldwide fame for its many ancient Mayan archaeological sites, which challenge the senses and instantly transport visitors to another time and place, but did you know that many of these structures are designed to communicate with the heavens? Read on to see how two of the ancient Mayan sites on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula can “speak” to the skies, and explore how the ancient Maya’s genius for astronomy is on full display during the Spring Equinox for visitors. 

Marking the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north, the Spring Equinox happens every year in late March and also happens to be when the sun will align with two of the ancient Mayan temples that still remain on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza - which lies about two hours inland from downtown Playa del Carmen - and Dzibilchaltun (pronounced dzee-beel-chahl-toon), which is located near Merida and just over three hours west of Cancun. 

Chichen Itza Spring Equinox 2019

Chichen Itza Spring Equinox 2019

Tens of thousands of visitors will come to Chichen Itza for three days surrounding the Spring Equinox on March 20, 2019, hoping to witness the archaeo-astrological phenomenon known as the descent of Kukulcan. This incredible illusion appears to resemble a carved and feathered serpent that makes its way down the massive staircase on the famed El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza. 

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The amazing serpent effect at Chichen Itza begins about three hours before sunset with a form of undulating light on the railing of the great temple’s main staircase. This effect is fleeting and only lasts for around 10 minutes, but is more than worth the wait, according to the many visitors who come each year. 

Dzibilchaltun Equinox Spring 2019 

If large crowds leave you feeling less than excited, consider checking out the Spring Equinox at Dzibilchaltun instead. Located at km. 14 off the Merida-Progresso highway just 20 minutes north of the colonial city of Merida and 30 minutes south of Progreso, this less-touristy Mayan archaeological site won’t leave you feeling disappointed. First uncovered in the 1950’s, the sun rises right in the middle of a stunning Mayan archway, which also forms the entrance to the Temple of the Seven Dolls.  

Dzibilchaltun Equinox Spring 2019

Visitors have to get up early to experience the Spring Equinox at Dzibilchaltun, so plan to arrive around 5 a.m. While there, be sure to take a dip in beautiful Cenote Xlacah and the Open Chapel - a truly unusual arched structure that was created by the Spanish in the 16th century and is the only known example of Spanish buildings co-existing with ancient Mayan structures.

It’s important to note that clear skies are necessary for either of these illusions to work, so just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, it’s always best to plan this experience as part of an extended vacation to see more of what Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has to offer! 

Do you have questions about visiting Mexico? Tell us in the comments! 

Want to know more about the ancient Mayan people? Read our Insider’s Guide to the Ancient Ruins of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and start to plan your next unforgettable vacation in Mexico!

Topics: Mayan Ruins Mexico Activities Yucatan