The ancient Mayan capital of Chichén Itzá casts its spell whenever you visit it but on the day of the spring Equinox, the Pyramid of Kukulcán in the Great Plaza becomes a stairway to heaven and an ancient god returns to earth.
Also known as El Castillo, the pyramid is a feat of ancient engineering and a solar clock, aligned to catch the rays of the setting sun on the days of the spring and fall equinoxes in March and September, respectively. Huge crowds gather for this mystic experience and to watch as triangles of light and shadow form along the side of the north staircase and the figure of a snake appears, merging with the head of a stone snake at the foot of the building. The illusion of a gigantic serpent slithering down from the heavens and across the ground towards the Sacred Cenote is created.
The snake symbolizes Kukulcán (also known as Quetzalcoatl in central Mexico), the feathered serpent god, who returns to earth to give hope to his followers and heralds the spring planting and fall harvest seasons for the Maya.
Day trips to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichén Itzá are available through Thomas More Travel. This year, the Spring Equinox falls on March 20 but it is traditionally observed on March 21 at Chichén Itzá as it coincides with an official national holiday.  The light and shadow snake is visible the day before and after the equinox, cloud cover permitting.