800px-Chichen_Itza_3This March 21, the spring Equinox, the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá reminds us why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. On this day, thousands of visitors gather in the Great Plaza at the foot of El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulcán, and as the sun begins to set, the mystery of the pyramid is revealed, an ancient serpent god returns to earth.
The pyramid was built with such mathematical precision and aligned to catch the rays of the setting sun on the spring and autumn equinoxes. Triangles of light and shadow ripple along the side of the north staircase creating the body of a snake. As it merges with the head of a stone serpent at the foot of the building, the illusion is complete – a gigantic serpent slithering down from the heavens and across the ground towards the Sacred Cenote.

The Coming of a God
The snake symbolizes Kukulcán (also known as Quetzalcoatl in central Mexico), the feathered serpent god, returning to earth to give hope to his followers and heralding the spring planting and fall harvest seasons for the Maya.
In ancient times, the city’s rulers, priests and astronomers would scan the heavens for portents, recording the movements of the stars and charting the passage of the seasons. They could predict the Equinoxes and on this day, they would have summoned their subjects to the main square for a ceremony invoking Kukulcán with prayers, rites and offerings. Imagine the awe of the populace as the serpent appeared before them.
Experts believe that Kukulcán may also have been the name of a great leader who came from the west and resided at Chichén Itzá some time in the 10th century, during the period when the city was ruled by the Itzae, a group of seafaring warrior traders or Putun from Chontal Maya territory in Tabasco and Campeche with political and commercial ties to central Mexican cultures.

A Solar Clock
Dominating the Great Plaza and built only with stone tools, the 25-meter-high El Castillo functions as a solar clock to the wonder of scientists and visitors alike and is also associated with the Mayan calendar. Sitting on a square base measuring 55.5 meters on all sides, the pyramid has nine terraces, divided by two stairways. The number of terraces and wall panels coincides with the number of months in the ancient year (18) and years in a calendar round (52), respectively, and the number of steps in the staircases (91), in addition to the top platform, the entrance to the temple, equals 365, the days in the year.
The pyramid was built some time between A.D. 650 and 800, with later modifications, possibly from 1000 to 1150. The earlier temples are inside the pyramid we see today and can be visited via a narrow staircase, which is definitely not for the claustrophobic. A statue with cupped hands known as a chac mool guards the entrance to the inner sanctum where there is a magnificent throne in the form of a red jaguar with jade spots and eyes.
The Maya and other pre-Hispanic cultures venerated the jaguar for its strength, stealth and ferocity and at Chichén Itzá, this noble animal has its own temple, just one of the wonders to be seen at the huge archaeological site.

An Incredible Experience
Don’t miss the spring Equinox at Chichén Itzá. You’ll be amazed at the precision of the long-lost temple builders and astronomers as the light and shadow serpent appears on the ancient stones. Mayan sites are still sacred places and many visitors believe that they are full of energy that they can channel as they pray or meditate at the foot of the pyramid. As you explore Chichén Itzá and the surrounding forest and bask in the warm spring sun, you will certainly feel energized
The serpent of light and shadow may also be seen the day before and after the Equinox, cloud cover permitting. Book your Chichén Itzá trip through Thomas More Travel or at the tour desk in your resort. If you would like to explore at your own pace, private tours can also be arranged through the travel agency and if you decide to stay longer, the evening Light & Sound Show is highly recommended.
Chichén Itzá is located in the eastern Yucatan, 200 kilometers/125 miles from Cancun via the toll road (take the exit at Piste) or Highway 180.

More Equinox Mysteries
Chichén Itzá is not the only Mayan ceremonial center tin the Yucatán to have temples with solar, lunar or planetary alignments. The doorway of the Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltún (13 miles north of Mérida) makes a perfect frame for the rising sun on the day of the Equinox.

Grand Residences Mayan Equinox Getaway
Why not make your Equinox experience truly exceptional with a luxury vacation at Grand Residences, a Leading Hotel of the World® in Riviera Cancun, just south of Puerto Morelos.
The Grand Residences Mayan Equinox package includes three nights/four days in a sumptuous Junior Suite, an Equinox trip to Chichén Itzá for two on March 21, healthy and delicious breakfasts created by acclaimed French Chef Yann Cozic, a revitalizing Mayan ritual spa treatment for two people on the beach, daily yoga classes, complimentary transfer from Cancún International Airport, a bottle of Xtabentun, the anise and honey flavored liqueur of the Yucatán and a daily US$100 resort credit. You’ll also have access to the services at the resort such as the fitness center, tennis courts, sports and activities, and unique touches of pampering such as a gourmet tea hour and butler service.
As a symbol of renewal, life, positive energy and new beginnings, you’ll also plant a seed in the Grand Residences greenhouse.
The Grand Residences Mayan Equinox Package starts at $1,899 US plus 19% tax and 10% service fee for two and is available from March 19 to March 23, 2014. Larger guest suites and extra nights are available. The package and rates are subject to change and availability.
For reservations contact Toll free USA 1 855 381-4340; Mexico 01 800 008-5252; Rest of the World 52 (998) 872-8130. Email: reservations@grandresidencesrivieracancun.com
www.grandresidencesrivieracancun.com