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Chichen Itza became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The sacred site is one of the greatest Mayan centers in the Yucatan peninsula. Located approximately two hours from Cancun, and two and a half hours from Merida, Chichen Itza is also the most visited archaeological site in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation compiled more than 100 million votes cast online and over the phone to create a new seven world wonders list.

The new Seven Wonders of the World are Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Chichen Itza, Mexico; the Colosseum in Rome, Italy; Taj Mahal, India; Great Wall of China; Petra, Jordan and Machu Picchu, Peru.

Chichen Itza attractions

The main attractions of Chichen Itza include El Castillo, or the Pyramid of the Serpent God Kukulkan, a magnificent pyramid topped by a temple. Every spring and fall equinox, thousands of people travel here to witness a shadow depicting the god slither down the pyramid. Visitors can also explore the sacbes, white limestone pathways used by ancient Mayans.

The immense ruins of Chichen Itza are surrounded by lush green vegetation, underground rivers, natural wells and limestone that the Mayans used to construct their magnificent buildings. Chichen Itza's varied architecture and elaborate ceremonial centers, built without metal tools, exhibit cosmological symbolism.

Toltec-Mayan history

Although many peoples left their mark on Chichen Itza during its nearly thousand-year history, Chichen-Itza is really two cities: one that was ruled by the Mayans from the sixth to the tenth centuries, and a Toltec-Mayan city that emerged in 1000 AD.

The Toltec empire's influence was felt in all parts of central and eastern Mexico. Appearing in central Mexico during the 10th century AD, and reaching nearly 40,000 inhabitants, the Toltecs established Tula. The city dominated central Mexico for nearly 300 years until the arrival of the Aztecs.

Mayan inventions

The most famous civilization in the Yucatan peninsula was the Mayan. Flourishing from 300 AD to 900 AD, the Mayans invented a sophisticated writing system comprised of phonetic symbols and pictographs. It is also believed that the Mayans invented the concept of zero, 1,000 years before Europeans adopted it from the Orient.

The Mayans developed two calendars based on a solar system and rituals, predicted eclipses and measured movements of the moon and Venus with near perfect accuracy.

Other Mayan sites

Besides Chichen Itza, the Mayans left many other reminders of their great civilization. Most ruins are found in the states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Campeche, conveniently located just a short distance from many major tourist attractions.

Palenque, Tonina, Yaxchilan, Coba, Tulum, Xcaret, Kabah and Sayil are some of the most visited Mayan sites.

More things to see and do in Mexico:

Tulum - Ruins on Riviera Maya

Cozumel Mexico Vacation

Mexican Popsicles

Esencia Mayan Riviera Resort and Organic Spa

Central America on a Shoestring