The Castle

HIghway 79
Chichen Itza, YU - Map It

AAA Editor Notes

The Castle (El Castillo) is a short walk from the visitor center at the main entrance. Also called Kukulcán, the Mayan name for the Toltec king Quetzalcóatl, this 100-foot-tall pyramid has a perfectly symmetrical design. Each of the four sides is scaled by 91 steps; the total of 364 steps plus the top platform equaled the number of days in the Mayan year. El Castillo also is deceptively steep; the large stone steps ascend to the top at a 45-degree angle. Due to safety concerns, climbing El Castillo is not permitted. An additional step underneath the pyramid, the 365th, signified a trip to the underworld. Each side also has 18 terraced sections—nine on either side of a central staircase, equaling the 18 months of the Mayan year—and 52 panels, corresponding to the number of years in the Mayan calendrical cycle. Inside El Castillo is an older temple (not open to visitors) with a very narrow set of steps ascending to two claustrophobic inner chambers; one contains a reclining Chac Mool figure, the other a reddish throne in the shape of a jaguar with green jade eyes.