El Castillo is a four-sided pyramid with 91 stairs on each side. (Photo by jgorzynik | Shutterstock) Chichen Itza is a Mayan city that flourished between the 9th and 13th centuries A.D. on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. The site covers about 55 square miles and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It consists of more than 800 structures on three islands: Kinich Kakmó, Nakum Okan and Nohpat Naakum.
El Castillo is at the center of one of the three main plazas of Chichen Itza. This structure stands out because it is dedicated exclusively to Kukulkan, a Maya god associated with death and rebirth. The building of stones without any kind of cement or mortar it's called "stepped pyramid".
The first construction phase of El Castillo started in 0+-400 AD and finished around 0+-500 AD. It was built by the Maya as a temple for their chief deity Kukulkan, but later on also became a place where human sacrifices were made.
The second construction phase began around 0+-550 AD and ended around 0+-750 AD. It was also built by the Maya but this time as a palace for the king of Chichen Itza. During this period the structure was probably not used for sacrificial rituals anymore.
Chich'en Itza is centered on the Pyramid of Kukulcan or Kukulkan (also known as El Castillo, a name given by the Spanish Conquistadors). Between 800 and 900 CE, it was erected on top of an older temple. It is the largest pyramid in Chichén Itza, measuring 53.3 meters broad on all four sides at its base. There are three more smaller pyramids at Chichén Itzá.
El Castillo was built for the same reason as other large pyramids in Mexico: to honor the gods. The Maya believed that only gods were powerful enough to reach such a high degree of spirituality that they became one with the universe. Their prayers would be heard by their god(s) and answered by their return to Earth. Thus, they tried to become like their gods by building huge monuments as places to worship and pray.
The pyramid itself is made of dark gray stone, although some sources say it's made of cinder block. No one knows for sure because no one has ever gone inside the structure.
It takes about two years to build a pyramid like this one, so it's safe to say that Chichén Itzá was getting busy around 800-900 CE. The city was probably thriving at that time, since many buildings have been found with evidence of having been painted red, the preferred color for sacred spaces.
The older pyramid within El Castillo contains a scarlet jaguar throne with inlaid eyes and jade spots, as well as a chac-mool hidden behind a screen (Maya sacrificial stone sculpture). The entrance to El Tunel, the throne's tunnel, lies at the base of El Castillo's north side. However, you are not permitted to enter.
El Castillo is a unique site that deserves to be seen by everyone who travels to Chichén Itzá. Although it is difficult to visit some of the interior areas due to their height, those who do so report incredible views from top-of-the-world perspectives. Visitors should use caution not to climb any pyramids or temples at Chichén Itzá; all structures have ancient steps and trails that may appear safe to walk on, but can cause serious injury or death if not used with awareness. Chichén Itzá is a beautiful place full of history and mystery, but like any other archaeological site, it requires dedication and effort to fully explore. Happy hiking!
The pyramids are made of intricately carved stone in a stair-stepped style, capped with a flat platform on which a smaller temple honoring a specific Maya god was built. El Castillo, in this occasion, served as a temple to the 'feathered serpent' god Kukulcan. It was here that the king would offer sacrifices on behalf of his people.
El Castillo stands 17 stories tall and is found in the center of Chichén-Itzá, about an hour's drive south of Yaxché. The site contains several large pyramids as well as some small ones. However, due to its size, only one or two other sites can be visited during your stay in Chichén-Itzá.
El Castillo was used for religious purposes but also served as the main administrative building for Chichén-Itzá at the time it was constructed. The upper part of the structure is actually made up of multiple rooms each with their own unique layout but they all have one thing in common: no windows. The only way in or out of these rooms was through small openings between the floors. There were even interior stairs but they were so narrow you could barely squeeze through them.
People were imprisoned within El Castillo for judgment rituals and the dead were buried inside it too. For many years it was believed to be the world's tallest building but this title now belongs to Taipei 101.
Mesoamerican pyramids list Pyramid Culture Site Name Base length (m) Height (m) Guatemala, El Mirador Xochicalco, Mexico, 72 La Danta Maya Mexico Xochitecatl The Flower Pyramid, 100 by 140 Xochitecatl Mexico The Spiral Structure Pyramid, also known as the Calendar Round, 290 Mexica Mexico Tezcatlipoca Pyramid, 300+ Campeche Mexico Chichén Itzá Mexico Kukulkan's Pyramid, 360+ Chiapas Mexico Palenque Mexico Pakal-Kutak-Palenque-Loltun-Tikal-Waka-Paqob. Seven great pyramids in one site! 1,000+
Average height of Mexican pyramids: 30 meters (100 feet). The tallest pyramid in Mexico is at Chichén Itzá at 360 meters (1200 feet). The second highest is at Mayapan which is 70 meters (230 feet). Other major cities with more than one pyramid include Cuernavaca, Toluca, and Villa de México.
The pyramids were built between AD 250 and 900, with some dating back as far as 1450 BC. They were used for ritualistic purposes only, not for tomb buildings. The largest pyramids at Chichén Itzá and Tikal were probably never completed.