I visited Chichén Itzá, the ancient Mayan city in the Yucatan Peninsula, back in 2010. (so young! So tan!). It was the first time I’d seen something so ancient and monumental—made even more dramatic by a deafening thunderstorm that drenched the site for a solid hour during my visit.
My two favorite spots within the complex were the Temple of Kukulkan, the gigantic pyramid in the center of the site, and the ball court. The stepped pyramid has one stair for every day of the year—after all, it was the Mayans who devised the 365-day calendar. Unlike other ancient places, we actually know a lot about Chichén Itzá, which was used as a ceremonial and religious site—for instance, they even know that nearby cenotes (also often included in daytrip tours for swimming) are thought to have been sites of human sacrifice. A haunting thought indeed as you step off one of the 50-foot ledges!