The Whole Picture: El Castillo at Chichen Itza

| January 4, 2012 | 6 Comments
elcastillochichenitza The Whole Picture: El Castillo at Chichen Itza

El Castillo at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan, Mexico.

El Castillo (Spanish for “castle”), also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, is a step-pyramid that dominates the centre of the Yucatan’s Chichen Itza site. Built by the pre-Columbian Maya sometime between the ninth and twelfth centuries, El Castillo served as a temple to the god Kukulkan, a Mayan deity that resembled a feathered serpent.

Consisting of a series of terraces with stairways up each of its four sides, sculptures of plumed serpents run down the sides of the the pyrimad’s northern facing side. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the late afternoon sun illuminates the northwest corner and casts a series of shadows against the temple’s face—which creates the illusion of a feathered serpent “crawling” down the pyramid.

Recently, a theory that the ancient Mayans built their pyramids to produce strange and evocative echoes has been supported by a team of scientists. Researchers have shown that sound waves ricocheting around the tiered steps of the pyramid create sounds that mimic the chirp of a bird and the patter of raindrops. As our guide illustrated, the aforementioned ‘chirp’ can be triggered by a clap made at the base of the staircase.

Inspired by publications like Life Magazine, National Geographic and online experiences like’s photo blog, images marked as ‘The Whole Picture’  are intended to highlight high-quality, amazing imagery. Kathryn and Daniel will post ‘The Whole Picture‘ irregulary.  Like all of our photos, it is an original photo not otherwise on the site—it might be fresh from our camera, a new scan of some old film, a product of our fooling around with Photoshop, or a file from the archive that we haven’t posted yet.

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Category: Dan's Blog, Photos

About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

Comments (6)

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  1. Luke says:

    I was trying to contact you regarding some advertising on the website, but your contact form isn’t working. Could you reach me at the address I left in the contact form? Thank you!

  2. Christina says:

    Chichen Itza looks amazing. We were in that area two summers ago, but decided to go to Tulum instead, and save Chichen Itza for next time!

  3. raptor says:

    It is amazing to think that many centuries ago civilizations were walking our planet before us. It looks to me that there were bigger civilizations than we thought. If that’s the case then they must were more advanced than we actually know about them. More discoveries will let us know them better.

    I want to share with you this music about the mystical place Chichen-Itza. The message of that music is about a CHANGE all humans must do in order to live in peace and harmony. Maybe that’s the message ancient civilizations wanted us to know.

    Arriving at Chichen-Itza 2012

    In Lak’Ech. Peace from Mexico.

  4. Becca says:

    Wow that photo is absolutely amazing! Chichen-Itza is definitely on my list so thanks for sharing!!

  5. Sandy Allain says:

    Chichen-Itza is really an amazing place! I’ve been there!

  6. John says:

    I saw this on TV on a program called Idiot Abroad! The echoes are meant to be quite spooky actually.

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