The famous pyramid of Chichen Itza, located in Mexico, rises like an ancient god out of the thick tropical foliage of its jungle. Every year, two million visitors explore the ancient ruins complex, once a bustling metropolis that was mysteriously abandoned by the 16th century. People come for the place’s energy and history. They also want to climb the steep stairway ascending to the Temple of the Warriors at the summit.
The most popular tourist question is whether visitors can climb the Chichen Itza pyramid to explore the spectacular view. While millions of people climbed the famous Maya monument in the past and illegal tours still claim to smuggle people to the top, you can no longer climb the Mexico pyramid due to a tragic accident in 2006.
Can you go up Chichen Itza today? Here’s what to know about climbing the great Mayan pyramid.
What is Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is a famous Maya monument from the fifth-century Maya civilization located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
The Mayan culture peaked from 800-1200 C. C. as a political and economic metropolitan center in modern Mexico. At one point, an estimated 50,000 people made these Mayan pyramids on the Yucatan Peninsula their home.
Despite innovative agricultural advances, skilled astronomic abilities, and impressive architectural techniques, something happened to cause the inhabitants of this cultural powerhouse to abandon this one of many Mayan sites.
When the Spanish conquistadores stumbled onto the place in central Mexico in the 16th century, they discovered an abandoned city.
To this day, no one knows why the Mayan people fled their city, but these archaeological sites have over 300 restored buildings and a 91-foot-tall pyramid.
World Heritage Site
The major focal point covers about 1.9 square miles, making it a walkable destination combined with the much smaller site at the nearby Coba ruins, where you can also climb Coba.
This one of many ancient Mayan pyramids is not only a UNESCO world heritage site but also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Can You Still Climb Chichen Itza Pyramid?
When most people think about climbing Chichen Itza, they are referring to the Kukulkan Pyramid – they want to climb the pyramids of El Castillo.
It is the central and most awe-inspiring building at the Chichen Itza complex. At 91 feet, it is the largest pyramid and tallest Mayan temple in the northern Maya lowlands.
A Death-Defying Tourist Destination
Its height and hair-raising angle are one of the reasons why people are no longer allowed to climb Chichen Itza.
Tourists once claimed the pyramid at Chichen Itza as a traveler’s mecca. In the past, millions of culture lovers climbed the sacred place.
What It’s Like to Climb Chichen Itza Pyramid
While you can’t climb the steps to the most famous Maya monument, here’s what it would be like to climb up to the temple on a visit.
Rising at a steep, 45-degree angle, the temple mound ascent has narrow steps, a dizzying climb, and surreal views.
People who scaled Chichen Itza advised how to survive the terrifying climb.
Go slow. Drink water often. Try not to go with a big group to avoid tripping or getting pushed off the pyramid. Climb the steps using the guide rope. Descend by sliding from step to step on your bottom or come down with careful, sideways steps like a crab.
New Seventh Wonder of the World
Many tourists are disappointed to discover that they can’t climb Chichen Itza and live out the Indiana jones dream.
The good news is that even though you can’t touch this new seventh wonder of the world, you can visit the complex and visit all the other Mayan ruins.
Many people report feeling the mysterious spirit of the archaeological site even though they can’t climb Chichen Itza.
Why Can’t You Climb Chichen Itza Pyramid?
There’s a good reason why authorities shut down El Castillo to tourists.
Over the decades, millions of people wore the great stone steps smooth. These bald spots meant that if your foot hit one, it offered no traction to stop your fall.
On January 5, 2006, an 80-year-old experienced traveler named Mrs. Black died when she slipped on one of these smooth steps on the last day of her three-week Yucatan vacation.
She had climbed two-thirds of the way up the steep steps when her foot hit a smooth step, and she fell 60 feet to the ground. The woman died from neck injuries.
This was the last straw. After this tragic accident, the site’s authorities decided that the tourists who climbed the steps each year not only threatened to erode El Castillo but also posed a risk to other visitors.
They closed access to the pyramid, making it illegal to climb Chichen Itza ever since.
What Happens if You Climb the Chichen Itza Pyramid?
Under the federal General Tourism Law, climbing El Castillo is illegal.
It’s Against the Law to Climb Chichen Itza
That hasn’t stopped shady Chichen Itza tour guides from offering to sneak visitors up to climb Chichen Itza to view the sites at night.
Even if you’re dying to view the Warrior’s Temple, the stars, or the jungle once you climb Chichen Itza, it’s best to turn down any offers to take you up to the pyramid site.
Illegal Tours Try to Climb the Pyramid
Never join a Chichen Itza tour that promises to take you up the pyramid. Not only is it illegal to access Chichen Itza, but due to the steep stairs, slipperiness, and darkness, it could be the last thing you do.
What Happens to People Who Climb Chichen Itza?
Recently, site security detained and turned over to the local authorities a woman who did climb Chichen Itza to sprinkle her dead husband’s ashes at the top.
Despite best efforts, another tourist managed to scramble up the pyramid to snap a quick selfie and “absorb energy” from the great pyramid before he faced arrest in 2018.
For decades, the famous Chichen Itza archaeological zone has been a place of pilgrimage for millions of travelers.
Although it’s illegal to climb Chichen Itza, there are still plenty of sanctioned ways to soak up the spirit and history of the place.
How to Enter Chichen Itza
The only official way to enter the Chichen Itza archaeological site is to buy your ticket at the entrance to the archaeological complex.
It costs about $583 MXN or $29.25 USD for a site pass to Chichen Itza. There is also an $80 MXN ($4.01 USD) fee to park. This will allow you into all the walkable areas at the location.
Even if you can’t climb the Chichen Itza pyramid, you can still visit to take an iconic photograph in front of this most famous Maya monument to experience the elusive thrill of adventure on ancient Mayan turf.