Every year in September, hundreds of visitors come together during the autumn equinox at Chichen Itza, Mexico to watch a spectacle of shadow and light on the steps of El Castillo (Kukulkan pyramid).
Equinox, meaning equal night, is the time of year when the hours of day and night are the same. This only happens once in autumn and again in late March, known as the spring equinox. The iconic Mayan archaeological site of Chichen Itza is the only place in the world where you can see the natural phenomenon come to life.
Late in the afternoon the sun projects triangles of light created by the angle of the sun and the northern edges of the pyramid’s steps. Simulating a snake-like effect, the shadow gradually descends to the jaws of the serpent’s head carved at the base of the pyramid, leaving onlookers awestruck. Ancient Mayan legend believes this is the Kukulkan serpent making his way to the Well of Sacrifice nearby.
This year, the autumn equinox at Chichen Itza officially happens on 22 September but the spectacle can be seen a day or two either side, lasting for around 45 minutes.
Trafalgar’s Treasures of the Yucatan itinerary can take you to visit the ancient city of Chichen Itza in 2012. And you won’t have to worry about fighting the crowds to get in either, as the hotel you’ll stay in is ideally located right next to the ruins and has its own private entrance.