No one loves the Hacienda Chichen as much as I do. And my favorite building at Chichen Itza is Akab Dzib, the “House of Dark Writing.”
Now visitors can see and explore both.
The Hacienda Chichen, once a working plantation and cattle ranch, today is a resort. For the past five years, Akab Dzib has been behind a gate, unavailable to visitors.
Now visitors who stay at the Hacienda Chichen can enter the archaeological zone of Chichen Itza through the hacienda’s beautiful gardens and past the Akab Dzib, according to Belisa Barbachano, who run the resort.
“Our guests can arrange purchase of their ticket to Chichen Itza when booking their stay, at check in, or the night before their visit to the archaeological zone, and avoid all the discomforts that the other entrances provide, such as long waiting lines or crowded bus tour groups,” writes Barbachano in an e-mail. “It is magic to enter through our gardens, along a very secluded and lovely path to our new gate. It truly is such a great plus for our guests.”
The government of Yucatan let slip a few tantalizing images of the new light-and-sound show at Chichén Itzá, which is promised for this summer. We’ve loaded them into a preview video, which you can watch above (or see in HD on YouTube HERE).
When will the new show premiere? Officials are being vague. According to several recent news reports, a tourism official said it would begin “before July 15,” but he said it in such a way that it could be interpreted as “before the summer season is over, which runs from July 15 to Aug. 20.”
The best estimate by officials is that the new show will premiere the last week in July.
Click above to hear samples of music to the new light-and-sound show at Chichen Itza
The music for the new nightly light-and-sound show at Chichén Itzá has premiered on the Internet.
Aldo Aráchar, a sound engineer based in Mexico City, reportedly composed the score for the new show, which according to officials is slated to premiere in early July.
Aráchar posted a sample of his score on SoundCloud, explaining, “Original music composed for the all new Chichen Itzá night show. Featuring state of the art video mapping techniques, lighting and quadraphonic audio, the new show truly is an extraordinary experience.”
Earlier this month Yucatán Governor Rolando Zapata Bello made a whirlwind trip to Chichén itzá to inspect the new show. According to pressreports, the governor’s office had requested changes, in particular with the soundtrack, insisting upon more indigenous music/instruments.
Aráchar’s samples do contain what sound like Maya drums (the tunkel) and whistle, although most of the music is symphonic, closely resembling a film score.
The new light-and-sound show cost the state $60 million Mexican ($4.6 million US). Two years ago the equipment that projected the former light-and-show was struck by lightning. The loss of the nightly show has been devastating to hotels and restaurants in the area, who have had trouble attracting visitors to stay overnight without it.
The nightly light-and-sound show at Chichén Itzá was supposed to return in April, but now tourism officials are saying that it will be back in July.
A lightning storm some two years ago put the popular evening attraction out of commission. There have been numerous delays preventing its return, but according to a recent news report, the new show may finally be ready.
Earlier this week Yucatecan tourism officials premiered the new show to 250 travel agents in Cancun at Tianguis Turístico 2014 (Tourist Expo 2014). Yucatan’s state director of tourism, Santiago González Abreu, told the Sipse news service in a telephone interview that the show “generated positive comments.” Unlike the previous show which simply flashed colored lights against the backdrop of the monuments to a spoken narration, this show will include animation projected on the monuments to tell the story of the ancient Maya.
This new show cost 50 million pesos and will premiere at Chichén Itzá in early July.
Video created in 2009 to promote tourism development around Chichen Itza
Five years ago then-governor of Yucatan, Ivonne Ortega Pacheco, described plans for a “Disneyfication” of Chichén Itzá. She envisioned a giant resort, with artificial beaches, golf courses, hotels, and restaurants in the vicinity of the ancient Maya city.
Those plans took a step closer to reality last week with the announcement by the government of Mexico to create three thousand-acre resort complexes next to the archaeological sites of Chichén, Palenque in Chiapas, and Teotihuacan near Mexico City.
The resorts, called Centros Integralmente Planeados (in English, “Integrally Planned Centers,” or CIPs), represent a proposed 8 billion peso investment by the federal government, employing a similar model that resulted in the development of Cancun back in the 1970s. For Chichén Itzá, Mexico is proposing to spend 2.75 billion pesos ($210 million U.S.) to develop an as-yet unidentified parcel or parcels of 1,000 acres.
Details are sparse on exactly what kind of development is proposed at Chichén. The video above suggests a dense resort complex, similar to what one would find in Cancun. But the federal government is describing these new projects as “low density, that is, having a limited number of hotel buildings and other buildings, plus it will be developed based on the available land reserves,” according to a report in the Mexican newspaper Milenio.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto yesterday was in Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state that contains Chichén Itzá, and said his administration was taking action “to consolidate the Mesoamerican heritage,” specifically Chichén. Yucatán’s daily paper of record, the Diario de Yucatán, quoted the president as using the word “consoidar” which not only means to consolidate, but also can mean to fund.
In a recent interview, Martín Gómez Barraza, the director of FONATUR, was asked about the impact of creating and expanding tourist enterprises in areas of national patrimony such as Chichén Itzá. FONATUR, which is celebrating its 40th year, is the quasi-public agency that created Cancun, Los Cabos, and other resort areas, and no doubt will be called upon to develop a resort at Chichén. Gómez Barraza told Razon magazine (Reason) that it is part of the agency’s strategy to diversify tourism in Mexico. “We always rely on government agencies responsible to care for, maintain and preserve our heritage,” he said.
Graphic showing the three major projects proposed by the Mexican government (Milenio)
It took nearly two years, but the nightly light-and-sound show at Chichén Itzá soon may be back.
The old light-and-sound show.
A lightning storm in 2012 destroyed the equipment that projected lights onto the monuments. Late last year tourism officials for the state of Yucatán, which owns the archaeological zone, announced that the program would return in April and if a report in the Diario de Yucatan is true, they appear to be close to keeping their pledge.
An early concept of the new show.
Technicians have been secretly testing the equipment at Chichén, the Diario reports. The project has been hush-hush because officials want to make its return a surprise.
Unlike the previous show, which flashed colored lights on the monuments in time with a narration track, this program will include animation projected onto the great pyramid El Castillo. According to the Diario, the audience will be transported back to the days of the ancient Maya, and will see the feathered serpent god Kukulcan crawl down the side of the pyramid and a “doncella“–a virgin–sacrificed.
Expect state tourism officials to make an announcement about the resurrection of the nightly light-and-sound show soon.
A few years ago I sneaked into Chichen Itza at night with my late friend, Warren Thompson. Warren was the great grandson of Edward Herbert Thompson, who owned Chichen from 1894-1944.
Warren brought the biggest flashlight I’ve ever seen. As we walked around the archaeological zone, he would flick on the lamp and the powerful beam lit up an entire monument. The buildings at Chichen were never conceived to be shown this way, but the effect of the spotlight was awe-inspiring and made these monuments into something new and even more exotic. It was exhilarating as we walked from one monument to the next, until eventually security caught us and sent us on our way.
This spring everyone who visits Chichen Itza will soon have the same experience, as the state of Yucatan has announced it will begin night tours of the ancient city beginning in April.
Yesterday Yucatan Governor Rolando Zapata announced that design of a new light-and-sound show at Chichen Itza has been budgeted and is underway, and that the state will also be adding a night tour as well, according to a report in the Diario de Yucatan.
State Secretary of Tourism Saul Salazar Ancona told reporters that these new night enhancements, which will cost $50 million (Mexican) would be ready by April.
Ticket prices to enter Chichén Itzá will increase 10 pesos (75 cents US) beginning Jan. 1, 2014, El Financiero reports.
The current admission fee is 186 pesos (slightly more than $14 US), of which 130 pesos go to the State of Yucatan’s Patronato de las Unidades de Servicios Turísticos y Culturales (CULTUR) and 56 pesos to the federal agency that oversees the ruins, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH). On Jan. 1, the state will increase it’s ticket price to 140 pesos, bringing the total price close to $15 US.
The increase also will be applied to entrance fees at Uxmal and Dzibulchaltun.
Since the state purchased the land under the archaeological zone, it has increased ticket prices every year.
Yanni, the New Age pianist from Greece, announced he will perform at Chichén Itzá in 2015 for a global television special.
Performing at historic landmarks is something Yanni does, having previously played concerts at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, the Taj Mahal in India, Red Square at the Kremlin in Moscow, and the Forbidden City in China.
Yanni announced the concert at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya when he was in area last week to perform a concert in Izamal. He was joined by Jorge Esma Bazan, former director of the Yucatecan state tourism agency Cultur, and now chief executive of International Maya Cultural Festival (FICMaya).
The show would also be recorded and material from it will be used to promote the archaeological and cultural resources of Yucatan, Esma Bazan said. When he was head of Cultur, Esma Bazan produced several shows at Chichén Itzá with other international acts, namely Placido Domingo, Sarah Brightman, and Elton John. These concerts all sold out, but provokedtremendouscontroversy.
Also, an announcement is no guarantee that Yanni will actually perform. Previously Esma Bazan released plans to hold concerts by Juan Gabriel and Paul McCartney, but neither of those shows materialized.
“I want to empower people and have them feel they are able to move mountains,” Yanni said. “Any place, any time, becomes significant for a show and influences the souls of the people. It is one thing to be in a room like this and another to be in an place such as Chichen Itza and Izamal. The music I play is then transformed.”
Here’s a clip of Yanni from his performance at the convent in Izamal:
A new and improved light-and-sound show will return nightly to Chichen Itza sometime in 2014, the Yucatan secretary of tourism promised this week.
The nightly program where colored lights would shine on the monuments in time to a narration about the ancient Maya was shut down last year after lightning damaged the equipment and after archaeologists complained of damage to ruins at Teotihuacan, which has a similar show. A few months later Jorge Esma Bazan, director of Yucatan’s Patronato Cultur department, announced he had hired French painter and video artist Xavier de Richemont to create an entirely new program that would be unveiled in 2013.
In last week’s announcement, Tourism Secretary Saúl Ancona Salazar made no mention of whether de Richemont would be involved, but said that $40 million MXN had been budgeted for a light and sound show that would use 3D technology. He said that the project, originated by the previous administration, was “quite robust” so the current administration has the project under review at INAH, the federal agency in charge of the Chichen Itza ruins.