The on-again, off-again saga of the Chichén Itzá nightly light-and-sound show is off–again. Like a small child who has discovered a light switch for the first time, the backers behind the program announce its return, then postpone the premiere, then announce it again and follow that with another postponement.
In July officials in Yucatan’s government announced that nightly testing of the show would begin Aug. 11 with the show’s official premiere in September. Now word is trickling out that light-and-sound program once again has been delayed, with no date set for its return.
Secretary of State Tourism Development Saúl Ancona Salazar told La Verdad Yucatán that the light-and-sound show has once again been delayed because of “tuning issues” and tests are underway to assure that there will not be a repeat of the damage that occurred two years ago when lightning struck the equipment and destroyed it.
“We’re in the home stretch,” Ancona Salazar said. “The work is finished, but we cannot open it until we have taken care of the final details, especially to ensure the safety of visitors.”
Here are the 2014 ticket prices and other fees for Chichén Itzá, based on the best information available (including a visit to the site in February).
Admission prices (for non-Mexicans): 188 pesos (approx. $14.20 USD).
This includes 129 pesos charged by the state of Yucatan and 59 pesos by the government of Mexico.
NEW: Nightly Light-and-Sound Show: FREE beginning Aug. 11, then 198 pesos (~$15 USD) after September official premiere.
After an absence of two years, the evening light-and-sound show is scheduled to return Monday. What is not clear is that once the 198 peso fee is charged is whether that is included in the daily admission or is an additional fee. My guess is it will be the latter.
Parking: 30 pesos (~$2.25 USD).
If you drive to Chichén, you will probably end up parking in the main lot. This represents an increase that was effective Aug. 1.
Guides: 750 pesos, not including tip (~$57 USD)
Over the past couple of years the “system” for hiring guides has changed. Previously you could pick your guide, but now you hire your guide at a kiosk at the main entrance and you get the “next man up.” While this has eliminated price gouging (and haggling), not all guides are equal in their ability to speak and comprehend English or in their knowledge of Chichén Itzá.
The new nightly light-and-sound show at Chichén Itzá will premiere on Aug. 11. According to officials, the first few weeks will be free.
The new show will consist of computer animated projections using El Castillo, the giant pyramid, as a theater screen. Although details of the content have been scarce, it will tell the story of the ancient Maya civilization in Yucatan.
According to variousmedia outlets, there will be a soft launch be to test the system and work out the kinks before the official premiere in September. At that time the state government of Yucatan, which financed the show, will charge an admission fee of 193 or 198 pesos (approximately $15 U.S.).
The new light show has been more than two years in the making since lightning damaged the projectors that ran the previous show. Originally the show was to launch in 2013, but there have been numerous delays. Yucatan’s Secretary of Tourism Promotion (SEFOTUR), Ancona Saul Salazar, said when producing a show of this magnitude and complexity, one should expect there will be small issues.
In addition to the light-and-sound show, several of the monuments at Chichén will be illuminated. According to Enrique Magadan Villamil, director general of Yucatan’s agency in charge in tourism, Patronato de las Unidades de Servicios Culturales y Turísticos (CULTUR), patrons of the new light-and-sound show will view the illuminated monuments, including a walk through the Great Ball Court, before taking their seats in front of El Castillo for the show.
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.