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Chichén Itzá is closed. So why are tourists climbing Kukulkán?

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Visitors are caught climbing Chichén Itza’s famed pyramid while the archaeological site is closed to the general public. Photo: CIOAC

INAH employees are accused of profiting from Chichén Itzá’s shutdown by allowing their own visitors to roam the ancient pyramid and observatory.

The archaeological site, one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, is closed because of a road blockade organized by protestors. But a regional farm group called CIOAC Yucatán says that opportunistic workers are pocketing money from privileged guests before and after hours.

For over a decade now the only way to legally see the jade-studded jaguar throne housed inside the Pyramid of Kukulcán has been through photographs. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

A Mexican tourist was recently heckled and arrested for climbing Kukulkán in November. CIOAC posted photos suggesting that many visitors, some in vests to suggest they are researchers, are doing the very same thing. 

They are also climbing the observatory, which has been off-limits to tourists for even more years than the pyramid, photos shared on social media suggest. These illegal tours would be dangerous to the visitors and could permanently scar the Mayan ruins. 

Hundreds of handicraft vendors have been blocking access roads to the Mayan ruins, claiming guards of discriminating and violating their rights as descendants of the people who built the temples more than 1,200 years ago.

Chichén Itzá can get very busy, especially during the summer and winter holidays, so it’s best to be as early as possible. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

“They prohibit the vendors there from speaking Maya,” said Arturo Ciau Puc, an activist with CIOAC, told The Associated Press. “Just because we are indigenous doesn’t mean we should be treated like second-class citizens.”

Chichén Itza has become the most visited archaeological site in all of Mexico, fuelled by day trippers from Cancun and the Riviera Maya. 

Overcrowding both by tourists and vendors have led many to argue that the charm of visiting this ancient wonder is largely evaporated.  

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