Travel

Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza and the Great Wall of China

Credit - Ellie Ball

By Tirion Davies and Ellie Ball

 

Chichen Itza

The city of Chichen Itza in Yucatán, Mexico was announced a Wonder of the World in 2007. The archeological site brought in 2.6 million tourists in 2017 and it’s not hard to understand why. The archeology is remarkably intricate and in astonishing condition despite its final layout dating to as early as 900AD. Despite the fact you can no longer climb the El Castillo temple in the centre of the location, the sight itself is still a Wonder of ancient architecture. Between the iconic temple and its serpent effect taking resident as the first building visitors see, to the Templo del Hombre Barbado and to the Platforma de los Cráneos, there are plenty of architectural designs to showcase Chichen Itza’s vast history. 

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities and was likely to have been one of the mythical cities or ‘Tollans’ from Mesoamerican literature. It’s a big part of Mexican culture, with locals taking great pride in its tourism success. Chichen Itza has a vibrant culture at its heart, with local vendors continuing to set up stalls in-between the ruins. The modern Mexican culture manages to blend with its rich history, and every step feels as though history itself is alive under your footsteps. 

Credit – Tirion Davies

When I visited Chichen Itza back in 2015, we stayed nearby in Cancún, but we were offered a full Chichen Itza experience. We took the opportunity and I’d suggest you do the same if you get the chance. Although it’s not hard to find yourself at Chichen Itza from just about anywhere in Mexico (the site has such a strong cultural presence amongst tourists), definitely take the chance to do the ‘experience’. We visited a shop that sold traditional Mexican souvenirs and ate at a restaurant where local fajitas were served. None of the Tex-Mex food I think most people are used to, but real Mexican delicacies incredibly hard to find in any other country. After a guided tour around Chichen Itza we visited the Cenote Sagrado, a place of pilgrimage for ancient Maya people. The cenote was a gorgeous swim, and the perfect end to an extraordinary and unique cultural experience not to be found anywhere else.

Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and worth every penny to visit. 10/10 would recommend.

 

The Great Wall of China

“You girls?! No way are you going to be able to do that.” laughed our taxi driver as my friend and I relayed our plans to climb the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China. Irritatingly, he wasn’t the only one to doubt us.

Our main reason for choosing to hike this semi-wild section was predominately down to the fact that it does not attract the same hordes of tourists that more well-known trails do. This is due to both its distance away from Beijing and its lack of accessibility – being a mix of both restored and original wall.

So, less than 24 hours after landing in China’s capital, we began the 2 hour journey out of the city towards one of the world’s most magnificent creations. We were not disappointed. It turned out that we had done our research well and were two of just ten people on the entire 5km stretch of wall.

Credit – Ellie Ball

Our trip started with a ride on a sketchy two-seater cable car that took us up to the start of the section. The carriage ascended hundreds of metres up in the air, travelling over the vast green canopy below. Ten minutes later, we arrived safely at the base of the wall and proceeded on to begin the trek which all in all, lasted around 4 hours.

Seeing the expanse of beige wall snaking through the rugged greenery was utterly breath-taking to say the least. As far as the eye could see, the backdrop was an endless array of silhouetted mountains. It was one of those bucket list moments that I just couldn’t believe I was experiencing.

The walk started out steady as we stopped to take photos and appreciate the surrounding sights. “Wow this is easy” we said. Little did we know, it was about to go from 0 to 100 real quick. Suddenly, an almost vertical wall came along which we practically free-climbed to the top of. It was at that moment that I began regretting my choice to wear a dress. This essentially was how the rest of the trek went and by the end of it, I was so exhausted that I didn’t even care that everyone saw everything – and I mean everything.

However, I’m proud to say we did it! Climbing one of the seven new wonders of the world is certainly something that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Credit – Ellie Ball
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