Tourist Gets Scolded After Climbing Pyramid In Mexico – What Are The Rules For Visiting An Ancient Site?

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Earlier this week, a tourist was scolded and physically attacked by an angry mob after climbing the historic Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico. After the incident went viral on TikTok, many users began to ask why his behavior was reprimanded so strongly and, more importantly: what exactly are the rules for visiting an ancient site?

Crowds of tourists gather at the foot of the Kukulcan Temple in Chichen Itza, Mayan ruins in Mexico

Chichen Itza is a major archaeological site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, containing the ruins of a 1,272-year-old city dotted with Late Classic architectural gems. Its most iconic symbol, the Kukulcan Templeis a traditional Mayan step pyramid where sacrifices and other pre-Columbian religious practices took place.

Out of respect and solely due to local conservation efforts, tourists must refrain from entering areas closed to visitors or face the consequences:

A woman confronts an angry Gluais after breaking the visiting rules in a Maya city

Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

If you follow the latest Cancun and Riviera Maya news closely on our sister website The Cancun Sunyou now know that a well-known tourist like Abigail Villalobos made headlines after reaching the top of the Temple of Kukulcan, a sacred Mayan pyramid that is part of the Chichen Itza complex, which goes back hundreds of years.

When visiting Chichen Itza in its entirety, you will find several signs indicating which paths and attractions are and are not tourist attractions. The pyramid itself usually cordoned off remember that day climbers are not allowed, but this did not deter Mrs. Villalobos, who continued to climb and dance ungraciously on top of the monument:


Ce n’est pas parce qu’il ya des marches qu’il fallait les emprunter…la touriste en question a été arrêtée par la police aus risque une mende de plusieurs dizaines de milliers de pesos.

♬ Shame On You – Ellie

Making her way down, she was greeted by an angry crowd of spectatorswho started booing, pulling her hair, and singing ‘jail, jail, jail‘, or even’sacrifice‘. Mr. Villalobos was escorted from the crowd by the local team and fined US$250.00, or its equivalent 5,000 Mexico peasfor breaking visitor rules.

Unlike other pyramids in Mexico, especially the temples at Teotihuacan, Kukulcan’s sacrificial chambers remain no limits since 2006, when an elderly tourist from California fell down the UNESCO-listed building and died tragically. nowadays, Ticket holders can only walk around the pyramids but not going up the steep steps due to security concerns.

What are the Rules for Visiting a Historic Site?

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Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, Mexico

These may vary depending on the state of conservation of the site, but there is an ‘Etiquette’ that should be followed when touring ancient sites. The Society for American Archeology lists some of them, and although they refer specifically to monuments found in the United States, they can also apply to Chichen Itzaand any other ruins of historical interest in Mexico:

  • Visitors they must avoid moving or disturbing anything from the site, as they may be ‘evidence’ left by its former inhabitants;
  • When finding an Artifact, it is allowed to examine it from a distance, draw it, and photograph it, but it It must be left in its original place;
  • If proper infrastructure is not in place, such as boardwalks, avoid stepping on ancient structures and mounds, as you may cause damage;
  • Leaning, sitting, standing, or climbing on ‘prehistoric’ walls is strictly prohibited;
  • It is recommended to stay on footpaths and tourist paths, as it helps to preserve the site for future generations;
  • Waste should always be disposed of properly: any leftover food, cigarettes or rubbish in general lying on the ground can attract wild animals, which are known to be ‘very destructive’;
  • When possible, pets should be left behind when entering archaeological zones (for exactly the same reason as listed above).
Foundation of the Mayan Pyramid in Chichen Itza,

Other additional rules exclusive to Chichen Itza include, of course, without the scale of the temples. This can be allowed across other archaeological zones in Mexico, but for the sake of the preservation of this particular Mayan city, and for safety reasons, some monuments must be observed from afar – and security is very tight , as shown above.

As well, Camera tripods are not allowed, regardless of their size, as they are considered ‘professional equipment’. To bring tripods and/or video cameras to the site, visitors must arrange a permit in advance. You are allowed to bring your mobile phone, tablet and smaller devices to take pictures and only for that purpose.

You Don’t Have to Buy Summits to Soak Up Incredible Maya History

Female Tourist in Chichen Itza, Yucatan State, Yucatan Peninsula,

Fortunately, foreigners can explore most of Chichen Itza, although there are limits to the temples that can be approached. The summit of the pyramid can no longer be conquered, but Americans are allowed to closely examine other notable buildings, such as Akab Dzibwith a well-preserved well-cut stone face.

Another attraction is the Nun’s House, described as ‘one of the largest architectural groups of all in Chichen Itza‘. The main part is about 33 feet high, and contains an elaborate staircase which connected the upper and lower temples during the early period. The outside is richly decorated in the Chenes stylewith the usual ‘monster mouths’ framing the entrance.

Tzompantli Wall in Chichen Itza,

Like most Mayan cities, Chichen Itza was built close to cenotes, a complex system of sunken caves that the Mayans believed to be the gateway to the underworld. Unlike the Kukulcan Temple, tourists can access and swimming in them. As you can see, there are many ways to soak up the History of the place and have a great time without being rude.

If you’re flying to the Mexican Caribbean this winter, discover our top 3 historic Mayan ruins for an incredible day trip from Cancun.

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