This is the Kukulcán Pyramid, also known as El Castillo, at the largest of the archaeological cities of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Just days after graduating high school, my family headed to Cancún for a week, taking a bus tour here from our hotel that included stops at a restaurant with Mexican dancers for lunch, a guided tour of Chichén Itzá and a stop at the Il Kil cenote.
I remember a handful of things about this day: I am always amazed by the architectural prowess of ancient civilizations, and the Mayans perfectly aligned their buildings and created meaningful shadows and echos; earlier that day I vowed to avoid tour buses when possible as we drove through Valladolid and I couldn’t get off to look around; and it was one of the hottest days in my memory.
Unfortunately, climbing the pyramid is no longer permitted. Two sides were in total disrepair when I was there, and just a few months later, in January 2006, the climbs ended. If the stairs are reopened (0r for any other steep stairs you may have to climb), remember this hint: Climb the stairs at an angle, going back and forth across the steps rather than straight up.