It’s not only in Egypt that pyramids spark curiosity. In Latin America, these mysterious constructions attract travellers from around the world. Here are some surprising facts about the pyramids of the world.
1- The largest pyramid in the world is located in Mexico
No, the largest pyramid was not erected in Egypt! The Great Pyramid of Cholula, in the Mexican state of Puebla, can claim this title. Why, then, don’t most of us even know of its existence? Because until recently, it was covered with soil and vegetation, and was thought to be a mountain. Its 450-metre-sided base is four times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza. However, the latter is higher, reaching 146 metres, compared to 66 metres for the Great Pyramid of Cholula.
2- A huge sacred well is hidden under the pyramid of Kukulcan, in Chichen Itzà
Discovered in 2015 while scientists were measuring the electric currents that cross the pyramid built by the Maya in the 12th century, this 20-metre-deep and 35-metre-wide well is hidden under the temple erected in honour of the feathered serpent god. The Yucatan region, where Chichen Itzà and Cancun are located, is one of the most visited regions in Mexico.
3- Kukulcan, in Chichen Itzá, is made of pyramids nested like Russian dolls
In 2016, engineers and archaeologists announced the discovery of a third pyramidal structure inside the first one. Since the second was unveiled in the 1930s, this means that the building was constructed in three stages. Excursions to visit Chichen Itzá are offered from the majority of hotels on the Mayan Riviera.
4- Egypt isn’t the country with the most pyramids, but rather Sudan
According to American scientists, there are one and a half times more pyramids in Sudan than in Cleopatra’s country. Science alert reports that Sudan has between 200 and 225 pyramids compared to Egypt’s 138. Also built for funerary purposes, the Sudan pyramids were built by members of the Kingdom of Kush, an ancient civilization that ruled from 1070 BCE to AD 350.
5- The highest pyramid in Yucatan, Nohoch Mul, is located in Cobá.
While Chichen Itzà and Tulum are constantly swarming with visitors, it is still possible to feel like Indiana Jones if you opt for Cobá, an archeological site hidden in the forest in Mexico. Much less crowded than the other two sites, Cobá can be explored by yourself or through a guided tour. Climbing the 113 uneven steps of Nohoch Mul with a simple rope offers a great reward: a breathtaking view above the trees, 42 metres above the ground.
6- Far from the hordes of tourists in Angor Wat, Cambodia, lies a pyramid forgotten for centuries
The calm that reigns around the pyramid of Prasat Thom, in Koh Ker, ephemeral capital of the ancient Khmers, as Tourism Cambodia reminds us, contrasts with the agitation surrounding the legendary site of Angor Wat. It’s here, 100 km from the most popular Khmer City, that a great king who reigned in the 10th century had temples erected in the hopes of rivalling the magnificence of Angkor. Camouflaged for nearly 1,000 years by the lush jungle, the refined buildings were rediscovered by French military personnel in the 19th century. Barely 12,000 tourists visit them every year.
7- A 15-year-old Quebecer made headlines because of the hypothetical discovery of a Mayan city in Mexico
In 2016, after finding that the position of Mayan cities was linked to the shape of constellations, William Gadoury of Saint-Jean-de-Matha believed he had discovered the existence of a 118th Mayan city, including a pyramid, in a remote part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Satellites from various international space agencies not only supported his theory, but also led him to believe that this city could be one of the five largest. Even though his controversial finding was refuted by experts, the teenager received Canada’s highest honour at the Science Fair, in addition to being honoured by the National Assembly in Quebec. Let’s hope that one day, archaeologists will shed some light on the situation.
Visit Mexico and Central America with Air Transat to discover the fascinating Mayan and Aztec cultures.