It has been on the vacation trail since 1843 and, on any given day, thousands flock to the area to gaze at these famous ruins. That figure is about to leap into the millions, but the visitors will be virtual (and maybe even intergalactic).
Saturday saw the launch of a brand new initiative between Google Earth and Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH). The launch event, at Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City, highlighted an unprecedented collaboration between the two institutions. Mexico is opening up 180 museums and sites of historical importance to Google's cameras. Amongst them is the legendary Chichén Itzá.
Filming is yet to take place, but when it does, individuals will be able to sit at their home computers and still visit these sites. The Google Earth application allows web-users to navigate their own pathway through many of the world's streets and wilderness terrain. When this extra feature is installed, they will be able to walk through the Maya ruins and browse the exhibitions in Mexico's national museums. No substitute for the real thing, but as close as we can get in the electronic world.
View Larger Map
Currently, the above map is as close as Google users have been able to zoom into the Maya ruins. The new application will eventually see them right in its heart. Google's executivess are naturally ecstatic at their cool new feature. Google Latin America's marketing manager, Miguel Angel Alva, viewed it as 'a unique effort in the Latin American region and its first such project at an international level.'
But what's in it for Mexico? Hopefully, a huge boost to the economy. The endeavour is advertizing. It's marketing. It's showcasing all that Mexico has to offer and doing so on a grand scale. Google Earth has been downloaded 400 million times, so its users are likely to be double or triple that number. It's been translated into 37 languages. All of those people will now have the opportunity to explore Mexico's treasures in cyberspace. How many of them will then wish that they were doing it for real?
Alfonso de Maria y Campos, the director of INAH, explained, "Cultural tourism brings in twice the cash that sun, sea and sand tourism does, which tells us that this tourist segment travels more, has a better image of the country and above all leaves more money in non-traditional places."
Meanwhile, another Google subsidary, You Tube, has been abuzz this week with yet another aerial sighting over Chichén Itzá. Uploaded on January 24th, 2011, and filmed sometime in the preceding weeks, a tourist filmed a purported UFO over the Maya pyramid. Aliens, Google Earth starting its imaging or a weather balloon. You decide!
Various tours, to suit every wallet or time-frame, to the most famous of all the Maya ruins.