The buildings in Mayapan are scaled-down versions of those in Chichen Itza, and the site has often been deprecated for this reason. Nevertheless its importance is now being realised by archaeologists. After the fall of Chichen Itza, probably about 1200, it became the leading city in Yucatan for two centuries. Like Chichen it has a Castillo or main pyramid, here known as the Castillo of Kukulcan, the reputed founder of the city. From the top are wonderful views across the central buildings and over the flat scrubby woodlands of Yucatan. To one side of the Castillo is a round building with a remarkable circular passageway inside, rather like the Caracol in Chichen, regarded as an astronomical observatory, although without any real evidence. Just below it by a small temple is an overgrown cenote. Unlike chultunes or cisterns, these are natural holes, produced where the limestone surface has collapsed to reveal underground caves, often providing a supply of water – vital in such a parched area. The Spaniards named them from the Maya word dzonot.
There are also many administrative and residential buildings with extensive use made of columns to produce larger and lighter interiors. Unlike in the highlands, government seems to have been by council rather than by an individual, and the so-called Hall of the Kings just below the Castillo has a particularly long gallery to allow for the number of dignitaries to be accommodated. The decorations and sculptures on the site include fragments of frescoes and have the military themes derived from Toltec influence which showed close links with central Mexico. In one place fragments of floor plaster remains, showing that the floors too were decorated, with use of Maya blue as a background to patterns, and there was evidence of at least six layers of plaster, indicating a lengthy period of occupation of that level.