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Visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico | A Complete Guide [...

Visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico | A Complete Guide [2021]

Visiting Chichen Itza in Mexico? Here you’ll find a complete guide to the Chichen Itza ruins – what to visit, how to get there + practical info and prices (2020).

What would be a trip to Yucatan without a day trip to Chichen Itza, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site? This archaeological site, built sometime before the 6th century AD, is definitely worth a visit.

I personally, after having visited quite a few Aztec and Mayan ruins in Mexico, prefer other sites such as Palenque and Coba because they are quieter, but the ever-present crowds at Chichen Itza don’t make this site less impressive. From wherever you’re staying in the Yucatan peninsula, the Chichen Itza ruins are easy to get to, and you should set apart half a day to visit the pyramids.

Maybe you can combine it with some cenotes and a visit to the charming town of Valladolid!

Getting to Chichen Itza is pretty easy, no matter your budget or where you’re coming from. This super comprehensive guide will give you instructions for visiting Chichen Itza from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Valladolid. You can follow the tips below to get to Chichen Itza via public transport, with a rental car, or by booking a tour in advance.

Best Chichen Itza Tours

You’ll find thousands of tours to Chichen Itza online, and choosing the best one can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve done the research for you, and these are the tours that offer the best value for your bucks.

➤ With over 1200 great reviews, the Chichén Itzá, Ik Kil Cenote & Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour is the top-rated Chichen Itza tour on Get Your Guide. This tour leaves from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum.

This Chichen Itza full-day tour includes pick-up from your hotel , all entrance fees, and a buffet meal. After exploring the grounds of Chichen Itza, you’ll head for a swim to Cenote Ik Kil. The tour will end with a short visit to the colonial city of Valladolid, which is definitely worth a visit. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ If you prefer a quieter experience without the crowds, check out the Chichen Itza Morning Tour. This tour leaves from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Riviera Maya.

You’ll have to get up pretty early for this tour, but you will get at Chichen Itza by opening time, which means no crowds! You’ll enjoy a guided tour through the ruin, plus some free time for your IG shots with no one. A lunch box is included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ And finally, this it the tour for you if you believe that two is better than one: Chichen Itza, Ik Kil, and Coba Small Group Tour. This tour leaves from Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

In one day, you’ll be able to visit both Chichen Itza and the fascinating ruins at Coba where you can climb the main pyramid. The tour includes a guided visit to both sites and a swim at Cenote Ik Kil, plus lunch. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

How to Get to Chichen Itza On Your Own

How To Get from Valladolid to Chichen Itza

• BY COLECTIVO (SHARED VAN)

If you are traveling from Valladolid, a city near Chichen Itza, head to the Valladolid ADO bus station. Colectivos (shared vans) leave from right next to it. You can get there as early as 7AM and you can catch the first departure to Chichen Itza. Valladolid is much closer than Cancun and the trip will take approximately an hour, so you’ll get to the ruins right at 8 AM when they open the gates.

If you want to visit the site with a guide, you can find official guides at the entrance when you buy your tickets, that you can hire a for a few hours.

⚠️ Looking to skip the line? Check out the Chichen Itza Entrance Ticket with Hospitality Suite. You’ll enter the site through a separate entrance, and when you’re done visiting the ruins you can use the Mayaland Hotel pool and facilities to relax after a busy morning. BOOK YOUR TICKET

How To Get From Cancun To Chichen Itza

• TAKE THE ADO BUS FROM CANCUN TO CHICHEN ITZA

If you are based in Cancun, you can also take the ADO bus to get to Chichen Itza. You can take the bus that departs at 8:45 AM daily from Cancun and it takes about 3 hours to arrive to the place. The ticket costs around 250 MXN. On your way back from Chichen Itza to Cancun you’ll need to take the same bus that departs 4.30 PM, otherwise another idea is to stop somewhere around Chichen Itza or Valladolid to spend the night.

READ ALSO: How to get from Cancun to Valladolid

• GET FROM CANCUN TO CHICHEN ITZA BY CAR

It’s totally possible to drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza. The roads are pretty good and people respect the rules, so it’s an option I recommend since it gives you so much freedom. I recommend booking your rental car in advance online to avoid any scam.

I usually use Rentalcars to compare prices. The average rental cost per day is anywhere from 10 to 25 dollars a day for a medium car (four-door sedan), to 40 dollars for an SUV. ➡ COMPARE PRICES HERE

You can also check the prices right in the widget below.

The 180D Highway that connects Cancun and Chichen Itza is in great condition. It takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes to reach Chichen Itza.

The highway is a toll road that costs 380 pesos per way (about $15 at the time of writing), but you’ll save a ton of time. Keep in mind that credit cards or US dollars are not accepted, so make sure you bring cash in pesos. There are no ATMs between Cancun and the toll road.

Before deciding to come by car, it’s also important to consider the toll fees and gas money (depending on which road you choose to take to get to Chichen Itza) to make sure it’s the best choice financially speaking.

• VISIT CHICHEN ITZA WITH THE GO CANCUN PASS

If you’re staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya for a few days and are planning to visit a few parks and attractions, it might make a lot of sense to buy the GO Cancun Pass.

I explain in detail how you can use the GO Cancun Pass to save considerable amount of money in this post – it includes calculations so you can really see for yourself that by using it smartly you can save hundreds of dollars. But why am I telling you this?

➤ The Go Cancun Pass includes your entrance ticket to Chichen Itza plus transportation from/to Cancun, and access to the Mayaland pool and facilities where you can relax after visiting the ruins. ➥ BUY YOUR GO CANCUN PASS HERE

How To Get to Chichen Itza From Playa del Carmen / Riviera Maya

• GET THE BUS FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN TO CHICHEN ITZA

➤ There is one bus a day direct from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza. It departs at 8 AM and the ticket costs between 180 and 386 MXN (approximately 7 to 15 USD at the time of writing) depending on how long in advance you’re buying the ticket. The bus departs from the ADO station on 5th Avenue and the bus ride takes about 3 hours 40 minutes.

On the way back, the bus leaves from Chichen Itza at 4.30 PM. Make sure not to miss it as it’s the only one!

➤ If you’re coming from one of the hotels scattered around the Riviera Maya, you’ll have to take a taxi or a colectivo (shared van) going toward Playa del Carmen. You just need to stop one on the highway and tell the driver where you’re going (Playa del Carmen) – the ride won’t cost you more than a couple of dollars.

• GETTING TO CHICHEN ITZA BY CAR

Again, totally possible to drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza, but I do suggest booking a rental car in advance online to avoid any scams. I usually use Rentalcars to compare prices.➡ COMPARE PRICES HERE

Take the new 305 Highway that connects Playa del Carmen to the 180 Highway, which leads to Chichen Itza. Both are toll roads, the total cost is 344 pesos per way (about $18 at the time of writing).

The drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza takes about 2 hours and 10 minutes. No US dollars or credit card accepted, make sure you have pesos in cash before departing.

Another option would be taking the slow road (a free one). You’d have to take the 307 to Tulum, head to Valladolid, and then take the 180 Highway to Chichen Itza. It will take you approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes.

How To Get from Tulum to Chichen Itza

• TAKE THE BUS FROM TULUM TO CHICHEN ITZA

If you’re based in Tulum, you can take the ADO bus directly from Tulum to Chichen Itza. At the time of writing, there are two buses to Chichen Itza a day, at 9.05 AM and 2:45 PM. The bus ride takes about 2 hours 35 minutes, so obviously you should take the bus in the morning unless you want to spend at least one night in Valladolid or around Chichen Itza. The ticket costs between 130 and 266 MXN (approximately 5.50 and 11 USD).

On the way back, there are two daily buses from Chichen Itza to Tulum, at 8.30 AM and 4.30 PM. The ticket costs between 144 and 266 MXN (approximately 6 to 11 USD).

• DRIVING TO CHICHEN ITZA FROM TULUM

It’s very easy to find a rental car in Tulum. You can book your rental car in advance for a greater peace of mind. ➡ COMPARE PRICES HERE

Take the QROO 109 road towards Coba. When you see the sign for Chemax, turn left to stay on the 180 Highway. Pass Valladolid and keep going till you reach the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.

The drive takes approximately 2 hours. This is a free road.

How to Get from Merida to Chichen Itza

• GETTING FROM MERIDA TO CHICHEN ITZA BY BUS

If you’re based in Merida, taking the ADO bus is a good option if you’re willing to wake up early. There’s one daily bus from Merida to Chichen Itza departing at 6.30 AM, which arrives at Chichen Itza at 8.20 AM, so right at opening time. At the time of writing, the ticket costs 113 to 208 MXN depending on promotions available.

On the way back, you can take the bus that leaves from Chichen Itza at 5.30 PM, which gives you enough time to check out Chichen Itza and Ik Kil Cenote.

• DRIVE TO CHICHEN ITZA FROM MERIDA

It won’t be a problem finding a rental car in Merida. In fact, I personally rented a car in Merida twice when I was living there for a month or so. If you prefer to rent a car online, here you can compare prices. ➡ COMPARE PRICES HERE

The road from Merida to Chichen Itza is very straightforward. Take the 180E towards Cancun, and in Kantunil turn left to continue on the 180D. Take exit number 79 and follow the signs towards Chichen Itza.

The drive takes approximately 1 hr 25 minutes. This is partially a toll road.

How to Get from Cozumel to Chichen Itza

If you’re staying in Cozumel, you’ll have to take one of the many ferries from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, and then follow the directions from Playa del Carmen. Would I recommend visiting Chichen Itza from Cozumel in one day though? Probably not. I would definitely make it an overnight trip or part of a bigger Yucatan itinerary.

Practical info for Visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico

If you are planning to visit Chichen Itza, make sure you plan your trip ahead of time to make the best out of your day trip.

Where is Chichen Itza located?

The Chichen Itza ruins are located in the Eastern part of Yucatan state in Mexico, approximately 25 miles from Chichen Itza. The location of Chichen Itza in Yucatan Peninsula makes it easy to visit as a day trip. It’s indeed 2 hours 20 minutes from Cancun, 2 hours 10 minutes from Playa del Carmen, and 2 hours from Tulum.

What are the Chichen Itza opening hours?

Chichen Itza hours are from 8 AM to 4:30 PM daily.

How much is the Chichen Itza entrance fee?

As of 2020, the Chichen Itza entry fee is 481 Mexican Pesos per person (only applies to foreign tourists). The admission fee includes two tickets, one for the Federal tax, and one for the State tax. If you pay by credit card, you’ll have to make two separate payments.

Can I buy Chichen Itza tickets online?

I heard you can buy the simple Chichen Itza tickets online, but I honestly wasn’t able to find this option when I looked for it. At this time, though, you can buy the skip-the-line tickets here.

What about parking at Chichen Itza?

If you plan to rent a car and drive to Chichen Itza, you can find plenty of parking spots on the site and you should bear in mind that you’ll have to pay around 30 Pesos parking fee so you can be assigned a parking slot.

Can I find Chichen Itza souvenirs here?

Trust me, you’ll have no problem finding souvenirs at Chichen Itza. On your way to Cenote Sagrado you’ll find tens of souvenir stands. Make sure to bargain!

Guided Tour vs Visiting Chichen Itza On Your Own

I’m not the biggest fan of organized tours, but this is one case where I do recommend going with a guided tour if it’s your first time visiting Chichen Itza. A guide will be able to explain you the history of the pyramids, and tell you the stories that you won’t find on your Lonely Planet.

When you book a tour to get to Chichen Itza, it will usually include transportation, a skip-the-line ticket, food, and maybe a visit to a cenote or other attractions but, as you may imagine, it will cost more for the convenience.

I would recommend a Chichen Itza self guided tour to those visitors who are either on a budget, or are really not into history and are ok with just knowing the information you can find on the panels or online.

I visited Chichen Itza in Mexico twice, the first time with a tour and the second one on my own, and I felt it was the right choice. On my first visit I was able to learn about the site from an experienced guide, while on the second visit I took my time to wander around and take approximately a thousand or a million Instagram pictures. Both experiences were great in their own way, so it really depends what you’re looking for!

On the “Best Tours to Chichen Itza” section above you can find a list of the tours that are worth your money and give you the best value for your bucks.

If you’ve decided to go on a Chichen Itza day trip on your own but still want a more comfortable experience, you can buy a special ticket in advance that will let you skip the line, which sometimes can be really long. BOOK YOUR TICKET

A Brief History of Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins

Now I want to tell you a little bit about Chichen Itza (nothing too long, don’t worry!) so you know what you’re going to see! Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city that was built in the middle of the jungle in the Yucatan Peninsula. While it’s known today as a major tourist attraction in Mexico, it used to be the home to a thriving civilization during the pre-Columbian era and there are many historic accounts about how and when the Chichen Itza was built.

When was Chichen Itza built?

Most of the historic accounts point to early 400 AD, but there are also evidences that show that the ancient structures were constructed a few years later (some citing the middle of the 5th century).

Why was Chichen Itza built?

While the date when the ancient civilization was built remains a debate, one thing is undeniable– the structures served as the center of a political and economic power, and as the heart of the Mayan culture. This is not a small place, the entire archaeological site spans 3.2 square kilometers, which means that there are more sites that could be unearthed. In fact, archaeologists have continued their study and research on the site in order to further understand how the ancient Mayans lived and what led to the decline of such a powerful civilization.

What to Visit at Chichén Itzá, Mexico

When you visit Chichen Itza, you should explore the following famous constructions on the site to really take advantage of your trip.

El Castillo Pyramid (Temple of the Kukulkan)

The El Castillo is the most important structure in Chichen Itza archaeological site, and what people refer to when they talk about the Chichen Itza pyramid. It’s in fact a pyramid structure that still stands today after all this time, mainly because of the restoration efforts they made at the site to preserve the ancient monuments. El Castillo of Chichen Itza is also known as the Temple of the Kukulkan, and literally dominates the site.

This structure consists of square terraces that have stairways on all four sides of the pyramid and there are also sculptures of plumed serpents that run down the balustrade of this pyramid, which is really something you should look at closely.

And if you manage to visit at the right time, the Chichen Itza snake comes down! There is a really amazing phenomenon that happens only during the spring and autumn equinoxes where the sun strikes at the balustrade in the late afternoon, particularly the northwest corner of the pyramid. As the light of the sun hits the balustrade, it creates the illusion of the serpent slithering down the pyramid.

PHOTO TIP: You want to know how I managed to take pictures of the pyramid of Chichen Itza with no one in the background? I came here early! I spent the previous night in Valladolid, was at the entrance by opening time and rushed directly to El Castillo before visiting any other structure. I must say though that for the first full hour the complex was pretty quiet…after that, forget it!

Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza

The Great Ball Court, also known as the Grand Ball Court, is another striking structure in the Chichen Itza Mayan city. This is the largest rectangular arena (about 2.2 times the size of an American football field!) that was used by the ancient Mayans. However, it’s quite unclear with what purpose they actually used it, researchers don’t know if it was used as a playing field or as a ceremonial site. Aside from the elaborate design that decorates this structure of the arena, this place is also known for its astounding acoustics.

Chichen Itza Temple of the Warriors

This Chichen Itza temple is a complex with a large stepped pyramid that features numerous columns carved to look like warriors. This one is built on a large scale – it’s composed of 200 columns on both the south and west sides.

Unfortunately, climbing this pyramid is no longer allowed. If you really want to climb a Mayan pyramid, you should definitely head to the Coba ruins though, where it’s still possible to do so (and honestly, the Coba ruins are pretty underrated in my opinion).

The statue of the Chac Mool, which is considered a messenger of the Gods for the ancient Mayans, is located at the top of this pyramid. The Temple of the Warriors also features the same serpent design that you can see in El Castillo.

Cenote Sagrado (Chichen Itza Cenote)

Another must-see site when you visit Chichen itza is the Cenote Sagrado, or Sacred Cenote (or again Cenote Xtoloc in Mayan). This is a large cenote at the northern end of the archaeological site, valued for its archaeological and cultural significance.

It’s not spectacular like many of the cenotes in Mexico, and it’s forbidden to swim in the Chichen Itza cenote, but it’s an important cenote as it was the site of many ceremonial practices that were performed by the Mayans. In fact, researchers believe that human sacrifice was performed at the cenote at Chichen Itza. Tons of human remains were in fact unearthed by the archaeologists during their explorations of the cenote and other structures within the site.

Chichen Itza Light and Sound Show

Chichen Itza Light and Sound Show is one of the most special ways to visit Chichen Itza if you’re up for visiting at night. When the sun sets, you’ll have the opportunity to see the magnificent Mayan structures transform with dramatic lighting and 3D mapping projection. This light and sound show retells the history of the Mayans in a unique fashion, in which impressive light and image mapping display is complemented by rhythmic sounds.

➤ Interested in witnessing the show for yourself? Check out the Chichen Itza Light and Sound Show with Cenote. This tour leaves from Cancun and the Riviera Maya, and packs a lot.

You’ll start your day with a swim at a cenote, followed by buffet lunch and a skip-the-line guided tour through Chichen Itza. You’ll then have time at Mayaland hotel to relax by the pool, before heading back to the ruins for the Light and Sound show. The tour also includes a light dinner. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Cenotes Near Chichen Itza Ruins

After you are done visiting Chichen Itza, you’re probably going to be hot and sweaty. Scratch the “probably”. Why not head to one or more of the beautiful sinkholes, in Spanish cenotes, by Chichen Itza, where you can relax and refresh? For me, there’s no better way to complement your visit to the ruins.

READ ALSO: 6 Best Cenote Tours from Valladolid [2021]

Visit Cenote Ik Kil near Chichen Itza

Cenote Ik Kil is one of the most popular cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, partially because of its proximity to Chichen Itza. Many tours that visit Chichen Itza also include a stop at this cenote which is arguably one of the most beautiful cenotes in the region. 

Whether or not you book a tour to Chichen Itza or Yucatan Peninsula, this cenote is a must to stop. There is no doubt that you have seen photos of Cenote Ik Kil as it’s one of the most photographed cenotes in Mexico. This cenote near Chichen Itza is an open sinkhole surrounded by circular walls that are covered in vines and branches. Those vines and roots that hang from the trees at the mouth of the opening of the cenote create a spectacular, and picture-worthy, look.

It’s always really busy, but if you visit Chichen Itza right at opening time and then head straight here, you probably won’t find the bus tours.

Cenote Ik Kil is open daily from 8AM to 5PM. As one of the most popular cenotes for tourists, there are plenty of tourist facilities on-site including a restaurant, changing rooms, lockers, and life vests for rent.

As of 2020, the entrance fee to Cenote Ik Kil is 80 Pesos for adults and 40 Pesos for children.

Other Cenotes by Chichen Itza

However, Cenote Ik Kil is not the only cenote worthy of your time around Chichen Itza. There are a few others that in my opinion are even better than Cenote Ik Kil minus the crowds.

READ MORE:
A Guide to 11 Incredible Cenotes in Valladolid & Near Chichen Itza

Cenote Zaci is an interesting one because it’s located right in the middle of a city – Valladolid -, which is not the usual location for cenotes. This cenote close to Chichen Itza (45 minutes by car) is a half cave half-open cenote, and a pretty deep one. You can jump from one of the ledges if you’re feeling adventurous! The best part? You won’t find nearly as many people as at Ik Kil. When I visited in the middle of the afternoon, we were maybe 15 people total.

READ MORE: Cenote Zaci, Valladolid – Prices & Info [2020]

I’ve written many posts on this blog about my favorite cenotes in Mexico, so you can click on the individual posts for each cenote on this list to plan your trip. You’ll find info on how to get there, admission price and opening hours, and what are the facilities available at the cenote.

The next one on this list is Cenote Suytun, which you might have already seen as it’s become Instagram famous in the last couple of years. With its man-made peninsula and the ray of light that at certain times of the day illuminates the circle, this cenote is definitely unique. Check it out for a chance to take some incredible shots.

Cenote Oxman is one of my favorite cenotes near Valladolid. It might be because it’s inside a beautiful Yucatecan hacienda, or maybe because even if it’s just a 20-minutes bike ride from Valladolid, you can easily have the cenote all for yourself as it doesn’t seem to be as popular as others. I don’t really understand why, because Cenote Oxman is so beautiful!

READ MORE: Why You Shouldn’t Miss Cenote Oxman

Here it’s a short video I took of Cenote Oxman.

And finally, Cenote Samula and Xkeken.

What’s better than one cenote? Two cenotes, of course! Cenote Samula and Xkeken are right next to each other, and it’s worth to visit both. They are both enchanting, with tree vines dangling from the sky, a dim sunlight from the top, and blue water… they are definitely worth your time.

READ MORE:
Cenote Samula: A Magical Spot Near Valladolid
Cenote Xkeken: All You Need to Know

Best Time to Visit Chichen Itza

There are plenty of tours that operate within the Chichen Itza archaeological site. These tours come in masses so when they arrive, expect a huge flock of tourists on the site.To avoid the crowd, I recommend you to visit right after the site opens. This will give you a chance to explore the area without the huge crowds, as the group tours haven’t arrived yet.

Another option is to go late in the afternoon, right before the site closes (around 3PM). The tours usually arrive around midday so you can go there after they have left.

It’s also a no-no to visit on Saturdays and Sundays as the weekends are typically when there is a higher amount of visitors on the site, but during the weekend you can find tons of Mexican tourists as well. Sundays experience the peak of tourist visits. The best day to visit Chichen Itza in my opinion is either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

What to Pack for Chichen Itza

To maximize your enjoyment of Chichen Itza and the archaeological ruins on the site, it’s important to pack a few essential items with you on the tour.

Comfortable clothes: remember to wear comfortable clothes.
If you visit during the summer, expect the weather in Chichen Itza to be hot and humid. Make sure you wear something that is lightweight, breezy, and comfortable. This will help keep you cool as you explore the ruins right under the sun.

Good quality walking shoes: make sure to bring your trusted pair and don’t even attempt to break in your shoes.

Sunscreen: again, do not underestimate the heat in Mexico so make sure you are protected from the intense heat of the sun.

Hat and sunglasses: it’s also a good idea to pack other types of sun protection such as a hat and sunglasses. This will make it easier for you to explore the ruins without worrying about the heat. Plus, a hat always makes for great Instagram pictures!

Drinking water: when it’s so hot, it’s very important to stay hydrated at all times. You can’t drink tap water in Mexico, so either bring bottled water, or go sustainable and buy a LifeStraw or similar product. This is a straw that filters the water while you drink, so you can save money and plastic by filtering tap water.

Bug spray or insect repellent. A bug spray or insect repellent is a must too. Remember: the ruins are built in the middle of the jungle so make sure you are protected from all kinds of bugs and insects that are present in this type of environment.

This is all the info you need to plan the perfect day trip to Chichen Itza. I hope this Chichen Itza guide was helpful, but if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!


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