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Guide to Chichen Itza (& Getting There From Cancun, Tulum, Valladolid & Merida)

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If you’re taking a trip to Mexico then you can’t leave without visit one of the wonders of the world which is where this Chichen Itza guide comes in.

Visiting Chichen Itza is truly a bucket list experience and these Mayan ruins are a great way to learn more about the history of Mexico and Mayan culture.

In this guide, you will find details on how to get to Chichen Itza from different areas of Yucatan, whether you should get a tour to Chichen Itza or not and tips for visiting this Mayan site.

You’ll also find a brief history of Chichen Itza and the different things you can see and do whilst you’re visiting. This is a great day trip whether you’re visiting as a solo traveller, as a couple or as a family.

Read on to find out more about this marvelous Mayan wonder and why it should be at the top of your list when visiting the Yucatan area.

Amy with two locals dressed up in traditional Mayan gear.

Where is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is located in the Yucatan area of Mexico and is easily accessible from a lot of top tourist spots in Quintana Roo and Yucatan.

You will be able to easily get to Chichen Itza from Merida, Cancun, Valladolid and Tulum. This makes it one of the most popular tourist spots in Mexico and it is no wonder. Most tourists tend to take a day trip from Cancun or Tulum as these are areas that really draw in people for their vacation.

We’ve included a map of where Chichen Itza is located below so that you can see exactly where it is located and also how large the archaeological site truly is.

Brief History of Chichen Itza

There are still a lot of things that we don’t know about the Mayans but uncovering some of the ruins in Chichen Itza has taught us a lot.

This pre-Columbian city is thought to be one of the largest (that has been uncovered so far) and it was inhabited between 400 – 1200 AD.

The Mayan people have one of the most interesting cultures from their ceremonies and sacrifices to their Gods, even to the different sports that they used to play.

You think that rugby is a heavy sport? The Mayans version of football used to involve using a ball that used to weight around 3-4kg. Can you imagine having to use your legs to knock that into the hoops high above your head.

There is a lot of gruesome history when it comes to the Mayans as they absolutely did not stand for any traitors. As they were heavily religious, there were a lot of sacrifices made to the Gods too.

Some of the Mayan ruins in the Chichen Itza Park.

Within Chichen Itza archaeological park, you will find one of the pitches where they used to play this Maya ballgame, different ruins that were once pyramids and altars as well as the main attraction; the Chichen Itza Pyramid.

The Chichen Itza pyramid is known as El Castillo and it is a temple used for worship. One of the main attractions of the temple is that when humans clap their hands, the echo mimics the sound of a Quetzal bird. This bird is an important part of Mayan and Aztec culture.

This is only a small insight on the significance of the Chichen Itza archaeological park and if you decide to go on a guided tour, you will learn much more whilst you’re there.

The Mayans hold a fascinating history and throughout the whole of Mexico you will find plenty of different ruins, some that are not even fully uncovered.

Best Way to Visit Chichen Itza

There are quite a few different options for getting to Chichen Itza but it will depend on your budget, where you’re travelling from within Mexico and the style of travel that you prefer.

You can choose to either go on a guided day tour which will often include transportation, a trip to Chichen Itza and a nearby cenote. We’ve included some day tour options below that depart from various areas within Yucatan to make this easier for you.

Alternatively, you can go on a self-guided tour to Chichen Itza by arranging your own transport. How you get there will completely depend on where you’re travelling from.

Valladolid is the closest location to Chichen Itza so if you’re staying here then this would be the best place to get to the site. However, a lot of tourists tend to arrange their trip from either Cancun or Tulum.

We’ve shared details below on how to get to Chichen Itza from Tulum, Valladolid, Cancun, and Merida. This way you can choose which options will work best for you especially if you’re backpacking around Mexico and visiting a few of these destinations.

Guided Chichen Itza Tour

The easiest option to get to Chichen Itza is with a guided tour because all the transportation and everything will be sorted for you. This way you won’t need to worry about getting there and you’ll also have additional visits including such as to a cenote or Valladolid.

One of the perks of taking a guided tour is that you will learn a lot about the Chichen Itza site and ask questions as you go.

Some of the ruins in the Chichen Itza Park with jaguar stone etched.

Equally, with the price you will also be taken to a few other sites outside of Chichen Itza so that you can extend your exploration around Yucatan.

However, if you don’t want to be restricted by timeframes at certain sites then it may be worth arranging to get yourself to Chichen Itza. You can then choose to pay for a guide at the site or you can choose to self-guide around the sites.

In our opinion, purchasing a guided tour in advance is one of the best options because they are very good value for money. It also means that you will learn a lot more about what you’re seeing at the Chichen Itza site from locals which is invaluable.

We’ve included details of some of the best guided tours below so that you can decide what would be the best option for you.

Best Chichen Itza Guided Tours

Visit Chichen Itza Without Tour

If you’re the type of traveller that prefers to make their own way to different destinations and be in control of when you arrive and leave then visiting Chichen Itza without a tour may be a better option for you.

How to get to Chichen Itza can depend on where you’re travelling from and what mode of transport you prefer. We’ve detailed your options from Cancun, Valladolid, Tulum and Merida below to make it much easier for you.

How to get to Chichen Itza from Cancun

Amy with the Cancun sign. This guide to Chichen Itza shows you how to get from Cancun to the Chichen Itza park.

Bus

The bus is a very easy way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza but you can expect the journey to take around 4 hours so it is a little bit of a long journey.

You will need to catch the ADO bus from Downtown Cancun terminal 08:45am and you will arrive at Chichen Itza around 11:30am.

There are earlier bus options than this but it will take you much longer to get there so it does hardly seem worth it.

To return back to Cancun, you will need to get the bus from 04:00pm onwards which will take between 4-5 hours depending on the time you catch the bus.

A single ticket will cost you around $418MXN (£20GBP / $25USD) so if you’re doing a return trip, this can be more expensive than if you were to organise a day trip.

Drive

If you’ve decided to rent a car in Cancun then the journey will be much shorter for you. It only take 2 hours and 30 minutes to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza.

This is a really good option for flexibility as you will be able to arrive and leave when you feel is best. That way you can arrive early to Chichen Itza and avoid all the crowds. You may even be able to see the sunrise if you get there early enough.

How to get to Chichen Itza from Valladolid

Bus

As Valladolid is much closer to Chichen Itza, there are a lot more bus options to get there. Depending on the time of year that you’re visiting Mexico will depend on how many bus services there are.

Generally speaking, there are two buses to get from Valladolid to Chichen Itza. You can leave at 10:00am or 10:47am and it will take you around 40 – 50 minutes to arrive there.

When you’re returning from Chichen Itza to Valladolid, you will be able to get a bus back at 11:35am, 02:05pm and 04:00pm.

Valladolid church

The bus options from Valladolid to Chichen Itza are a little more flexible than Cancun and it is much easier for you to get to and from.

You can expect to pay between $126MXN –  $167MXN (£6GBP – £8GBP / $8USD – $10USD) for a single ticket so it is also quite an affordable option for you too.

Colectivo

If this is your first time travelling to Mexico then you may not have heard of a colectivo before. This is a form of public transport that locals use to get around which is like a shared van. For some colectivos, you can ask the driver to take you to most places you want to go.

This is a great and affordable way to get around within Mexico and Amy has used this quite a few times during her time there and felt perfectly safe.

The only downside of using a colectivo is that it will only leave once it is filled up so that the trip is worth their time. In some cases, this may mean that you’ll be waiting around for quite a while but generally speaking, you should find the transport there quite easy with a colectivo.

It will cost you around 40MXN (£2GBP / $2.50USD) for using a colectivo from Valladolid to Chichen Itza. You will be able to catch the colectivo close to where the ADO bus terminal is located in Valadolid but you will need to look out for a sign showing transport to Chichen Itza.

As we mentioned, the colectivo won’t leave until it is completely filled up so don’t leave it too late to return from Chichen Itza as you won’t want to get stuck. You’ll be best to start heading back around 02:00pm – 03:00pm so you will find it easier to get back.

Drive

If you’ve rented a car whilst staying in Valladolid then it is even easier for you to get to Chichen Itza. It will take you approximately 45 minutes to get there depending on traffic.

We’ve included a map above to show you the route but it can take a little longer if you’re staying just outside of Valladolid too.

How to get to Chichen Itza from Tulum

Sign for Tulum where this guide to Chichen itza shows how to get from Tulum to Chichen Itza park.

Bus

Getting the bus from Tulum to Chichen Itza is very easy as you will just need to catch the ADO bus. The bus usually leaves around 09:37am from the ADO bus terminal and will arrive into Chichen Itza at 11:27am.

The journey takes just under 3 hours so it can be a little bit of a long day. When you’re returning from Chichen Itza, you will need to get the bus at around 04:00pm as if you go at another time then it can take much longer.

Tickets cost around $355MXN (£17GBP / $21.50USD) so it is a very affordable option for you to get to the archaeological site. The only downside to using the bus is that you are stuck to timeframes so you will need to be very strict to get back onto the bus on time.

Drive

For anyone that is wanting to have more flexibility, you may want to consider renting a car in Tulum instead. It will take you around 2 hours and 30 minutes to drive there but that depends on traffic.

Leaving Tulum, the traffic can be pretty horrendous so we would recommend trying to leave very early in the morning. You will then be able to get to Chichen Itza when it is less busy and avoid traffic as much as possible.

How to get to Chichen Itza from Merida

Merida Sign.

Bus

Merida is a great location to stay if you’re planning to make a trip to Chichen Itza. You will be able to get the ADO Bus from Merida which will take you to Chichen Itza.

The journey will last around 2 hours and there are quite a few different departure options. You can catch the 07:15am, 09:30am or 12:00pm bus which will take you there.

When returning, you will want to consider catching the bus around 04:00pm. Try to arrive at the bus stop a bit earlier than that so that you’re not in a position where you may not get on the bus to get back.

A single ticket will cost you around $188MXN (£9GBP / $11USD) so it is also quite an affordable option to get to Chichen Itza too.

Drive

Driving is a very easy option to get from Merida to Chichen Itza especially so that you have the flexibility to choose when you come and go.

It will take you around 1 hour 20 minutes to get there so the journey is much quicker too. Renting a car in Mexico is a great way to explore areas that you otherwise wouldn’t see and it will make your journey to Chichen Itza a lot easier too.

Where To Stay Near Chichen Itza

There are a few different choices of places to stay near Chichen Itza. If you’re not planning to stay in a small town or city like Valladolid or Merida then it would be best for you to rent a car to make your transport much easier.

We’ve included a few different options below of accommodation that are very close to Chichen Itza.

Best Places to Stay Near Chichen Itza

Alternatively, you can choose to stay close by and catch the bus, colectivo or drive like we detailed above. Check the map below to find accommodation around Valladolid and Merida.

What To Do In Chichen Itza

There are a lot of different sites that you can enjoy when visiting Chichen Itza park. We’ve included some options and ruins that you can’t miss below when visiting.

El Castillo

El Castillo is the most popular sight in the Chichen Itza Park.

The main site of visiting the Chichen Itza archaeological park is El Castillo. This is the huge pyramid on the site and it is almost impossible to miss.

It is no wonder why it is named as one of the wonders of the world and a sight that you need to see before leaving Mexico.

If you stand in front of the temple, you will find people clapping and the echo will resemble the sound of a Quetzal bird which is a symbol for the Mayans and Aztecs.

El Caracol

It is suspected that El Caracol was used as an observatory by the Mayans and they used it to observe the stars. It is a really impressive building and was believed to be an important part of Mayan culture.

Sacred Cenote

This is a very impressive open cenote which is a great place to visit. One of the most miraculous parts of the sacred cenote is that over 200 artifacts have been found here.

From jewels, gold and even bodies, this cenote holds a lot of history in such a small area. It is suspected that the sacred cenote held some of the most influence and was widely used for sacrifices.

Ik Kil

Ik Kil cenote

Located close to Chichen Itza, this is one of the most popular cenotes for tourists to visit and experience. If you choose to go on a guided tour to Chichen Itza, most of the tour companies will take you to this particular cenote.

You will be able to enjoy some swimming and admire the natural beauty of this open cenote. It is one of the best cenotes to visit whilst you’re in Mexico and something that you shouldn’t miss.

Warrior’s Temple

Before leaving the Chichen Itza archaeological park, make sure that you head over to the warrior’s temple. It is one of the most significant buildings on the Chichen Itza site and the details etched into it are phenomenal.

Standing around 40 feet high, there are some very impressive etchings of warriors, eagles and jaguars and holds significant importance to the Mayan culture.

Gran Juego de Pelota

Gran Juego de Pelota where they used to play the infamous Maya ballgame.

We mentioned in the brief history of the Maya ballgame that used to be played. Visiting Gran Juego de Pelota, you will be able to see the pitch where this took place.

Walking through the pitch, it is breathtaking the history that this site holds. We would highly recommend hiring a guide to learn more about this side of Mayan history because it is absolutely fascinating.

How Much Does It Cost To Visit Chichen Itza?

The entrance fee for Chichen Itza may be confusing for some but there are actually 2 entrance fees. One part of the entrance is for INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) as well as entrance for the Cultur.

It will cost you around $539MXN (£26GBP / $32.50USD) for you to visit at the time of writing this.

One of the beautiful ruins in the Chichen Itza park.

Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza

  • Don’t visit on a Sunday – well, you can visit on a Sunday but as the locals get free entrance, you will find that it is much busier than usual. If you’re wanting to avoid crowds then Sunday is certainly not the best day to go.
  • Arrange a guide in advance – you can arrange a guide when you get to Chichen Itza but you may find that it is a little more expensive so try to book in advance where possible. If you do decide to get a guide at Chichen Itza then make sure you haggle to bring the cost down to a more reasonable price.
  • Haggle on prices – as we mentioned, haggle on a price if you get a guide at Chichen Itza. However, the same goes for if you’re purchasing any souvenirs at the park as they often ramp up the prices for tourists.
  • Taking photos with locals dressed up – whilst exploring around the park, there will be some locals dressed up as traditional Mayans. If you want to take photos of them or with them then you will be expected to leave a tip so just be wary of this.
  • Wear comfortable shoes – when you’re wandering around Chichen Itza, you will be doing a lot of walking. Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes because your feet will swell with the heat as well.
  • Top up on suncream – there are not many places around the park where you can shelter from the sun. Bring suncream with you and ensure that you top up regularly because the sun will be very strong.
  • Bring electrolytes – it will get very hot wandering around the park and you will become dehydrated easily. Bring electrolytes with you to keep your hydration up and also your energy too.
  • Get there early – Chichen Itza is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico and it gets very busy. To avoid lots of crowds, try to arrive at the park early so that you can explore in a bit more peace.

Cancun Resources

Isla Mujeres Resources

Mexico Resources

FAQs

Should you get a guide at Chichen Itza?

We would recommend that you get a guide at Chichen Itza because there are not many signs informing you of the significance of the Mayan ruins you are seeing. It is a beautiful site and can be done without a guide but so that you really understand the importance that Chichen Itza held for the Mayan community.

Can you do Chichen Itza without a tour guide?

Yes, it is completely possible to explore Chichen Itza without a guide. The only thing we would advise is that you won’t come away with as much information about what you’re seeing. If you’re completely against a guide then you can look at audio tours instead.

Can you drive yourself to Chichen Itza?

Yes, you can drive to Chichen Itza and there is parking available too which will cost around 60MXN (£3GBP / $3.50USD).

Is Chichen Itza free?

Unfortunately, Chichen Itza is not free. It will cost you around $539MXN (£26GBP / $32.50USD) for your entrance to INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) as well as entrance for the Cultur.

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