Welcome to our post about one of the arguably most exciting and popular places to visit in whole Mexico and the world! There’s no need to explain what this one of the New7wonders of the world is about. Chichén Itzá is on that list for a reason. I guess the most common question is “Is it really worth it?”. Let us try to answer in this post.
Why visit Chichén Itzá?
What attracts us to Chichén Itzá the most is the purpose of its creation and then the magnificent result of that endeavor. This archaeological site is a living proof of how knowledge means power. The higher class of the Mayan society was the knowledgeable one. Their knowledge about the sun, stars, moon, seasons, etc. gave them the ability to predict natural events like Solstice and Equinox. This way the lower class believed that the higher priests can communicate with their gods and can ask them for a better life. But the higher priests said that the gods wanted their human sacrifice and new bigger temples to be built (not too far from the world today).
Designing and constructing these pyramid buildings (and the times that happened) is a reason to admire the skills of Mayan people. When you clap with your hands around the pyramid you hear a normal echo of the sound. But when you do that on the stairway line the sound of the clap is getting transformed and it gets back to you as a sound of the Quetzal bird. This bird was a holy symbol for the Mayan above world. This is quite amazing but not the end of the story. If you concentrate well and clap again you can hear the Quetzal bird sound coming from the pyramid but you can hear a sound of a rattlesnake as well. The snake was the Mayan symbol of the underworld. For us, this was one great experience and the highlight of our visit to Chichén Itzá, one of the new seven wonders of the world.
The story continues
The acoustic miracles and the Mayan dedication to their gods can be seen and felt into the Grand Ball Court, where they…
We will leave some of the secrets for you to reveal by yourselves while visiting this worth-to-be-visited wonder of the world. And every day about 10 thousand people (or 5 to 7 thousand in the low season, during which we visited) go to learn some secrets and unveil the mystics around Chichen Itza. There was one particular day they reported 40-50 thousand visitors. Guess which day? December 21, 2012.
But don’t be disappointed with the Maya people. They didn’t predict it wrong, the end of the world. They actually didn’t predict anything. Mayans had two calendars – one with the year of 365 days and one with 260 days. So if we calculate the least common denominator we see that every 52 years both types of years end on the same day. December 21, 2012 was one of those special days. So that was it – two calendars met and then kept on going. If maths is no good proof for you, another fact is that Maya people believed that life is circular, so “end” would rather be a new beginning, a.k.a. good news. So no negative predictions, no need to book that 4 times more expensive vacation to meet “the end”. Or you could try again in about 47 years. 🙂
Once it is more than clear that you want, need or actually crave to visit Chichén Itzá let us share some details from our visit that will help organize yours easier and have a great time there.
How to get to Chichen Itza
There are a few options to get to Chichen Itza. They include a tour, by your own transport (e.g. rent a car), or by public transport. We really wanted to skip the crowds. But how do you skip the crowds of a place so popular to visit? Try to be there as early as possible.
It is quite comfortable being flexible with times and routes, right. We explored the option of renting a car and the result was no so tempting: first, they want to block a huge amount on the credit card, and you never know when they unblock it. And we’re just at the beginning of a 2-month-trip. For two people it’s not quite cheap, even if we skipped toll roads and chose secondary road through villages. The latter could lead to more adventures. If you still decide to rent a car, make sure you shoot a video of it when you’re getting it, so that they see you’re not joking and won’t pay for any of the old scratches on it. That’s an advice from a local.
Tours are usually not quite “escape the crowds” option. Unless you book a private sunrise tour and witness the magnificent sunrise with just few folks out there. But last time we check those tours cost 400 USD and we had no intention to spend a week’s worth (or maybe two) for just a day. All the other tours seem to collide at the parking lot of Chichen Itza. This means 50 buses there at 11 a.m.
By public transport
So we carefully researched the timetable of the ADO buses from Cancun to Valladolid and we chose the earliest one – at 5.30 in the morning. We arrived in Valladolid at about 8 a.m. and headed straight to the colectivo station. Then we waited for some time to fill up all the seats and by 9 a.m. we were already entering the park of Chichen Itza. We bargained with a tour guide quickly and we had a nice one and a half hours with few people on the field before the crowds started to appear and flood the space. It was the cheapest and the best way to experience the wonder without hundreds of people around.
How to visit Chichen Itza and get the most of it
Here are some hints and remarks on how to visit the site and make sure it was worth it.
Try to go during low season. Chichen Itza gets half of the visitors in the low season. So if you have a choice – do it. Some say the heat is worse in the rain season, but we survived it, so anyone can. Just stay hydrated, carry sunblock and a hat.
Early in the morning
We believe this is the only time of the day when not many people will be around. It is also the “coldest” time of opening hours so this is a good deal.
Guide or no guide
We did get a private guide onsite. We read online that the usual fare after bargaining gets down to 600 pesos. So when we reached 500 we felt it was enough. We had everything explained, with all the stories and all the images that were preserved with the centuries. Our guide was of Maya descent so that also helped us return back in times where everyone bowed to this amazing city. If you decide to not get a guide, make sure you’re well informed before you go, because there’s no signs or information onsite. The more you know, the more that bunch of stones starts to make sense, in a very admirable and sophisticated way.
Combine with a cenote
OK, that rule might apply for visiting any ruins. Cenotes are natural sinkholes that are as beautiful and mystic as taken from an Indiana Jones movie. They also offer the best refreshment after walking around ruins in the heat. We combined our visit to Chichen Itza with a dip in Ik Kil cenote which is huge enough to fit all the people who would want to take a swim. It was magical, fresh and it didn’t feel crowded. Buses from Chichen Itza to Valladolid will drop you there but be careful as they love to ask more money from you before they give you the receipt.
Combine with Valladolid
We had to go back to Valladolid to take our bus back to Cancun. But we waited in front of the cenote entrance and not a single bus or a colectivo passed for a while. So this was a sign that we should hitchhike! Very nice mother and son from Barcelona took us to Valladolid and also gave us cool suggestions on places to visit in Mexico. Remember, hitchhiking can be a small, but serious risk anywhere in the world.
Valladolid is a small charming colonial town (or at least some of the center). It is good for a walk, very photogenic and also well-worth for trying the famous Yucateca cuisine. It is famous for a reason – the obvious one – it is so delicious!
Chichen Itza hints
Last but not least, we wanted to give you some more hint and suggestions on how to make your visit to the Maya city more pleasant and rewarding. Remember to bring sunscreen, hats, umbrellas, to stay hydrated and as much as possible in the shade. There are tons of merchants and shopping stalls everywhere. They seem colorful and nice but are super overpriced. Stay positive with the merchants shouting their best offers to you and just pass them.
If you go in the morning, best photos will be from the east side. Take a tripod with you and get crazy. If you stand a little bit far from the pyramid, you can take photos holding/hanging on/touching/whatever come to your mind the Kukulcan pyramid. One can easily get carried away with those and stay for too long in the sun (like we did). If there are tons of people already – take advantage of this situation and shoot a time-lapse – an irritation will be an amusement later.
So, is it worth it?
When you know the story behind, when you hear the sounds when you get virtually and literally introduced to Maya people, when you become part of the atmosphere of Chichen Itza – you will know every effort was worth it. The early morning wake-up, the hours of research, the bargaining and every drop of sweat – it is all worth it to visit the Mayan wonder named “at the edge of the Itza’s cenote”.
The video shows the long and full of emotions day in Chichen Itza, Ik Kil and Valladolid. We hope we managed to give you a piece of the sparkle and inspired you to approach world wonders in DIY style and with plenty of respect and admiration.
Have you been to Chichen Itza? Do you think the Kukulcan pyramid is a wonder of Maya architecture and beliefs? What is your favorite new-wonder-of-the-world-miracle?