The best way to visit Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico

Welcome to our post about one of the arguably most exciting and popular places to visit in the whole of 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?” and “What is the best way to visit Chichen Itza (from Cancun)?”. Let us try to answer in this post.

Bistra and Nace looking at Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulkan temple

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 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.

Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulkan stairway New7Wonders

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.

Mexico Chichen Itza New7wonders Temple of Warriors

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 moved on. If the math is not a 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. 🙂

Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulkan New7wonders Temple of Jaguars

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.

By car

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 advice from a local.

By a tour

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.

Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulkan New7wonders Parking lot with tens of buses

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.

Low season

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.

Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulkan New7wonders umbrela tourist group
10 a.m. and it’s already hard not to notice the crowd

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.

Mexico Chichen Itza New7wonders Ik Kil Cenote

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!

Mexico Chichen Itza New7wonders Valladolid Cathedral

Mexico Chichen Itza Valladolid Cuisine New7wonders

Chichen Itza tips and tricks

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.

Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulcan New7wonders

Photo tricks

If you go in the morning, the 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 comes 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.

Mexico Chichen Itza Kukulcan hands on top New7wonders

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?

Best ways to visit Chichen Itza, Mexico
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20 Responses

  1. Yucatan has been on my list for far too long. Only that I dread the long flight from India. Would dearly love to check out the step pyramids. Love them ever since I saw one in Egypt. Also love the eery Cenotes!

    • I wish you could soon get to Mexico and visit Chichen Itza. Taking a dip in a cenote is a must 🙂

  2. Chichen Itza is definitely a must-do! I finally saw it last summer and loved it. We drove on our own from Cancun which I liked because it meant that we weren’t on anyone else’s schedule.

    • Great to hear that. We were considering renting a car as well, but it turned out to be too pricey for two persons for only one day. As this was the beginning of our 2 months trip. Anyway it is a good option and one should consider it 😉

  3. So much great historical information. I didn’t even have any idea about the Mayans. The ruins look amazing but oh my God! The sinkhole! I think Cenotes are worth seeing! <3

  4. I still can’t believe I never made it to anywhere near Cancun in my visits to Mexico. I definitely love exploring old Indian pyramids, and I would certainly see this one. I’ll have to admit, the adventure side of me is more interested in seeing the cenote. How deep is it? I’ll be sure to watch out for those scams, as they seem to be everywhere these days.

    • This specific cenote Ik Kil is 40 meters deep. But there are other like the Cenote de la Bruja in Bacalar which is 180 meters deep 🙂 Would you go there?

  5. Indeed amazing the skills they so many centuries back! It is hard to guess the age from its looks. Such quality stuff. Love the videos captured. They helped relate better. The visiting info provided is so helpful.

  6. Vicki Louise

    Mayan history fascinates me and I’d love to visit Chichen Itza to feel it all around me. And the pyramids themselves are an architectural marvel – I could photograph them for hours!

  7. travellingslacker

    Some great work with perspectives in your photographs. I also loved the GIF. I think I first read about Chichen Itza while I was in school. Since then I have had a deep fascination for anything to do with Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas… but this cenote experience is something new to me, something that needs to be tried.

    • Thanks 🙂
      Yes the cenote was something new to us as well but worth trying 😉

  8. Nisha

    I think sometimes it is a good idea to get a guide. Apart from stories he might some good spots for photo-ops. I had not heard of “cenote” and hope sometime in my life I would be able to swim in one! Bye the way, I agree with your note “not too far from the world today”. I guess the basic nature of homo sapiens has not change.

    • Yes, sometimes getting a guide is not that bad idea, like in our case 🙂
      I wish you experience the freshness and adrenaline at one of the cenotes there 😉

  9. I love the Mexican pyramids. I loved my visit to Teolichican outside of Mexico City. I love exploring all the history of places like Chichén Itzá.

    • Hmmm, I need to check some more info on Teolichican. Thanks!

  10. Fabulous guide! I was very surprised actually that I enjoyed my time visiting Chichen Itza – mainly because I’m not overly fond of mass tourism and super cheesy tourist experiences – expected this. But was pleasently surprised when we got there (early morning mind you) that there really weren’t that many people, you could get great photos of the pyramid without people in them, and that aside from a line or two of street vendors, they didn’t really harass you and let you explore the ruins without being bothered.

    It was a surprisingly authentic experience for what is one of the most iconic and famous structures in the world. We had a rental car from Cancun and thought this was a great way to travel. Included Coba on the same day.

    • I’m happy to hear your experience was better than you expected. All same here. Coba was nice too, especially the part with the climbing:)