Are you thinking about taking a day trip to Chichen Itza, Mexico? Awesome! A visit to Chichen Itza is a good idea!
In this post, we will share all the best things to do in Chichen Itza. We will go over the best Chichen Itza tours from Cancun and at the site, Chichen Itza tickets, logistics, and how to plan your trip to Chichen Itza.
Let’s plan a Cancun day trip to Chichen Itza!
If you want to save this information for later be sure to pin this to Pinterest.
This post may contain affiliate links (including Amazon) that will give me a commission at no additional charge to you.
What is Chichen Itza?
As you visit Chichen Itza, you will see an archeological site of the ancient Mayan people. Its ruins date back to 600 AD to the 1200s. Chichen Itza was one of the most important economic, political, and religious cities for the Mayan culture.
Why was Chichen Itza Important?
Chichen Itza was the commercial center. It traded gold and silver and other goods with cities across the Americas. There were over 50,000 people who lived in Chichen Itza
How to get to Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is located in the jungle of the Yucatán state. It is a perfect day trip from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. The closest major cities to Chichen Itza are Valladolid (1 hour) and Merida (1.5 hours)
Cancun To Chichen Itza
Cancun is 120 miles from Chichen Itza. It takes about 2 and a half ours to get there if you drive a car.
Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza
Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza will take you about 2 hours and 17 minutes to arrive if you drive a car.
Tulum to Chichen Itza
Tulum to Chichen Itza will take about 2 hours.
Admission to Chichen Itza
During busy times it is best to buy your Chichen Itza tickets ahead of time. Chichen Itza is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mexico with over 2 million visitors each year. Getting your tickets ahead of time will save you time as well as ensure your entrance. Some days sell out.
Please note that you will need to pay for two tickets. This can be fairly confusing.
Once you walk up to the entrance, there will be booths on your right and on your left. The booths on your right are for tickets sold by the national government. The booths on your left are for tickets sold by Yucatan State. You will need both tickets to get in.
To make things even more confusing, when we bought our tickets from Yucatan State, there were two lines; one for cash and one for credit cards.
Adults $533 MXN (around US $54 based on current exchange rates)
Child $80 MXN (around US $44 based on current exchange rates)
Chichen Itza Hours
9:30 am – 5:00 pm (It has been closing early due to the pandemic)
Our Experience at the Ticket Counter
I recommend getting your tickets ahead of time. We went during the pandemic. It wasn’t crowded so we thought it would be fine to show up and just get our tickets onsite.
It was okay, but it was very confusing. As mentioned, there are two separate lines that you have to pay at. One is the Chichen Itza entrance fee and the other is a tax paid to Yucatan State. I didn’t feel like the signs helped tourists know where to go.
To add to our stress, tour guides were pitching us on tours while we were trying to figure out what we needed to do. The guides may be good at helping you understand the ruins, but at least when we were there, they didn’t have a clue about what line you needed to stand in to get tickets.
Booking Chichen Itza Tours
Even though I did want a tour, I was so unimpressed with the pushy behavior I declined. I consider myself adventurous and like to explore at my own pace, but I recommend you book a Chichen Itza tour or at the very least get a self-guided audio tour.
I would purchase a tour ahead of time through a reputable company like Viator. They have some great tours that even have stops at the local cenotes.
Tours of Chichen Itza
If you do not intend to rent a car you will need to purchase a tour of Chichen Itza. There are a lot of options to choose from.
Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum
Most of the tours include:
- Transportation from hotel
- Skip the line entrance fee
- There are options to add on breakfast, lunch, and drinks
- Options to add on cenote swims
- Option to add on Coba (another archeological site)
How Long Should I Spend at Chichen Itza?
Most recommend visiting Chichen Itza for 2-3 hours. We were there for two and I wish we had more time to explore. I would plan for a half-day for your day trip to Chichen Itza.
Parking at Chichen Itza
As most people choose to take a tour of Chichen Itza, there are plenty of parking spaces available if you decide to drive. There is a small parking fee of 80 pecos or $4 US dollars.
The Ruins of Chichen Itza
As you visit Chichen Itza, you may feel overwhelmed. There are so many ruins of Chichen Itza to explore.
Let’s break down what there is to see and do and go inside Chichen Itza so you will be prepared for your Chichen Itza trip.
Let’s explore all the best things to do in Chichen Itza!
Buy A Chichen Itza Guide Book
You may also consider buying a guidebook to help you know the historical background of each location. We bought Fodors. It had a nice map and some good information.
1. El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulcan
El Castillo is what has made Chichen Itza one of the new seven wonders of the world. The pyramid was used as a temple to offer sacrifices.
You encounter El Castillo almost immediately once you begin walking through the ruins. It is impressive when it comes into view. If El Castillo was the only structure to see at Chichen Itza, it would still be worth seeing. Fortunately for us, there are also many other breathtaking structures and sites to explore at Chichen Itza.
Can I Walk on the Pyramid at Chichen Itza?
No, you are not allowed to walk up the steps of the pyramid.
What is Inside El Castillo?
Unfortunately, you can not go inside the pyramid. Archeologists have found 9 platforms used to offer religious sacrifices located within the pyramid. They also found a jaguar throne. One entrance is actually located at the top of the pyramid.
How Many Steps Does El Castillo Have?
The pyramid has four sides each with 91 steps. These total 365 steps which is the total days in a solar year. The Mayan people were all about numbers and science.
The Mayan’s were Engineering Geniuses!
Chichen Itza is full of architectural and engineering marvels. If you go on the side of the pyramid and clap your hands. The sound will echo off the pyramid and sound like a bird. It is really cool.
2. The Ball Court
The ball court is an area where the Mayan played the ancient game of tlachtli. It must have been a brutal game because there are six sculptures around the arena with the winners holding severed heads. There are also murals that depict warriors laying siege to a village.
Architectural and Engineering Wonder
Another architectural and engineering marvel in this area is the ability to hear a whisper over 150 yards away.
3. Cenotes in Chichen Itza
What is a Cenote?
A cenote is a natural pit or sinkhole from the collapse of limestone that exposes groundwater.
As you visit Chichen Itza you will come to a large cenote. It is called the sacred cenote. The Mayan people believed that cenotes were entrances to the underworld. There are many cenotes in the Yucatan that you can swim in but in the Sacred Cenote swimming is not allowed.
Human remains, gold, silver, and other precious material lie at the bottom of this cenote.
Recently, researchers have discovered that the El Castillo (the pyramid) was built on top of a large cenote. The Mayan people believed it was the center of the earth. There are tunnels that were blocked off that lead down to this massive sinkhole. Scientists are studying it to find out more about the Mayan culture.
4. Temples of the Warriors
The temple of warriors is another site to check out while you visit Chichen Itza. This is a smaller pyramid but it is not in as great of condition as the El Castillo.
5. Building of a Thousand Columns
There are thousands of columns! This indicates that a very large roof once sat on them. Some of the columns are blocked off but you can explore a few sections.
6.The Observatory - El Caracol
The Mayan people knew astronomy. Through the observatory they could view different planets at certain times of the year. It was very advanced knowledge.
Venus was Important
Venus was an important planet to the Mayan people. They would plan wars and raids based on the location of Venus. There are 20 sightlines of astronomical events (solstice, eclipse…) that could be viewed from the windows of the observatory.
Most of the windows in the observatory tracked Venus.
7. Vendors Everywhere
Be aware, there are vendors everywhere! I was really shocked that an archeological site would allow so many vendors within the site. It appears that this is the livelihood for many people.
They will holler out $1 for souvenirs. When you start looking at the merchandise there are very few things that are $1.
As you exit the site there are even more vendors. You won’t have a hard time finding a souvenir. As you visit Chichen Itza it is a good spot to grab something cool to bring home.
Is Visiting Chichen Itza Worth it?
Yes, you should visit Chichen Itza. The Mayan people designed an incredible city. Exploring the ruins of Chichen Itza should be added to your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed at all. I highly recommend booking Chichen Itza as part of your Cancun trip.
What to Bring on Your Day Trip to Chichen Itza
If you are looking for Cancun Travel Tips including how to prepare for Chichen Itza, I have you covered. There are a few items that I included in the Cancun Packing List you will want to bring as you visit Chichen Itza.
When you visit Chichen Itza you will want to pack a bag with the items listed above ( I have easy links to Amazon if you need anything). Even on nice days, the heat is intense at Chichen Itza. Be prepared to protect your skin and hydrate as you explore.
Is There Food at Chichen Itza?
You can buy snacks while inside Chichen Itza but there are not many choices. Pack a few snacks before you visit Chichen Itza.
8. Night Time Light Show at Chichen Itza
The night time show is only offered on specific dates. This show gets incredible reviews. We didn’t get a chance to see it but if you are interested in seeing it you will want to purchase tickets in advance.
Are You Ready to Visit Chichen Itza?
Hopefully, this Chichen Itza guide helps you decide if you want to visit Chichen Itza. I really enjoyed going and I know you will too. We loved our Chichen Itza day trip just as much as visiting the Xcaret Amusement Park. It is incredible in its own right!
Have so much fun visiting Chichen Itza!
Do you have any more questions about Chichen Itza? Join my Travel Community on Facebook. This is a great group that can help answer any travel question you might have. I also try to add any deals that companies send me as well.