Chichen Itza – the important Maya Ruin on the Mexican peninsula Yucatan is a popular day trip for tourists and can easily be done on a single day. Apart from the main attraction – a 30 meter pyramid and very common motif for pictures – the huge area has many more buildings, temples, playgrounds and cenotes . This place is definitely a must-do for Yucatan travelers.
How to Reach
Tours to Chichen Itza are sold everywhere in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and around. The most common tour is a little bus (9 – 12 people). The busses are usually full. There is an English-speaking tourist guide and a driver. The tour takes all day and there are several stops on the way to the pyramid. Booking a tour is very simple: the salespeople find you, usually already on the street, and you can easily book for the following day.
The busses go from one hotel to the next and collect all the guests. They take everyone back the same way. Of course, that takes a while and you need to be patient but it’s not a big thing.
Chichen Itza in right in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula and can be reached easily from Cancun (200 km) and from Playa del Carmen (180 km). We even went from Cozumel that was still possible.
As soon as you are in the bus, it’s no longer in your hands what is about to happen. The busses follow a standard procedure and stop several times.
What you Get To See: The Pyramid and More Maya Ruins
Most important stop is of course the Maya Ruin Chichen Itza. There are all the smaller tour busses but also larger ones with about 60 people and private vehicles. All in all a very busy place. The tour guide bought all the tickets, paid and leads us to the Pyramid and its surrounding buildings. All the information he gave us about the ruins, its past, its history and original purpose were vital. Without it I would not have been able to understand many things.
The area has some acoustic characteristics that only become clear when you clap and follow the echo. The whole area is very impressive and brings old Mayan history and settlement back to life. You see the leftover of an ancient high culture. I have never seen anything like that.
After the tour, you have some time to walk around and see the rest of the area. It has a large span: 16 square kilometers. The guided tour leads to the pyramid, several temples and a former playground. You don’t get to see everything farther away but can walk there yourself. There are also two cenotes (holy water holes) to where you can walk. But you don’t have much time after the guided tour, you need to hurry.
You cannot visit the inside of the buildings, including the pyramid. This was possible in the past but due to several accidents on pyramid’s stairs, they are no longer open to public.
Our tour guide gave us several warnings not to buy from the street sellers. He said all the wooden items will give you termites at home and everything else is of inferior quality and basically shit. In short: refrain from anything.
On tripadvisor, many people complain about street sellers and the things they sell. Yes, the salespeople are there and they mainly sell cheap, useless, cheesy stuff. They yell a bit and are a bit loud. But that’s it. I don’t find them that pushy and that annoying. Simple ignore them and you don’t have a problem.
More Stops on the Tour: Valladoid and a Cenote
The only bigger town on the tour is Valladoid. It was our final stop on the way back. Because we were running out of time, we only stopped in the city center for a very short period of time. All in all, not really worth mentioning!
There was a second stop on the tour that was quite nice: at a cenote (holy water hole). You can walk to the cenote, and go swimming if you want to. The area was well equipped: there was a dressing room to change your swimming clothes and a café.
More stops on the tour were a souvenir store with all kinds of stupid tourist items (the stop here was way too long for me), a lunch buffet (huge but also many busses that stop there) and a gas station. The lunch buffet (including a very cheesy dance performance) was ok; everything else is pointless and not necessary.
Bus Tours to Chichen Itza
Taking the bus is the standard way to do a tour here. That means: all the busses arrive at the same time in Chichen Itza. It was really very crowded. But it’s a vast area: you can still see the pyramid and circle it without a problem. All other buildings are far apart from each other, there is definitely enough space. In this case – and that is a rare exception – you can easily be in a crowd of people, still see everything and find enough space in general.
The entrance is a bit messy: all the tour busses look the same. At that point, you know why all the tourist guides wait at the entrance and collect their people. I really would not have found our bus.
All the stopping on the way and the lunch breaks makes the group arrive right in the mid-day heat. Definitely bring sunscreen and a hat, it’s warm and the sun is strong!
If you have your own car, come on the morning before the tour busses arrive.
Anyone visiting Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Yucatan should visit the pyramid. Even when it’s crowded, you should not miss this attraction!