Chichen Itza is the most known and most visited Mayan ruins site in Yucatan Peninsula. A visit to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World should be on everyone’s list traveling to Yucatan. If you want to learn how to explore Chichen Itza on your own, read the entire article!
Chichen Itza – Short Info
Chichen Itza is a UNESCO World Heritage site and, as mention before, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. While Chichen Itza has the wow factor, it is a partly re-built pyramid; that’s why it looks so polished and perfect.
Many tourists visit Chichen Itza as a day trip arranged by Riviera Maya’s resorts, a two-hour drive away. And the prices are high! The site is much easier to access if you are staying in the cities of Merida or Valladolid.
Nowadays, having the entire site to yourself, it’s only a dream. You will see lots of buses, tours, masses of tourists eager to take a photo of the famous pyramid. But, despite its popularity, it should be on everyone’s list traveling to Yucatan, Mexico.
Opening Hours: 8 am – 5 pm
Entry fee: 539 pesos
How to get to Chichen Itza on your own
Exploring Chichen Itza on your own? Is it possible? YES! Due to its convenient location, discovering Chichen Itza on your own makes a perfect day trip for every tourist. I recommend doing it independently instead of booking a tour. Travel by car, bus, or Colectivo, and you’ll have the freedom to roam at your leisure, stop where and when you want.
You can visit Chichen Itza eighter from Riviera Maya, eighter from the capital of Yucatan, Merida, eighter from Valladolid.
- Cancun – Chichen Itza, 200km
- Playa del Carmen – Chichen Itza, 200km
- Tulum – Chichen Itza, 150km
- Merida – Chichen Itza, 125km
- Valladolid – Chichen Itza, 45km
You can get to Chichen Itza in a rented-car. It’s pretty common and safe to rent a car and discover the peninsula at your own pace. The rental prices are low compared to other places in the world, and the traffic is good.
Another great option to reach Chichen Itza is by traveling on an ADO bus. Unless you are on a budget, forget the Oriente bus since it will take forever to get to the Archaeological Site. Book your tickets in advance, especially in high season, so you’ll be sure to visit Chichen Itza on your chosen day.
Another affordable option to get to Chichen Itza from Merida or Valladolid is by taking a Colectivo, the most common way of transport in Mexico. It is safe, quick, and, as mentioned, affordable. Colectivo station in Valladolid is on Calle 46, behind the Ado Bus Terminal. Colectivo station in Merida is on Calle 60. There is no schedule; as soon as the Colectivo feels up, it will leave the station. We never had to wait for more than 10 minutes for the Colectivo to leave.
How to visit the Archaeological Site
Make sure to visit Chichen Itza first thing in the morning to have this place mostly to yourself. By 11 am the site is already full of tourists! Leave the car near the entrance and head to the entrance office. The Ado bus and Colectivo leave you near the entrance gate as well.
Before purchasing the entry ticket, find a local guide and book him. He will wait for you while you are buying the entry tickets. I can not stress enough this since there is no printed information, so a guide approved by the Archaeological Park is money well spent. You will learn about the history of the Mayan people and understand more about the place. If you want to save some money, ask another person/couple/family, also waiting in line, to join your tour guide and split the bill. That’s how we did it, we split the bill with a lovely American couple, and we were all happy. After the guided tour, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the archaeological site on your own, take lots of photos, or buy some souvenirs.
Cost for the approved local guide: 900 pesos
Exploring Chichen Itza on your own
The vast archaeological site includes the famous El Castillo pyramid, different temples like the Warriors’ temple, the Wall of Skulls or the Observatory, a ball game court, and a small cenote. While El Castillo gets most of the attention, you might be surprised to find the site has much more to offer.
El Castillo Area
The first thing you’ll get to is the famous El Castillo pyramid. Ideally situated on a vast green area, it looks so imposing and so beautiful. It’s prohibited to climb the pyramid nowadays, but that is excellent for taking the perfect photo. Each front has the exact same size. Each staircase at the four fronts has 91 steps, which equals 364, and the terrace at the top makes a total of 365 steps. Or the 365 number of days of one year.
The Ball Game Court Area
Nearly every Mayan site had a ball game court, and the story is usually the same: Two teams of seven players performed a popular Mayan ball game. Players used to rebound a small rubber ball through stone rings using only their hips, knees, and elbows. The game was played for official reasons or just for fun, but it was always a way to interact with the gods. Most of the time, the winning captain was sacrificed to the gods.
The Wall of Skulls Area
There are three platforms in the Great Plaza, but this specifical one was used to display the heads of sacrificing victims. Hundreds of columns surround a massive temple structure engraved with reliefs. The skulls were the roots that would ensure the extended presence of human beings.
The last stop is the Cenote Sagrado, used for human sacrifices during the Mayan times, and it is supposed that human remains are still on the bottom of the cenote. The cenote is a round hole of natural water, surrounded by high rocky walls. You’ll walk along a path full of handicrafts and Mexican souvenirs. Stop and appreciate the beautiful crafts, maybe buy some. Don’t get confused by the vendors because they can be quite aggressive, and they will try to sell you everything.
After the visit under the burning sun, it’s time for a refreshing swim. Jump in a taxi nearby, pay no more than 80 pesos, and head to the nearby town of Piste. The famous Ik’Kil is a perfectly round underground cenote, with long tree roots hanging around and blue color water. If you’ve visited other cenotes before, you will notice that this one is not as natural and picturesque, rather commercial and artificial. Being so close to Chichen Itza and also part of a day tour package, it’s going to be crowded. So it is up to you if you skip this visit or not.
Entry fee: 70 pesos
Opening Hours: 8 am to 5 pm.
Tips for exploring Chichen Itza on your own
- Bring plenty of water because it’s going to be hot all day long.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. There is no shadow at all.
- Use mosquito repellent to keep you away from the insects.
- The site requires a decent amount of walking, so wear comfortable shoes.
- Bring a swimming suit if you want to swim in the cenote nearby.
- Be there first thing in the morning. By 11 am the site is packed with masses of tourists.
If you’re committed in visiting Chichen Itza as part of a group, you can book your full day tour here which includes:
- Explore the pyramid temples and other monuments of Chichén Itzá
- Swim in the underground “cenote” (sinkhole)
- Walk through the colonial city of Valladolid and admire the majesty of its temples and ancestry
- Savor a delicious buffet meal
- Pickup available from your hotel in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Rivera Maya, and downtown Tulum.
- Chichen Itza entry tax, $30 USD per adult / $5 per child to be paid in cash to the guide
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