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The Everything Guide To The Best Way To See Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Mexico

Everything Guide To The Best Way To See Chichen Itza

It seems like everyone wants to visit Chichen Itza ruins. And the numbers don’t lie, there are nearly 1.4 million visitors a year here. So since so many of you want to visit, we decided to write a simple guide for you so you can enjoy your day visiting Chichen Itza.

Our video tour of visiting Chichen Itza

Top 6 things to see at Chichen Itza

Here are the must sees when visiting Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.

  1. Great Ball Court. This area is where the Mayan ball game was played. This is the most preserved ball court of any of the ancient ruins. This one is also impressive to see because it is so large. This ball court measures 551 feet by 230 feet wide (168 meters by 70 meters).
  2. El Castillo or the pyramid. This is the name of the main pyramid and the most photographed building at Chichen Itza. You are able to walk to all sides of it and even see where it was covered up and built upon.
    Chichen Itza Mexico pyramid

    The main pyramid of Chichen Itza called “El Castillo”.

  3. Sacred Cenote. This is where they believe that human sacrifices where made. Archeologist have found human skeletons and jewelry at the bottom of this cenote.
  4. Building of a thousand columns. This impressive building was most likely had an extensive roof built over it with wood. The size of this is impressive.
  5. Las Monjas also called the Nunnery in English was named by the Spanish invaders. This is the most impressive and detailed building at Chichen Itza. Although this was not a nunnery, it was a governmental palace.
  6. The observatory. This building is impressive because the shape is so different and eerily similar to an observatory of today.

Our tips for visiting Chichen Itza ruins

Here are our top tips for you so you can enjoy visiting Chichen Itza.

  • Be prepared for the sun. A good portion of these ruins are out under the sun.  Bringing an umbrella, sun hat and or sunscreen is a good idea.
  • Many tours go to a cenote after visiting Chichen Itza. Since this is the ground water and crystal clean, you should wear only biodegradable sunscreen. The oils and chemicals of regular sunscreen pollute this fragile eco system.
  • Since the ruins are spread out, be prepared to walk. Bring comfortable shoes. The ground is mostly flat.
  • We like to do the ruins in a clockwise route. This way you see everything in an organized manor. Of course if you have a guide you will need to follow them.
  • There are bathrooms just past the ticket sales in the entrance. There are also bathrooms three other locations in the ruins.
  • Food is sold in the visitors center at different stands. This is not the most authentic or best priced food options. If you are driving yourself, drive out of the historical site to eat somewhere.
  • Drinks are also over priced at Chichen Itza. You can just bring a bottle with you or pay a little too much for one there.
Chichen Itza Mexico

The sacred cenote in Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.


Should you take a tour to Chichen Itza or drive yourself?

This is a common question that people ask especially if you are a family. What are the cost of going to Chichen Itza yourself compared to taking the bus or a tour? Here we will show you the numbers and tell you the pros and cons.

Taking a tour to Chichen Itza pros and cons

  1. Pro. The ruins are about a 3 hour drive from the Riviera Maya so it does not only mean renting a car, it also means paying for gas, tolls and stress of driving in a foreign country.
  2. Con. You are locked into going where the tour goes. You are not able to stop at that small local restaurant you saw next to the road.
  3. Con. Some tours are expensive for a family spending the day visiting the site.

Driving yourself to Chichen Itza ruins pros and cons

  1. Con. You have to calculate renting a car, gas, parking and tolls. The parking cost 30 pesos for a car. Tolls range from about 300 pesos each way depending if you take the toll roads. Gas round trip cost about 400 pesos. A good website to calculate tolls and gas in Mexico is this government website.
  2. Pro. You are able to customize your day. If you want to spend more time or less time at Chichen Itza, you can! You can also stop along the way and see things that interest you.

So as you see, it is up to you how you want to get to Chichen Itza. Tours usually range from $50-$120 USD per person. This means for a family of 4 it can be $100-$480 USD to visit Chichen Itza. If you go on a tour, ask what is included. Is there a meal, entrance fees or another stop included in the tour?

Driving your self can cost a family of four about $130 USD but that does mean you have to do some planning. This price would include, basic car rental, gas, tolls, parking , entrance to Chichen Itza and a basic meal somewhere.

Taking the bus to Chichen Itza ruins

If you are more of an independent person you might consider taking the public bus (ADO) to Chichen Itza. You might take the bus to Chichen Itza and then onward to another destination. If you are doing this there is a bag check at Chichen Itza in the visitors center. This service is free and fairly secure.

Here are some sample prices and times for the bus to Chichen Itza. Note: Times and prices change often, so please check before booking.

If you do want to take the ADO but round trip from the Riviera Maya you should consider the schedule of the return bus. There are not many daily busses doing the direct route. You might be stuck at the ruins for hours.

ADO Bus From Playa Del Carmen To Chichen Itza

There is one direct bus a day at 8:00am that cost 292 pesos. This bus takes 3 hours and 50 minutes. This bus leaves from one of the ADO Bus stations in Playa Del Carmen.

ADO Bus From Cancun To Chichen Itza

There is one direct bus a day leaving at 8:45am and cost 268 pesos. This route takes 3 hours and 5 minutes. This bus leaves from the Cancun Bus Station in the downtown.

ADO Bus From Merida to Chichen Itza

There are three morning busses that leave from Merida to Chichen Itza. The cost is 130-150 pesos. This route takes 1:45-1:55.

Alternative public transportation to Chichen Itza

Here is another option for getting to Chichen Itza by public transportation. If you are in Valladolid or spend the night there, there are colectivo vans that depart from almost next to the ADO station on 39th Street between 44th and 46th Street. These vans run all day with tourist going to Chichen Itza. They are more frequent in the morning and take about 40 minutes to get to the ruins.

More reading for you on visiting Mayan ruins

If you want to read about visiting more Mayan ruins in Mexico and the Riviera Maya, we have a guide that compares what they are like and suggest what ruins might fit what you are looking for.

Have you been to Chichen Itza? How did you go? Do you have any tips for other readers? Let us know in the comments below.

Chichen Itza Mexico

The nunnery as it was nicknamed by the Spanish.

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