Best things to do near Chichen Itza
If you are planning on visiting Chichen Itza Mayan ruins and have time to explore the area little, here is our list of the best things to do near Chichen Itza. The Yucatan Peninsula holds a lot of treasures for tourists to discover and much more that most websites and guides will not mention. We are always out exploring for you so we can make lists like this so you can make the most of your time visiting the Chichen Itza area.
In order of how close these things are to Chichen Itza we list them below.
1. Chichen Itza Light show at night
Even if you visit during the day to the ruins you might want to return at night for the show. The show consists of an entrance with an audio tour of the central part of the ruins and a 25 minute light show projected on the Temple of Kukulkan. You can see a little more in our video below. Here is also a link to our article about the light show and if you want to book tickets you can go to the official website here.
2. Visiting the Mayaland Hotel for a meal
The Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows are so close to Chichen Itza, there is a private entrance for the hotel guest. It also has commanding views of the ruins from a different perspective. For example, the front door of the hotel is in line with the observatory (El Caracol) of Chichen Itza. Besides views and proximity to the ruins, it also has a restaurant and buffet open to the public where you can get a glimpse of the beautiful grounds of this hotel.
There is a buffet that features regional cuisine. If you are not that hungry, there is a restaurant just off the lobby by the pool where you can order off the menu.
3. See the planetarium show at the Mayaland Hotel
A very little known thing to do near Chichen Itza is to see the show at the planetarium at the Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows. This show can be seen several times a day starting in the afternoon. The show depicts the Maya culture and gives a little different perspective on the meaning of the nearby ruins. We would not say this show is amazing but it is interesting. The show is presented from the perspective of the Maya of the past.
The show costs $9USD and is about 25 minutes in an air conditioned theater. Headsets are available for English. The show is in Spanish. A good option is entering the property and check the times. Plan on eating at one of the restaurants and then see the show. When you enter the drive security will ask if you have tickets and then direct you to the parking area.
To check times the toll free number from the United States and Canada is 1-877-240-5864 or from within Mexico the toll free number is 800-719-5465.
4. Visit Ik Kil Cenote
One of the most iconic cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula is Ik Kil. It is well known because its impressive size and cascading plants that reach down to the water. Because of its proximity to the Chichen Itza ruins and the infrastructure, it hosts many buses a day.
The property has a large parking lot, shop, showers, lockers, and a buffet restaurant. Even though it is very busy most of the day, it is still impressive to see and swim here. Although we don’t recommend the buffet because it is very low quality and full of cheap starchy food. For more about visiting Ik Kil Cenote see our article here.
There are some other lesser know and lesser visited cenotes near to Chichen Itza. Just west of the town of Piste is Cenote Chihuan. This cenote is in a cavern and much smaller and less visited. Crossing over the toll highway, there is a cenote that is far off the beaten path, but worth the drive if you want a tranquil place to visit. It is called Cenote Chan Dzonot.
5. Take a tour into the Balankanche Caves
Balankanche Caves are an 800 year old ceremonial site of the Mayas. It was discovered in the 1950’s and now open for tours. The caves themselves are kind of interesting, but the fact there are rooms with artifacts make it more interesting. During the day there are timed tours and offered in different languages. However, it does not matter what language you take the tour, because the audio recording is so bad, you can barely understand it.
For more about visiting here, see our article about the Balankanche Caves. Here is also a link to the Yucatan State website for Balankanche (in Spanish only).
6. Visit the lost sister city of Chichen Itza, Yaxunah
Most people have never heard of Yaxunah ruins. It is clearly overshadowed by the more well known ruins of Chichen Itza. Even though Yaxunah is close to Chichen Itza, many people never visit. Yes, Yaxunah is not as restored and there are no tours here. It is interesting if you have time to drive to it.
The ruins are by the side of the road with just a humble sign marking the. The ruins themselves are large with temples spread out over a large area. The best option to see them is pass by the ruins to the small town close by. In town there is a small museum and cenote. Here you can ask someone to guide you around. This not only offers a little job to the community but also their knowledge of the area including avoiding snakes and bugs.
7. Swim in the fresh waters Tsukan cenote
This is a relatively new cenote park that has opened just west of Chichen Itza off of the non toll 180 road. Here they have preserved the land as well as local traditions. You can see the gardens, a traditional Maya house and how people have lived off the land for thousands of years. There is also a nice cenote to swim in. A lot of work has gone into opening this to the public.
There are many less people that visit this cenote and it can make for a quiet place to visit. For more about visiting Tsukan, see our article and video below.
8. Stop at Hacienda Selva Maya for the buffet and cenote
If you are driving toward Valladolid on the non toll road, you will come to Hacienda Selva Maya. This is a good stop for both cenote and buffet for an all in one stop. The buffet offers local cuisine and good, not amazing, but decent. Most tourists will enjoy the variety of local dishes. The cenote is large and open with a man-made waterfall. The cenote itself is picturesque.
Next to the cenote there are lockers and showers. Life jackets are provided.
This all in one stop is less busy than Ik Kil and has better food. You can also just pay for the cenote and eat somewhere else, although if you have been to Chichen Itza already, the day is probably already getting late. You will probably want to eat by the time you arrive here.
9. Tour Valladolid in all its colonial charm
Valladolid is a charming colonial town in the center of the peninsula. There is a lot to see and do in this town. It can be a good stop or even an overnight since there are many good hotels in Valladolid. There are also a lot of good restaurants that you can visit. In Valladolid there are many older colonial buildings dating back to the 1500’s. You can also see a good slice of local culture as people still wear traditional dress and you might even hear Mayan being spoken.
Most tourist attractions in town focus about the main square and the diagonal street leading to the convent. Visiting here is a good contrast to the modern Riviera Maya.
More information about visiting Chichen Itza
If you are planning on driving to Chichen Itza from the Riviera Maya, we have a detailed article for you. We also have an article about taking the public bus service and the best tours to Chichen Itza. We also have a video of visiting Chichen Itza with lots of tips that you can use no matter if you arrive by car or tour.
We have some time to travel around the Yucatan and were thinking of spending a day or two in the Chichen Itza area, so this is perfect information. Thanks!
We want to visit Chichen Itza this year but not sure when things will open there. Do you have an idea? Thanks
Some of the ruins have opened in Quintana Roo but the state of Yucatan has not opened yet. This is where Chichen Itza is. We expect them to open possibly in September. Things are less dependent on tourism in Yucatan State side.