The Everything Guide To The Best Way To See Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Mexico

Everything Guide to the Best Way to See Chichen Itza

Embarking on a journey to the renowned Chichen Itza ruins becomes a compelling endeavor for many, given its immense popularity with nearly 1.4 million annual visitors. The desire to optimize the visit has led to the creation of a simple yet comprehensive guide, ensuring an enjoyable day exploring the wonders of the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins. From navigating the historical marvels to uncovering hidden gems, this guide draws inspiration from our firsthand experiences, aiming to assist fellow enthusiasts in seamlessly navigating their adventure at Chichen Itza. This resource invites all to unravel the mysteries of this ancient site and make the most of an unforgettable day amidst Mayan history.

Our video tour of visiting Chichen Itza

Like everything on our website, we like to go and experience it so we can give you good details. Here is a video we made for you to offer tips for all types of trips to the ruins of Chichen Itza. 

Top 6 things to see at Chichen Itza

Here are the must-see things 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 these Mayan 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 visitor’s 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 overpriced 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.

Check out the light show at night

If you have driven to the area, you will have a good opportunity to see the light show at night. This show brings history alive and is a way to see the ruins with a lot less people. See our article here for details and video below to see what it is like. 


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 80 pesos for a car. Tolls range from about 300 pesos each way depending on if you take the toll roads. Gas round trip cost about 400 pesos. 
  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 $70-$140 USD per person. This means for a family of 4 it can be $160-$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 yourself to Chichen Itza can cost a family of four about $241 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.

How much is the entrance to the ruins?

The entrance cost is about $28 USD (571 Pesos) per adult. For the most accurate up to date prices, consult the official INAH website here.

Chichen Itza Tours

In this section we are going to be posting tours we have been on and written about.

Xichen Deluxe Tour to Chichen Itza

This is a large bus tour by Xcaret. This tour includes going to Chichen Itza and then to the colonial city of Valladolid. You will have transportation to and from your hotel, a tour, buffet lunch and stop at Cenote Zaci all included. To read more about this Xichen Deluxe Tour and our video, see our article here.

Xichen Clasico Tour to Chichen Itza

This tour to Chichen Itza includes a stop in the community of Ebtun, a guided tour of Chichen Itza and a stop at Cenote Ik Kil. This tour will pick you up from your hotel and includes a small buffet lunch at Cenote Ik Kil. The Xichen Clasico tour is cheaper than the Deluxe version above and we prefer the Deluxe tour. But if you want something that cost lower and you are more interested in swimming in a cenote, this tour can be good for you. See our complete article and video of the Xichen Clasico tour here.

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 8:17am that cost about 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 currently no service direct to Chichen Itza. Sometimes there is a bus leaves from the Cancun Bus Station in the downtown. Check with ADO to see if they start a service again. 

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.

Hotels to stay at near Chichen Itza ruins

To really take advantage of what the area has, it can be good to stay in the area. There are two good options for locations of hotels, one is in Valladolid and the other is the area surrounding Chichen Itza. Below are recommended hotels. 

Hotels in Valladolid

Valladolid is a charming colonial city that is about 45 minutes east of Chichen Itza.  Valladolid is much more charming than Piste, the town closest to the Chichen Itza area. In Valladolid you have more options for eating also. See our guide here on restaurants in Valladolid. For hotel recommendations we have a whole article here with photos the best places to stay in town. 

Good places to stay close to Chichen Itza

There are not that many hotels near to Chichen Itza compared to the number of tourists that visit every day. Many people arrive by tour group and leave the same day. There are some roadside hotels in the area and some larger, more upscale hotels that are right next to the ruins. 

  • Hotel Chichen Itza. This is an older hotel in the center of Piste. It offers good value and more of a budget friendly option. Even though it is older, it has been updated. There is a pool, bar and restaurant on site. The restaurant is not the best, but it is convenient. 
  • Mayaland Hotel and Bungalows.  This is a very popular hotel because it has a beautiful property, pool, and views of the ruins from the hotel. Some of the rooms are modern and basic but the grounds are very beautiful and there is a selection of restaurants on the property. 
  • The Lodge at Chichen Itza. Here you can find some romantic rooms and large gardens. This is a great place for a couple that wants a romantic location. 
  • Villas Arqueologicas Chichen Itza. This is a good hotel that has a local/Mexican feel. It is close to the ruins, but not as close as Mayaland or the Lodge at Chichen Itza. 
  • Hacienda Chichen Resort and Yaxkin Spa. This is perhaps the most upscale and culturally engaging hotels in the area. The main building will take you back to the charm of old-world Yucatan and the time of haciendas. Enjoy the lush gardens and restaurant here. 

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. If you are looking for other tours we recommend, see our article on tours here.

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.

About The Author


  1. Really clear guide and helpful way to see Chichen Itza. We are coming for a two week stay and hoping to see this marvel of the world.

  2. OMG we are arriving this Monday! I havent been back since I was able to climb to the top! 1989-1992 maybe….So exciting. I hope the rumors of people harassing you is not true…

    • There are a lot of sellers and in some paths they line the route. Many people have commented that it is distracting from the experience of seeing the ruins. However if you do not pay attention to them then you will not really be bothered except “Hey mister, one dollar” lines. Ek Balam is a Mayan site with very little sellers and only outside the ruins. We just got back from a set of ruins that is not even on the map! It was wonderful walking around and being the only ones there. We got a private tour and really explored.

  3. We just for back from going to Chichen Itza and found your guide to be very helpful. We just wanted to pass that compliment on to you. Keep up your good work, you are helping many people discover more in the Riviera Maya and beyond.

  4. It’s the best time to make some plans for visiting Chichen Itza. There are tons of tours available but they range in quality a lot. Some just take you in a bus and you go in a herd of people. It is good to get there early to avoid the busses from Cancun. Maybe even stay overnight in Valladolid.

    • This would be by taking the ADO bus from Cancun to Chichen Itza. This would be the cheapest way to do this.

  5. We are off to Chichen Itza this weekend. We will be sure to take your suggestions! Thanks guys.

  6. Has anyone ever taken the Greyline Tour to Chichen Itza? If so, please comment – for those who took a private tour, how much did you pay and who would you recommend?

    Staying in Cancun on a budget!

    • Hello Lisa

      We have not been on the Greyline tour to Chichen Itza but do know it to be more of a budget bottom end tour. the big thing that people might look at is the price. It looks low but does not include the admission to Chichen Itza. This is about $20 USD more. So this tour can actually cost more then others. One tour you might like is
      You can read the article and save up to 15% off the tour and the base price is still about $10 off the price of Greyline. We hope this helps you.

    • Hello Gilbert
      Just remember tolls are in pesos only, no dolars or cards. Plan on a long day and enjoy your time there.

  7. Hi I´ll be going to the ruins in May 29 onwards from Hotel in Coba Akumal is there a tour from the hotel? What is the price?

    • Yes. Once you arrive there will be guides at the entrance with official badges that will offer you a tour. Prices are based on how many in your group and how busy it is. Prices are fairly fixed but a little flexible.

    • Hello Paul

      We don’t know any of the tour operators that do that tour from Merida personally. Most people from Merida take the ADO bus or rent a car and do a self guided tour or hire a guide at the entrance. There are tours from Merida but there are much less then from the Riviera Maya. Tourist in Merida are a little more independent. Most larger hotels will have recommendations from Merida of possible tours.

  8. It has been a life long dream to visit Chichen Itza ruins. I imagine the Mayans building it and what life must have been back in the days. We have planed to stay in Valladolid for two nights and spend a day trip to Chichen Itza from there. Do you think it is worth going to Ek Balam as well?

    • That is great you will be in Valladolid for two nights. That town has a lot to offer. If you are going by car to Chichen Itza you might have enough time and energy to see Ek Balam also in one day. Although you don’t have a lot of time in the area and enjoying some of the things in Valladolid is important. The two main differences between the ruins is the size and the fact you can climb to the top of the main temple in Ek Balam. We hope you have a great trip and let us know if you need anything.

    • It does feel like a pretty safe place. It is not like a city where people park in parking lots and there are a lot of people around. Chichen Itza is not in a town, next to a small one, but the parking lot is pretty safe. It is always best to keep things out of view.

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