Most people know it mainly by the image of its well-preserved central step pyramid. Accordingly, it is also a popular destination for travelers and one of the places that most visitors to Yucatan head to.
How to get to Chichen Itza
Tours to Chichen Itza
Tours to Chichen Itza are offered from every tourist center in Yucatan as day trips. These cost from about 50€ and usually include a guide and a visit to Cenote Ik Kil. However, entrance fees are often not included in the price and are added on top. A disadvantage, however, is that the tours only arrive when the other tourists are also already all there.
Going to Chichen Itza on your own
For those who want to get to Chichen Itza before everyone else and without a tour, it is recommended to travel to Valladolid or Piste the day before.
Valladolid is the nearest major city. It has a bus station that provides connections to all the major cities in the area, and it is also a central hub for Collectivos. In addition, Valladolid is a nice lively Mexican small town in nice but somewhat run down colonial style. It has some very nice restaurants. Wednesday through Sunday there is also a very worthwhile Laser Show at the front of the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena. At 21:00 it starts in Spanish, around 21:30 in English. However, times may vary slightly, so you’d better get there a few minutes early.
From Valladolid, there are regular buses and collectivos to Chichen Itza. The trip takes three quarters of an hour. The buses leave from the central bus stop in the city center, Collectivos can be found in the courtyard right next to it. Collectivos supposedly start operating in the morning before the buses do
Cost of the trip from Valladolid to Chichen Itza:
- ADO: 109 pesos
- Oriente: 33 pesos
- Collectivo: 35 pesos
Piste is the next settlement next to Chichen Itza. In Piste you are pretty much out of the way, but you can walk to Chichen Itza. This way you can be the first in the morning and save some time queuing and possibly experience the site a little less crowded.
Which of these is more suitable for you depends on what type of hotel suits you, how long you want to stay and whether you want to do anything else.
What to know about Chichen Itza
- Chichen Itza had its wedding in the 8th – 11th century
- It is a settlement of the Maya
- Since 1988 it UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Since 2007 it is one of the new seven wonders of the world
You can find more information in any good online encyclopedia.
What is the entrance fee to Chichen Itza
For foreigners, admission costs 254 pesos per person. At the time of our trip, that was about 12€
What to expect at Chichen Itza
The entrance of Chichen Itza
If you come to Chichen Itza and you don’t happen to be the first person there on an early morning in the off-season, you will quickly realize that Chichen Itza is a place of mass tourism. When we arrived, the backlog of parking already reached all the way to the main road, although many buses only stop briefly to let their occupants off and then leave directly.
Already before the entrance numerous souvenir sellers offer their offers feil. Many do this very loudly and chat passers-by also like to personally.
The entrance to the complex is a large white building. In front of it were two snakes during our visit. The shorter one on the left belonged to a photo booth where you can take pictures with a disguised and painted gentleman. Whether the disguise really corresponds to the original Maya robes I cannot judge. However, his poses are more reminiscent of depictions of ‘savages’ from the beginning of the last century.
During our visit, the queue on the right ended in the middle between the souvenir stalls of a market set up next to the entrance. The waiting time to the checkout was at about twenty minutes.
There are three cashiers selling tickets. One person can buy the tickets for more than one person, so it is not necessary for everyone in a group to go to the cashier with you or for everyone to stand in line.Be sure to keep the tickets with you until the end of your tour.
After the checkout you can go into the building where there are toilets (free of charge), a snack bar, a restaurant and an exchange office. The prices here are higher than usual for Mexico, according to the high volume of tourists.
Into the plant it goes now by turnstiles. To pass the ticket is needed.
Information, guides and audio guides for Chichen Itza
Unfortunately, there are very few information boards throughout the site. The few that exist often contain only the most rudimentary information and are easy to miss.
Cell phone reception is very poor on the site. Also mobile internet hardly works. (Audio) guides should be downloaded in advance and saved locally. One possible app with audio guide (in English) is Smartguide. Unfortunately, the download of the audio guide is only available in the full version for 5€ and I found the map for orientation quite confusing. However, the information was quite good.I only had the free version and therefore could not use the app on site.
Directly at the entrance of the plant waiting guides that you can book. Talk with the guides before you book them in any case briefly to check how well they speak English. We walked around without a guide. In retrospect, I have to say it probably makes the most sense for people with actual interest in the site and its history to take a guide. What I’ve witnessed with other groups, it’s already significantly more exciting and informative than going alone.
What awaits me at the site of Chichen Itza?
After the entrance follows a gravel path that is lined with souvenir stands to the right and left.
Then you come to the large plaza with the step pyramid. The other buildings are all scattered in the forest not far away and are easily accessible via wide paths and cannot be overlooked.
With your back to the entrance and a view of the pyramid, a path to the right leads to more ruins. This path ends at a complex that presumably belongs to a hotel. There are toilets there and probably a restaurant and a store, as far as we saw.
Otherwise, as far as we know, there are no toilets and no drinks to buy in Chichen Itza. When you re-enter the site from the hotel, your entry ticket may be checked again.
Besides ruins without explanations, you will find mainly tourists and souvenir stands in Chichen Itza. During our stay it was not only crowded, but also noisy. The biggest problem is souvenir vendors with jaguar whistles, a kind of instrument that makes a snarling sound meant to mimic a big cat. This whistle they perform always and everywhere and the noise is extremely annoying in the long run.
What are the trails like at Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is wheelchair accessible and also well passable with a stroller. We have seen a few strollers going around. The paths are wide and level. Separate footwear is not needed.
What else should I look for when visiting Chichen Itza?
What is the best time to visit Chichen Itza?
It is best to come right when the site opens or even later in the afternoon. The best times are when the tourist buses are just not there. We had read that at noon little should be going on, because the tours then lunch. However, we have noticed nothing of this.
From experience, we would also recommend rainy days, because then usually less tourists make trips and also souvenir stores close their stores.
What else should you bring?
- Sun protection
- Enough water
- A snack
We did not have the impression that there were many mosquitoes
Summary Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is a well-preserved ruined city. Really get their money’s worth in it, however, probably only two types of people: Those who are very interested in history and can fade out the trappings and those whoare very interested in souvenirs and want to brag about having been there once. People who want to have a look at the site in peace and quiet and get a bit of historical knowledge will probably have as little fun in Chichen Itza as we did. The problem is on the one hand that it is too crowded by souvenir dealers and tourists and on the other hand that too little is done to make the history of this place accessible to people without a private guide.
In general, we are not friends of planned tours for places we can visit on our own. However, at Chichen Itza we find it is a very good option to join a tour group. Without a guide, we would not visit the site again.
You can find the travelogue with all the stories about our visit to Chichen Itza in Martina’s travel diary:
→ Day 78: Chichen Itza Travelogue.
[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTIZQMcX1Fg” title=”Chichén Itzá – Tourists Trap or Landmark? Travelgrapher World Travel VLOG #18 2018″ description=”Cichen Itza Video Travelogue” /]