Temple of Kukulcan, El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

Visiting Chichen Itza Ruins, Mexico’s Wonder of the World

Updated August 2023, Visiting Chichen Itza Ruins, Mexico’s Wonder of the World was originally published in October 2022

Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most famous sites being labeled one of the new 7 wonders of the world as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Located in the heart of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most-visited archeological sites with a fascinating history that stretches back over 1,000 years. 

The Chichen Itza ruins cover an impressive 740 acres of land and include many buildings and structures that still haven’t been excavated yet. 

In this travel guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know before visiting Chichen Itza including how to get there, costs, what to see while you’re there, recommended tours, and more.

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Chichen Itza Practical Info

  • Entrance fee: $571 MXN, $85 MXN for residents (free for residents on Sundays)
  • Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

Top Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza

  • Get there super early or really late: if you get there right before 8 and get in line you’ll get in before it gets crazy. By about 10 am the tour buses start to show up and the hordes descend. Showing up around 3:30 pm and staying until close is also a quieter time
  • Avoid Sundays: unless you don’t mind a crowd, Chichen Itza gets quite busy with locals because residents get free entry on Sundays
  • You cannot climb on the ruins: They’ve banned climbing around or really even getting very close
  • Camera gear: don’t forget your camera, but do not bring a tripod 
  • Pack good footwear: you’ll be walking a lot around Chichen Itza so make sure you have a comfortable pair of shoes such as these running shoes for women.
  • The sun is intense: bring a hat, sunscreen, and something to cover with as there is little shade
  • No swimming in the cenote: you cannot swim in the Sacred Cenote
  • Do pack a swimsuit: do bring a swimsuit if you plan to combine your visit with some of the famous cenotes around Valladolid. 
Temple of Kukulcan, El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

How to Get to Chichen Itza

From the most popular destinations in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll have the options of taking the ADO bus, a tour, a taxi, and sometimes colectivos to Chichen Itza. 

Better yet, if you’ve got your own rental car, just pop Chichen Itza into Google Maps and follow the directions there!

Getting to Chichen Itza From Valladolid 

Colectivo: From the Chichen Itza colectivo lot just accross the street from the ADO bus station colectivos leave when full to Chihcen Itza. We caught the first one in the morning leaving at 6:45 am which got us to Chichen Itza at 7:30 am. The Chichen Itza colectivo costs $40 MXN per person.

ADO Bus: There is one ADO bus per day from Valladolid to Chichen Itza at 11:25 in the morning. Tickets are $90 MXN per person. Book your ADO bus ticket from Valladolid to Chichen Itza.

Tour: You can easily book tours from Valladolid to Chichen Itza. If you don’t want the hassle of organizing a tour on the fly check out Chichen Itza tours on Get Your Guide and Viator.

Taxi: Taxis are plentiful in Valladolid, just head to the main square in the city and you’ll find heaps of them. Negotiate a price before you get in, $500-600 MXN (one way) is pretty standard. 

Getting to Chichen Itza From Cancun

ADO Bus: You can book an ADO bus from Cancun to Chichen Itza that departs the terminal in Downtown Cancun at 8:00 am and arrives at 11:47 am, requiring one stop to change buses along the way.

Tour: A plethora of tours depart Cancun every day from Cancun to Chichen Itza. Shop various tours on Get Your Guide and Viator.

Taxi: Find a taxi driver and strike a price deal with them. Plan to pay about $130 USD for a taxi to bring you from Cancun to Chichen Itza and back.

Getting to Chichen Itza From Playa del Carmen

ADO Bus: You can book an ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza departing at 8:10 am and arriving at 11:30 am, requiring two stops to change buses along the way. 

Tour: Plenty of Chichen Itza tours can be found that start in Playa del Carmen. Shop various tours on Get Your Guide and Viator

Taxi: Negotiate with a taxi to bring you to Chichen Itza and back to Playa del Carmen. Plan to fork over about $150 USD for the car.

Getting to Chichen Itza From Tulum

ADO Bus: The ADO bus departs Tulum at 9:37 am, arriving at Chichen Itza at 12:17 pm for $288 MXN per person.

Tour: As Tulum has become a hot spot on Mexico’s Riviera Maya you’ll find lots of Chichen Itza day tours from Tulum. Shop various tours on Get Your Guide and Viator.

Taxi: You can negotiate a price with a taxi driver in Tulum to take you to Chichen Itza, wait for you, then bring you back in a day. My friends did this and said it cost them about $110 USD for the car.

Chichen Itza Guide: Main Structures of Chichen Itza

Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo)

Temple of Kukulcan, El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
Temple of Kukulcan

The famous Myan pyramid you surely came to Chichen Itza to see is named Temple of Kukulcan and in Spanish is known as El Castillo. El Castillo served as a temple to the feathered serpent deity Kukulcan and was the center of this ancient Mayan city. At nearly 100 feet tall it’s easy to see why. 

It’s estimated that the Temple of Kukulcan was constructed between the 8th and 12th centuries by the Toltecs. Within the pyramid is another temple that sits overtop of a large cenote. 

The sheer size of the Temple of Kukulcan is impressive, but be ready for the grounds surrounding the pyramid to be quite crowded. If you want to see an awesome Mayan ruin that doesn’t quite get as much attention, check out the Muyil Ruins and Mayan Canals near Tulum.

Great Ball Court

Great Ball Court, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
Great Ball Court

It was here that Pok-a-Tok was played, a highly revered brutal ball game played by the Mayans. This particular great ball court at Chichen Itza was actually the largest of its kind within the Mesoamerican world at 545 feet by 225 feet. 

Each side of the massive court has a giant stone loop fixed high on its wall. The players would have played with a 6-8 pound ball made of chicle which could only be moved using the players’ knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders. 

Its widely believed that the captain of the losing team was beheaded and sacrificed to the gods. 

Tzompantli (Skull Platform)

Decorated with bas reliefs of skulls all around, it’s thought that the Skull Platform, also called a Tzompantli was actually used to display the heads of sacrificed prisoners and enemies and maybe even losers from the Pok-a-Tok court on stakes to display the Toltec People’s conquests and maybe even to scare off of adversaries.

Temple of the Warriors

Temple of Warriors, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
Temple of Warriors

Adorned with statues of warriors and soldiers, the Temple of Warriors is thought to have been either a place of worship for Mayan warriors or dedicated to Mayan warriors. It also features reliefs of eagles and jaguars devouring human hearts as well as representations of the Mayan god Tlalchitonatiuh.

El Caracol (The Observatory)

El Caracol, Mayan Observatory, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico
El Caracol Mayan Observatory

Meaning the snail in Spanish, el Caracol gained this nickname due to either its form or its spiral staircase within and likely served as a Mayan observatory. 

It appears that this Mayan observatory was carefully aligned with the planet Venus and therefore many believe that ancient Mayans would have used it to make sure that their calendars stayed accurate. 

Sacred Cenote

The natural sinkholes revealing underground caves filled with freshwater were regarded as sacred among the Mayans. Therefore, this Sacred Cenote would have served as a ceremonial space of religious significance. Upon archeological investigations here human remains, gold, and even fragments of pottery have been found down inside the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza.

 As mentioned earlier it is forbidden to swim in the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza, however, if you are doing a tour to Chichen Itza you more than likely will get a chance to swim in nearby Cenote Ik Kil or some of the other beautiful cenotes around Valladolid

Getting Back From Chichen Itza

Getting back from Chichen Itza if you are not on a tour is quite easy. 

Colectivo: If you want to catch the colectivo back to Valladolid, just go back to where it dropped you off at the far end of the bus turnaround across from the Marketplace. The colectivo will cost $40 MXN per person.

ADO bus: The ADO bus does go from Chichen Itza back to Valladolid at 9:10, 11:25, 13:55, 14:30, and 16:00 and the trip costs $90 MXN per person. Once back to Valladolid it’s possible to take another bus if you’re staying somewhere else beyond such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. Book your ADO bus ticket from Chichen Itza back to Valladolid.

Taxi: There are plenty of taxis waiting outside here to make the journey back to Valladolid or beyond. A taxi back to Valladolid will cost $500-600 MXN. 

Cenote Samula, Yucatan, Mexico, cenotes near Valladolid
Cenote Samula near Valladolid

Where to Stay in Valladolid

There are an array of accommodation options in Valladolid to suit just about any budget.

Solo budget backpackers: If you’re a solo backpacker on a budget check out Hostal Mamacha which offers inexpensive dorm beds right in the center of Valladolid. 

Budget: Couples or two friends that are traveling together have a lot of options that would still put you in the budget accommodation category in Valladolid. We opted to go for budget accommodation as we were two and booked the Hotel Casa Rico which is just a block off the main square, which we would recommend. Other midrange options we were looking at were the Hotel San Clemente and Hotel Real Colonial

Midrange: Valladolid has a lot of great midrange options. We were considering the Real Hispano for our stay in Valladolid but ended up going for something a little cheaper.  

Splurge: If you want to splash out a bit for something pretty nice, opt for the Mayan Majesty Boutique Hotel.

Have Any Questions About Visiting Chichen Itza?

Ask in the comments section below.

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