Chichen Itza Travel Guide: the Seven Wonders of the World in Mexico

A helpful travel guide to Chichen Itza Mexico with tour information, prices, best time to go, and more!

Chichen Itza is an iconic archaeological site in Mexico that should be visited for its immense historical, cultural, and spiritual significance.

Built by the Mayan civilization around 600 AD, the pyramid-shaped monument is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Visitors to Chichen Itza can marvel at its majestic architecture, explore its intricate carvings and hieroglyphs, learn about ancient rituals performed here, and enjoy nearby attractions such as cenotes (natural swimming pools), sacred Maya caves, and other ruins.

Visiting Chichen Itza is a great way to experience the ancient culture and a fantastic opportunity to understand why this one-of-a-kind structure remains so relevant today.

Do not miss visiting Chichen Itza when you are in Cancun, Merida, Tulum, or anywhere in Quintana Roo! Here’s a complete guide on how to do it.

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Chichen Itza Mexico: quick links

🏺 What is so special about Chichen Itza Mexico?

Chichen Itza was one of the most important cities of the ancient Mayan civilization, located in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

It’s special because it is considered one of the best-preserved archaeological sites from this period and contains elaborate and beautiful structures, such as El Castillo temple pyramid, Temple of Warriors, Great Ball Court, and Observatory.

chichen itza mexico
Photo: @eva.brrl

Chichen Itza stands out for its high state of preservation and complexity, showcasing various architectural styles such as Toltec and Maya. The ancient city has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.

💡 Chichen Itza Mexico Fun Facts

  • Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most famous archaeological sites and one of the world’s most impressive examples of Maya architecture. The architecture of Chichen Itza contains numerous temples, palaces, plazas, ball courts, and observatories built between 600-1200 AD.
  • Chichen Itza was likely used as a ceremonial site, but it wasn’t just a temple or religious center – it was a political capital for the ancient Mayans who lived there. Considering its remoteness, this was a fantastic feat, being located on the Yucatan Peninsula and surrounded by dense jungles.
  • One of the most impressive structures at Chichen Itza is El Castillo (the Castle), which rises 79 feet above the plaza below and contains 91 steps on each side – making the total number of steps exactly 365, one for each day of the year and signifying Earth’s journey around the sun.
  • Another exciting feature of Chichen Itza is its famous Ballcourt – one of the largest rain-fed chovals (ballcourts) ever built by any civilization in Mesoamerica, measuring over 150 meters long and 68 meters wide. The two teams would play against each other with a solid rubber ball weighing up to 9 pounds without using their hands!
  • Last but not least, Chichen Itza has been listed as one of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico since 1988 and is rated as one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World due to its magnificence, historical importance, and deep connection with Mayan beliefs regarding astronomy and mathematics.
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🗺️ Chichen Itza Mexico Map

🚘 Chichen Itza Travel guide: getting there from Cancun

The easiest way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza is by car. Depending on traffic and your route, it will take approximately 2-3 hours.

You can get to Chichen Itza from Cancun by bus, though it will likely be slower than going by car. Public buses run between the two cities, and tickets may be purchased at the ADO or MAYAB counters in Cancun’s main terminal.

chichen itza travel guide
Photo: @dedegentle

Alternatively, you can book private or shared tours, including transport from Cancun to Chichen Itza, with stops at various sites of interest.

This is a great option if you want to see other attractions en route.

🚌 How to get to Chichen Itza from Tulum

The easiest way to get to Chichen Itza from Tulum is by car. Depending on your route, it should take about two and a half hours.

You’ll need to take Highway 180 towards Valladolid, then Federal Highway 183 south until you reach the ruins of Chichen Itza Mexico.

chichen itza travel guide
Photo: @mexicotravelexp

Alternatively, some buses run regularly from Tulum and Playa del Carmen, which will drop you off at Chichen Itza. Some tourist companies also offer guided tours with transportation included.

The bus from Tulum to Chichen Itza leaves early in the morning (7:50 AM, 8:57 AM, and 9:37 AM). Bus prices for this route start at $18 USD per person.

🚍 How to get to Chichen Itza from Merida

The best way to get from Merida to Chichen Itza is to take a bus or rent a car. Buses run regularly from Merida and drop off passengers just outside the ruins.

Renting a car in Merida gives you more flexibility, allowing you to stop for lunch and sightseeing. The drive takes about two and a half hours, with most of it on Highway 180 before turning onto Highway 186 at Tizimin.

chichen itza travel guide
Photo: @shantala101

After that, it’s just another 40km (25 miles) until the entrance of Chichen Itza itself. The bus from Merida to Chichen Itza leaves as early as 4:00 AM and costs $26 USD.

🚙 How to get to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen

The best way to get from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza is by car. It is approximately a two-hour drive, depending on the amount of traffic.

Alternatively, you can take a bus from Playa del Carmen central bus station for about 1 hour and 40 minutes, then transfer to Valladolid for another 30 minutes to reach your destination.

chichen itza travel guide
Photo: @locutorapaloma

You can also take a shuttle service or private tour directly from your resort in Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza.

🧭 Best Chichen Itza tours

Chichen Itza with buffet lunch, cenote, tequila tasting & Valladolid

This tour begins with a pickup from your hotel in Cancun and takes you on a comfortable journey to Chichen Itza, where you will be guided through this magical site by an experienced English-speaking guide.

As you explore the magnificent Mayan ruins, you will learn about their history, culture and importance in ancient times.

You’ll also have time to visit the Temple of Kukulkán (El Castillo) and discover its incredible feathered serpent carvings on each side of its staircase.

Your knowledgeable guide will explain why it was built and how it served as an important religious center for the Maya.

chichen itza mexico
Photo: @annalysis.paralysis

You’ll also visit various other structures, such as El Caracol (the Observatory), Las Monjas (the Nunnery), and El Osario (the High Priest’s Grave).

Along your tour, you’ll learn about everything from chacmool sculptures to ball courts; all while taking in breathtaking views of nature surrounding this ancient site.

After exploring Chichen Itza’s mysterious past, you’ll head off for a unique experience: a dip in an idyllic cenote!

This natural swimming hole is filled with crystal-clear water that will allow you to cool off after your explorations at Chichen Itza.

Later, savor an authentic Mexican lunch before returning to Cancun with amazing memories of your day trip to one of Mexico’s most mesmerizing historical sites.

Chichen Itza Early Access, Yaxunah, Cenote & buffet lunch

The tour will begin with an early-morning pick-up in Cancun before journeying to Chichen Itza. Upon arrival, you will be welcomed by their private archeologist guide, who will share stories and provide detailed information about the site’s fascinating history.

You will marvel at the iconic pyramid of El Castillo – one of the world’s most impressive Mayan landmarks and take in breathtaking views from its summit.

chichen itza mexico

You will also learn about other essential buildings, such as the Ball Court, Observatory, and Temple of Warriors, which tell stories about ancient Maya life and beliefs.

The guide will also show you how to use traditional tools like chisels and brushes to uncover artifacts that hint at daily life in pre-Columbian times!

After a visit to a cenote (natural limestone sinkhole) for swimming or a refreshing dip, tour participants will have time to explore vendors selling handicrafts before returning to Cancun.

Chichen Itza and Valladolid (with lunch)

This is the best Chichen Itza tour from Cancun. Upon arrival, travelers receive an informative introduction to the area’s culture, history, and architecture.

You will witness the iconic pyramid El Castillo and other pre-Hispanic structures like the Temple of Warriors, the Observatory, and sacred cenotes.

The tour includes a stop at a nearby Mayan village where travelers can learn more about traditional Mayan customs and purchase souvenirs.

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A professional, experienced guide is available throughout the day to help visitors make the most of their experience.

The tour also includes an opportunity for lunch in either a buffet or a la carte menu at one of two nearby restaurants.

You will visit La Casa de Piedra or Balam Nah Restaurant, offering delicious Mayan specialties such as chilmole pollo (chicken with chile sauce) and chirmole cochinita pibil (pork with chile sauce).

After lunch, visitors will have some free time before returning to your hotel or resort in Cancun.

✨ Chichen Itza travel guide and tips

Plan your trip to Chichen Itza ahead

Learn the best times of year to visit and hotels to stay in. The summer months can be scorching, so it is recommended to avoid this time if possible.

Be sure to book tickets for tours and attractions ahead of time, as some may require pre-booking, and spots tend to fill up quickly during peak times.

Chichen Itza dress code

Remember that dressing modestly is a must when visiting Chichen Itza Mexico as it’s a sacred Mayan site.

This means keeping shoulders and legs covered, avoiding low-cut tops or tank tops, and wearing comfortable shoes suitable for walking on uneven surfaces or climbing steps.

It can get really hot

Pack plenty of sunscreen, water, and snacks with you, as there are limited opportunities to buy food or drinks from vendors at the site.

This is especially important if you plan to spend the entire day exploring Chichen Itza – the sun can be extreme in Mexico!

Don’t forget your camera!

There are plenty of spectacular photo opportunities available around Chichen Itza, such as El Castillo pyramid, the Sacred Cenote, Temple of Warriors and Great Ball Court, among many other notable structures. Make sure you bring enough memory cards or batteries so you don’t miss out on capturing those special moments!

Book with a knowledgeable tour guide

Take advantage of learning about the culture surrounding Chichen Itza from knowledgeable tour guides who have dedicated countless hours studying this incredible ancient city. You will gain invaluable insights into Maya history and be able to appreciate the beauty of this incredible place even more than before!

Best time of the day to visit Chichen Itza Mexico

The best time of the day to go to Chichen Itza is during sunrise or sunset. During these times, the light from the sun creates a magical aura that enhances the structures and sculptures found in this ancient Mayan site making it even more captivating.

Sunrise or sunset allows you to witness a breathtaking view of Chichen Itza bathed in beautiful colors created by dawn or dusk.

🙋 Is Chichen Itza Mexico one of the Seven Wonders of the World?

YES! Chichen Itza Mexico is part of the New Seven Wonders of The World for its cultural and historical significance in Mexico.

It was named as a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1988 and in 2007 became one of the New Seven Wonders of The World.

⁉️ Is Chichen Itza Mayan or Aztec?

Chichen Itza was a Maya-Toltec archaeological site built by the Maya civilization and most likely completed around the 12th century CE.

There is evidence of later Aztec influence, but it is widely accepted that Mayans primarily built Chichen Itza.

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  1. Chichen Itza in Mexico is a famous ancient Mayan architectural site and a prestigious UNESCO world heritage site I would love to visit.It’s interesting to learn how Chichen Itza was an important religious site and how it has been preserved till date. It’s great that there are different tour packages for Chichen Itza and also an opportunity to dine in one of the authentic Mayan restaurants serving chilmole pole. And I don’t want to miss capturing the aura of Chichen Itza during sunrise and sunset. Also a visit to the sacred ceynote is a must.

  2. I visited Chichen Itza about ten years ago. Back then it was already quite a touristy place, but I guess, it was lonely compared to the crowds today. We stayed nearby at at hostel and actually went twice. Once in the morning and once at sunset. Your pictures brought back memories.

  3. This place has been on my radar for many years and I still have not made it there yet. Seeing that beautiful cenote would be a cherry on top as well. Thank you for this well crafted guide !

  4. This is an awesome guide for anyone planning a visit to this iconic archaeological site. You have done a great job of providing historical context about the Mayan civilization. Amazed with the facts like how El Castilo might signify the journey of the earth around the sun. I find your tips super useful for a first-time visitor like me.

  5. I visited Chichen Itza a few years ago from Playa del Carmen and loved it. A tour is the best way to go and they’re also reasonably priced. Dressing modestly is a very good tip.

  6. I have visited a few Mayan sites in Central America, but unfortunately I missed Chicken Itza because my time in Yucatan was very short. I would love to return and visit it sometimes soon, in a guided tour so I can learn more about its history. I have actually seen a Ballcourt before at a Mayan ruin, in El Salvador, and I found it very interesting that the Mayas were playing ball games such a long time ago. It’s also interesting to know that the Mayans preferred to have their political capital in a remove area, away from the sea.

  7. We have been to Mexico several times but have missed Chichen Itza on each visit. We would love to see this ancient architecture and learn more about the cultural practices of the time. Interesting to learn that it was both a political capital and religious centre. Not surprising that this was designated as a UNESCO site. Good tips about booking tickets in advance and getting a guide.

  8. Chichen Itza is truly an architectural gem in Mexico. I love that view from the summit of iconic pyramid of El Castillo. In most places like this it is best to view and photograph them at sunrise or sunset especially due to the magic of light and shadows. The number of steps to reach the top is mind boggling. I am adding this to my Mexico bucket list. 🙂

  9. I have just come back from Akumal but didn’t have the time to visit Chichen Itza, I read so many blogs saying unless you get there at the crack of dawn, it is so crowded it can be unbearable. I plan to return one day and base myself in one of the towns near Chichen Itza so I can be there first thing in the morning!

  10. Chichen Itza is on my bucket list of places to travel. I really want to see in person this lovely place and have a jump-shot photo higher than the structure.

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