A Guide to Visiting Chichen Itza in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know
If you’re looking for an amazing archaeological site to visit in Mexico, look no further than visiting Chichen Itza. This ancient Mayan city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, and for good reason – it’s absolutely stunning!
In this blog post, I’ll provide everything you need to know about visiting Chichen Itza, from how to get there to what to expect once you’re there. I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions, so you can make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. So without further ado, let’s get started!
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What is Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza was a principal city of the ancient Maya civilization, and one of the largest cities in Mesoamerica. The site is located in present-day Mexico, in the state of Yucatán.
The city was first inhabited around 600 AD, and reached its peak around 1200 AD. At its height, it had a population of around 50,000 people. However, by 1400 AD the city had been abandoned for unknown reasons.
It wasn’t until much later that Chichen Itza began to be studied by archaeologists. In 1842, John Lloyd Stephens was the first Westerner to visit the site. Since then, it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico.
Where is Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is located in the northeastern part of the Yucatán Peninsula, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state.
If you’re visiting from Cancun, Chichen Itza is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. If you’re visiting from Tulum, it’s about a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
How much does it cost to visit Chichen Itza?
There is an entrance fee to enter the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, which is valid for one day only. As of 2019, the fee is $540 Mexican pesos (about $28 USD) for adults and $270 Mexican pesos (about $14 USD) for children.
To buy tickets for Chichen Itza, click here.
There are also a number of tours available, which typically include transportation to and from your hotel, as well as a guided tour of the site. Prices vary depending on the tour company you choose but expect to pay around $50-60 USD per person.
Why should you book a tour?
While it is possible to visit Chichen Itza without booking a tour, I highly recommend doing so. Not only will it save you the hassle of having to figure out transportation and directions yourself, but you’ll also get to learn about the history and culture of the site from a knowledgeable guide.
I recommend booking with Get Your Guide, as they offer a variety of different tours to the area. I chose the one that included a trip to Vallodolid and a swim in a nearby cenote, but you can also do tours that take you to just Chichen Itza. With a guide by your side and transportation to the site, it certainly makes things much easier.
For a full guide to visiting Chichen Itza with Get Your Guide, you can visit this post here.
What can you expect on a tour?
Most tours of Chichen Itza from Tulum and Cancun last between ten and twelve hours and include a guided tour of the main archaeological site as well as Valladolid and the nearby cenote (a natural sinkhole).
You’ll learn about the history of the city, as well as see some of its most famous landmarks, such as El Castillo (the Pyramid of Kukulkan) and the Temple of Warriors.
What to expect when you arrive at Chichen Itza
Once you leave the carpark the first thing you’ll see is the entrance to Chichen Itza. Here you can buy your tickets (or collect them if you’re with a guide) and get ready for the experience ahead of you. I took this time to do one final top-up of sunscreen as I knew it was going to be VERY sunny once I left the air conditioning. There are a number of little cafes, restaurants and stores in this area.
When you first arrive at Chichen Itza, you won’t be able to see the main pyramid, El Castillo, from the entrance. After you’ve paid your entrance fee, you’re free to explore the site on your own or with a guide. To get to El Castillo, you’ll have to walk through a shaded area that is filled with vendors selling souvenirs.
There are a number of different buildings and landmarks to see at Chichen Itza, so it’s worth taking your time to walk around and explore. I recommend visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the heat and crowds.
Tips and tricks for while you’re there:
-Wear comfortable shoes – you’ll be doing a lot of walking on tough ground!
-Bring sunscreen and a hat – it can get very hot, especially in summer.
-Make sure you have water with you – there is very little shade and heat stroke is possible.
-Bring mosquito repellent – there are a lot of mosquitoes in the area.
(For a guide on how to beat mosquitos by someone who gets bitten A LOT, visit my post here!)
-Try to avoid visiting on weekends – it can get very crowded.
-If you want to go back to the air-conditioned building, be aware that you can’t get back through afterwards.
Visiting Chichen Itza FAQs:
What are the opening hours of Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is open from 08:00 am to 17:00 pm every day. The last entry is at 16:00 pm.
Does Chichen Itza have wifi?
No, unfortunately, Chichen Itza does not have wifi. However, if you need to use your phone or check your email, there is a small cafe inside the site where you can purchase a drink and use their wifi.
Can you climb El Castillo?
No, you can no longer climb El Castillo due to preservation.
How do you say Chichen Itza?
The name “Chichen Itza” is actually made up of two words in the Maya language – “chicken” meaning “at the mouth of the well” and “Itza” meaning “witch.” So put together, the name means “the witch’s lair at the mouth of the well.”
I’m worried about the heat, is there any shaded areas at Chichen Itza?
Yes, there is some shade at the site, however, it is limited. I recommend visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the heat.
I hope this guide was helpful in planning your trip to Chichen Itza! If you have any other questions that I didn’t cover, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. Safe travels!