Chichen Itza is one of the world wonders so if you are visiting Yucatan, it is the ultimate must. This wonder however is almost in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula. So a lot of people’s visit is in the form of a day trip, rather than staying at the ruins. I did the same. I took a day trip to Chichen Itza from Tulum. It was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone, but there are several things you need to know. And that is when this post steps in.
Day trip to Chichen Itza from Tulum
How to get to Chichen Itza from Tulum?
This is probably the biggest problem of all. Chichen Itza is quite far from Tulum. In fact, it is whole 150 km from Tulum city. Which means one thing. You certainly can do a day trip to Chichen Itza from Tulum, but it is going to be really long day no matter how you get there. Getting there is slightly more difficult than getting to for example Coba ruins. But that doesn’t mean that it is impossible.
Possibly the cheapest option that there is. You will need to catch a bus to Valladolid or Chemax and there switch to the bus to Chichen Itza. One way in this direction takes around two and a half hours. The buses from Tulum leaves every hour. And even though it is tempting to maybe sleep a little bit longer because it is still your holiday, I would recommend catching the earliest one that you can so you have enough time at Chichen Itza. You can catch the bus at the ADO terminal, one-way ticket costs around 200 pesos, depending on the bus and time.
Another more expensive but more flexible option. Of course, you can take a taxi. If you do that, you will be at Chichen Itza in 2 hours and you can even choose, when are you going. Which is great. However, when you hear the price you might change your mind. It would cost around 1000 pesos one way to get there. Perhaps you can get a deal with some taxi driver that would get you there and back for 1500 pesos since he will have to go back anyway. But expect a rather higher price. On the other hand, if you are traveling with a group, then this option can be relatively cheap.
Rent a car
This might be possibly the best deal there is. Renting a car in Tulum costs only 500 pesos per day, which will give you the comfort of going whenever you would like and at the same time, a relatively good price. Driving in Yucatan is very safe the only thing you need to be careful about is where are you leaving your car. Make sure you are parking at a safe place.
There is a lot of private guides in Tulum that would love to take you there. Private tours have usually organized the way that it would fit you the best. Which means that the price is also very different. When I say different, I mean you should count for at least 150 USD for two people. A lot of the guides would offer to take to cenotes where you can bathe as well. Which is nice. This option might be doable in case you would come with a bigger group. A lot of guides would lower the price if the group is big enough.
Commercial tour to Chichen Itza
Unlike private tours, commercial tours are much cheaper. On the other hand, prepare yourself for some hardcore marketing. Commercial tours are much cheaper than other tours. You can get to the ruins at the cost of 1000 pesos per person. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, prepare yourself for waiting for others, selling pitches, and paying for literally almost everything. Before I get to that, what is actually included in the commercial tour: a trip to cenotes, entry fee to Chichen Itza, the transport and lunch. It might not be that bad but it very much depends on your type of travel.
My experience with commercial day trip tour to Chichen Itza from Tulum
After giving a thought to whether we should perhaps go with a private tour, we found this one commercial tour, that seems very legit. It cost only 1000 pesos per person, they offered a trip to cenotes, Valladolid and Chichen Itza. However, the next morning, we stand at the place where they told us to wait for the operator. The operator got our names wrong so we weren’t sure until the last minute if we will be able to go there. That was more or less alright because we didn’t pay for the trip just yet, but still, it was kind of annoying.
Once we got to the bus, the tour guide started talking about Mayan culture. That would be fine, but he kind of used it for selling pitch. He talked a whole hour and a half about how obsidians can heal basically everything from bad menstruation pain to cancer. Also about how it is important to have your own authentic Mayan calendar. So on the next stop, we got to go through one massive gift shop only to go to one cenote. The cenote that we went to wasn’t even too impressive, but there were Mayan dancers and tons of people. They told us that you are not allowed to bathe in the cenote unless you have a swimming vest. And of course, the swimming vest cost 50 pesos.
After lunch we finally get to Chichen Itza. We were at the ruins at the warmest time of the day, which caused me heatstroke. The time at ruins was quite small, the guide wanted us to walk with him for an hour and then we offer to give us 30 minutes of free time. So we rather decided to walk around the ruins alone without the guide and we managed to see more than the whole group of people who followed him.
Finally, we finished the Chichen Itza visit and we head to Valladolid. It would be a very cool visit, but we were allowed to stay in the city only for 30 minutes, which was barely enough to see the church or local museum of chocolate.
We managed to get back to Tulum at around 9 after an hour and a half drive from Valladolid. During the drive the guide begged for a tip and even told us how big the tip is supposed to be. Also, the AC in the bus was so cold I was sick from it for another week.
So all in all, this did not work for me. But if you just want a cheap tour to Chichen Itza and don’t mind being a little bit uncomfortable, it can be just fine.
Exploring Chichen Itza
These ruins are perhaps one of the biggest Mayan ruins that I have ever seen. The complex is really massive and it is pretty magical to be there. Since the place is really big, you will probably need around 2 to 3 hours to get around all of the places. Make sure you enjoy every second there no matter what. It is one of the new world wonders.
Temple of Kukulcan
Or as you might know it – the main pyramid in Chichen Itza. The pyramid is 30 meters high and Spanish people used to call it “the castle”. Like many other buildings in Mayan culture, this pyramid is also built the way that during solstices, you will special shadow being cast during the time when sunsets over the pyramid. The pyramid was used for different rituals since archeologists find a sign of jaguar, it is believed that this is the place where gods and kings were worshipped.
Grand ball court
This place is dedicated to a sport. More specifically the mesoamerican game that was common to play all the way to the 16th century, when the Spanish came. The rules of the game aren’t fully known up till now, but it is believed that it used to be a team game with a ball that had to hit a certain target. This game was often followed by sacrifices from the team that won, so they would give the gods the best of them. The grand ball court in Chichen Itza is one of the biggest ones in Yucatan and has great acoustics.
It is hard not to notice that all around the Chichen Itza complex is several stands where you can clearly see skulls ornaments on the side of the stand. These stands used to be a place of sacrifice. The sacrifices were all kind – from war warriors, noblemen, to sacrifices dedicated to gods. Each sacrifice had a very different meaning and that is also why there is more than just one stand. One stand is dedicated to the planet Venus, other to Jaguar and Eagle symbols so there is a lot of meaning in them.
Temple of warriors
Right behind the main pyramid you can find this majestic temple. As the name said, this is the place where warriors were worshipped. Mayans attended a lot of wars with nearby cities such as Coba or Tulum. The victorious warriors were worshiped here. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find more information about how they worshiped them or if there were some special rituals to it.
This is one of the cenotes you definitely cannot bathe in. Also, access to it is restricted so there is no way of getting there. But anyways, the cenotes were supposed to be a gate to the gods and so a lot of Mayans would give their offerings to the cenotes. This means that especially during dry season Mayan would throw their sacrifices to the cenotes. Archeologists found a lot of gold, pottery, obsidians, and flints at the bottom of this cenote. They also found there a lot of children and men skulls which suggests that people were offered to gods as a sacrifice as well.
Thousand columns square
Right next to the warrior temple you can see a ruin of another building. People call it square of thousands of columns. And you can clearly see why. There is a lot of columns. And according to archeologists, there might have been even more. Unfortunately nobody knows what was this square for. One theory says that is might serve some cultural purposes.
This was the last piece of ruins that I managed to see before I had to go. Osario pyramid served high priests and archeologists even believe that is is a place where the priests were buried. Under the pyramid is a tomb where are the graves of priests. There are a lot of platforms and slightly different ones. Some of them are dedicated to a different priest. But generally speaking, this is mainly a religious site.
Tips and tricks for a day trip to Chichen Itza from Tulum
Don’t forget water and proper head protection. Here is the thing about Chichen Itza – there is almost no shade. And especially if you are planning to come around midday, the sun can do serious damage. Take it from a girl who suffered a heatstroke there. So it is better to come prepared with a water bottle and possibly some hat. Make sure that you are hydrated all the time and don’t wear any dark clothes that will make you even warmer.
Don’t buy at the street vendors at Chichen Itza. It is going to be tempting. You will really want to. But don’t do it. There are so many vendors literally everywhere around the Chichen Itza. They will call you, ask you if you want to buy anything try to sell you basically their whole stand. Don’t do it. Most of their goods are too low quality and even as a souvenir it is something that will break very soon. It is much better to buy souvenirs in designated shops in the city, even in Tulum they have a lot of those.
Come as soon as you can. Not only the weather can be dreadful later in the day but also it will get really crowded. It is one of the most popular sights in Mexico, so you need to count on a lot of people around the ruins. If you come either as soon as they are open or just two hours before they close, you will meet a lot fewer people than during the midday.
Opening times and fees to Chichen Itza
The ruins are open every day from 8 am to 4.30 pm. But you will not be let in at 4 am. So make sure to come at the right time.
With entry fees it is a little bit more complicated. The shorter version is that it costs 480 pesos (around 25 USD) if you are a foreigner. The longer version is that you will need two tickets. You need to buy them in two separate windows and you will need both of them to get it. One ticket is for government and the second one is supposed to be to support the historical sight. All in all, it is not too expensive and it is for a good cause. I paid a lot more for things that were not as interesting.
Is a day trip to Chichen Itza worth it?
Of course it is. Who wouldn’t want to see one of the new world wonders? But if you are traveling here and have this visit as a day trip, you need to be comfortable with the fact, that it is going to be a very long and kind of exhausting day. It is also one of the more expensive day trips from Tulum. But why not? You will get to see the ancient Mayan pyramid and on the next day you can rest on the beach.
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