If you are visiting Yucatan, then you have probably already heard of Chichen Itza. As one of the 7 New World Wonders, you really can’t visit Yucatan without taking a trip there. You have a few options to get to Chichen Itza including public transport, organized tour and hiring a car. In this article, I have outlined how to get to Chichen Itza and some of the main highlights to help you plan your visit.
How you decide to travel to Chichen Itza is going to impact your whole experience. For example, if you come on an organized tour to Chichen Itza, you are going to have a very different experience than if you travel to Valladolid or Merida and stay there for a day or two in between visiting Chichen Itza. If you do decide to stay a few nights in Valladolid then take a read of this great guide to spending 36 hours in Valladolid here.
Should I take one of the tours to Chichen Itza?
If you don’t mind traveling in a crowd and just want to see Chichen Itza without the hassle of getting yourself there and back. Then I would recommend taking a tour. The pros of coming on an organized tour to Chichen Itza are that your transport is all arranged, and you don’t have to drive. Plus you will get a guided tour of the site which is a real bonus. On the guided tour you will find out all about the history. Something lacking on a do it yourself tour.
Cost of a tour to Chichen Itza:
Budget tours are around the $65 USD mark with luxury tours costing anywhere from $80-150 UDS
Take a Private tour of Chichen Itza
If however you are like me and don’t particularly like big group tour situations then I recommend taking a private tour of Chichen Itza. It is well worth the extra money, trust me after taking a private tour to Chichen Itza with Kay Tours, I don’t think I could ever get back on a big tour bus again!
They welcomed me onto the minibus with a blanket and cushion so I could sleep on route, got me there before the crowds so I could get pictures without people, and the whole day was just a dream. Also, one thing I really missed when I did Chichen Itza alone was the history. Our guide Juan was amazing! Honestly, he answered every random question we asked him and gave us so much Mayan history. I also realized that I had actually missed out half of the site the first time around… OOPS!
I highly recommend taking any of their tours, they are by far the most professional and trustworthy private tour company in Playa del Carmen. I’m going to be checking Sian Ka’an off my bucket list with them very soon!
Should I Rent a Car to get to Chichen Itza?
The roads to Chichen Itza are very easy to drive, and it is well signposted. The roads are also littered with Cenotes on the way. This makes traveling from Tulum, Playa Del Carmen or Cancun to Chichen Itza the perfect opportunity for a Mexican Road Trip!
If you choose this option, then make sure you map out the cenotes you want to visit and be sure to stop off at Valladolid along the way for lunch. It’s a 2-3 hour drive from Playa Del Carmen to Chichen Itza. A little less from Tulum or Cancun. Cancun to Chichen Itza is now even quicker because of the new road.
There are two ways to get to Chichen Itza one way is a bit slower avoiding the toll road. But if you are on a budget and not rushed for time, then take the slow road.
On the slow road, you need to head towards Tulum and then drive up the 307. This way will take you 3 hours from Tulum. The toll road you can take the 305 and 180. This cuts out a lot of miles, but it will cost you over 254 pesos each way.
Going the slow way we still had to pay a 75 peso toll. But on the main toll road, you will pay that plus the 254. I would say it’s best to take the longer road and save the money.
Cost of Driving to Chichen Itza from the Riviera Maya:
You can rent a car from $25 per day on average as a starting price, and there are plenty of options in the town. To save money take the slow road and watch your speed to save petrol. The cost of parking at Chichen Itza is 30 pesos.
Here are some of the best Cenotes on the way to Chichen Itza:
- Ik Kil
How to get to Chichen Itza on public transport
Getting to Chichen Itza by public transport is a bit more problematic. If you are traveling from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen or Tulum and the busses are very infrequent. If you want to take the bus then either check the schedule on the ADO website or go to their office and book your tickets. I would always suggest going to the office as the website has a mind of its own!
The bus from Playa Del Carmen leaves at 8 am each morning and will take around 4 hours. The bus then returns at 4:30. I strongly recommend booking your return ticket the day before.
Cost of taking the bus to Chichen Itza:
This varies depending on if ADO has a sale or not. Expect to pay 150-250 pesos each way.
If you want to travel to Chichen Itza by public transport and don’t want to do all of that traveling in 1 day, then I suggest visiting either Valladolid or Merida where you can get regular buses or taxis for a reasonable cost.
Staying in Valladolid
Valladolid is easy to get to on an ADO bus and from there you can either get a public bus to Chichen Itza or hop in a Colectivo for around 25 pesos (next to the main bus stop). It’s a cute little town with lots of handmade goods if you wanted to do a little shopping.
Staying in Merida
Merida is the capital of Yucatan, and there is plenty to do there. Go for a few days, and you can catch a bus to Chichen Itza easily as they run every hour from Downtown Merida and it costs 58 pesos one way.
Tips for visiting Chichen Itza
Avoid the crowds and go later in the day. I went there with some friends, and I was really pissed that we got there so late. I like traveling solo as I want to be in control of my schedule and it’s always the thing that irritates me when I travel with others (yes, I know I’m a control freak). But I love to get out early and make the most of the day.
Arriving at Chichen Itza at 3:30 pm because we left Playa so late made me super agitated. Especially when I found out it closed at 5 pm. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise! Arriving so late most of the tour bus groups had gone. And that means pictures with no people in them!! WIN!
So, if you don’t mind getting there later in the day, it is worth arriving after 3 pm and avoiding the crowds.
How to avoid getting scammed in Chichen Itza
If you decide to drive to Chichen Itza when you pass the toll booth, they will tell you to pull over and get a ‘free map.’ The guy may try to sell you a VIP entrance package, basically, so you can park in a closer carpark and skip the ques. He gave us the regular price and then this VIP price, and it was only $3 each more, so we (stupidly) paid it. Unfortunately, when we got to the hotel, we found out we ended up paying way too much. The guy totally scammed us!
Get a better parking spot when visiting Chichen Itza
But we did learn a good trick for parking, closer and skipping the ques! Rather than turning right to enter the park turn left. The turn right into the hotel and parking the hotel. The cost of parking is 200 pesos (4 times more than the public car park but you will have no cue and a shorter walk). Entrance is then 250 pesos each. We were conned into paying 450 pesos each! So the guy charged us 200 pesos each for parking. I was so pissed!
Visiting Cenote Ik Kil without the crowds
The best time to visit this Cenote is right at the end of the day. It closes at 5:30 but we were still swimming at 6 pm and it didn’t empty out until around 6:15. I was so glad we went so late as it meant I could get these shots of it empty.
This is a rare thing as it usually is full of busloads of people on tours!
To get the Cenote just come out of Chichen Itza and turn right. Then not far on the right is the cenote.
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