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Find everything you need in this guide to 20 things to do in Chichén Itzá this 2023. Find visitor sites, historical information, schedules, and more.
Chichen Itza is located in southeastern Mexico and belongs to the state of Yucatan; it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is a historical and cultural treasure nestled in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. This impressive Mayan archaeological site attracts visitors worldwide with its magnificent architecture and rich history. In this guide, you will discover the 20 best things to do in Chichén Itzá and information on where to eat, what to visit, and how to buy souvenirs. Get ready for an unforgettable experience in Chichén Itzá!
Men representing typical Mayan costumes used by different warriors in Chichén itzá.
It is well known that visiting Chichen Itza is a journey, the price is very cheap, and there are all kinds of transportation to the archaeological site. However, buying your tickets directly from the park or an agency is advisable. This way, you can enjoy your experience without setbacks. The admission ticket to Chichén Itzá is MXN 90. At the same time, if you are from Yucatán or Quintana Roo, your Sunday entrance will be completely free.
Entrance ticket to Chichen itza for Quintana Roo residents at $0 MXN only on Sundays.
You must take the Cancun - Valladolid/Carr to go from Cancun to Chichen Itza. Costera del Golfo/Mexico 180 and Cancun-Kantunil/Mexico 180D. Travel time is approximately 2 h 40 min, and the total distance to be covered is 201.2 km.
If you plan to travel to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen, the travel time is 3 hours.
Map with distance from Cancún to Chichén itzá
Read our full Simplified guide to visit Chichen Itza
To go from Chichen Itza to Cancun, you must take a ground transportation service with an approximate duration of 2 hours and 40 minutes. The various transportation methods from Cancun to Chichen Itza are; private ground transportation, ADO bus (which lasts approximately 3 hours and a half), shared transfer, and transportation included in tours.
The iconic Pyramid of Kukulcan, also known as El Castillo, is the most recognizable symbol of Chichen Itza. This pyramid has four sides of 91 steps each, 365 steps representing the days of the year (not counting leap years).
The Mayans were known as the Greeks of America because they were brilliant and developed mathematical, astrological, and architectural knowledge, which designed masterpieces aligned with the stars; many of these can be represented throughout the year, as is the equinox (spring March 21 and autumn September 21), where you can see represented the feathered serpent at sunset on the great pyramid Kukulcan of Chichen Itza.
The main façade of the Castle has two snakes, which have open jaws and feathers sculpted around their heads; these two, together with the head of the god Chaac decorate the main entrance of the enclosure.
Pyramid of Chichén Itzá "el Castillo", a world heritage site considered one of the 7 wonders of the world
In 1997, studies were made on the pyramid with magnetic resonance imaging, which resulted in a cenote of unknown depths inside the castle. Explorations were made in nearby caves to enter this incredible subway site; however, all the entrances were covered, indicating that they would have been placed on purpose to prevent the entrance to what is believed to be the center of the world and the entrance to the underworld.
Visit the Observatory
The Caracol is a unique astronomical observatory at Chichén Itzá, as the Maya rarely built circular structures. The Caracol was used as an astronomical observatory through a giant opening at the top of the tower.
This structure is on a rectangular platform with rounded corners and is part of 3 superimposed buildings. The first part, which is the cylindrical tower, is formed by two chambers, each with four doors from inside to outside.
The middle level frames a frieze and has a seated mask of Chaac with feathers and snakes from which protrudes a large door and stairs leading upwards.
The last and highest part of the observatory has deteriorated; however, some openings from which the Maya are believed to have made astronomical observations can still be seen.
The Castillo is approximately 23 meters high.
Observatory or "Caracol"
Admire the Juego de Pelota Enclosure
Don't miss the Great "Juego de pelota", known as “Pokolpok,” carried out in an impressive field where the ancient Maya performed their sports ritual. The main objective of this game was to pass the ball through the hoops that made up the court, as long as the ball was only touched by the allowed extremities, in this case, the hips, shoulders, and elbows. Both participating teams had seven players on each team.
The ball used for the game was made from natural ingredients, which simulated a kind of rubber.
The esplanade of the "juego de pelota" at Chichén Itzá is one of the largest, reaching a length of 120 meters.
Juego de Pelota. In this precinct the Mayas used to practice ball game, made up of 7 people in each team.
This impressive temple is decorated with detailed sculptures and columns 40 feet high and 133 feet wide. In the bas-relief, you will find warriors, Mayas, Eagles, and even some Jaguars.
In the engravings throughout the temple, you will find the Mayan gods Chaac Mool and Tlalchitonatiuh represented.
In this temple, huge meetings were held; inside and outside, you can find around 200 columns, most of which have carvings of various Toltec warriors.
In ancient times, Mayans occupied some spaces to flag the temple. At the top of the temple, you can find two huge columns shaped like snakes, which support a giant wooden door through which people entered. In each of the heads of the snakes, there is a small hole, which historians and archaeologists suppose was used to light oil lamps at night.
Templo de los guerreros, Chichén Itzá
Visit Chac Mool's Tomb
Inside the "Templo de los Guerreros," there is a statue of Chac Mool, which wears a helmet and a belt with skulls, very different from the others you will find in the enclosure. This is located at the top, and you can find it by entering the temple of the thousand columns, which is connected to the “Templo de los Guerreros”.
Tomb of Chaac Mool inside the temple of the warriors.
The sacred cenote "cenote sagrado" is an open natural pool of fresh water with a diameter of 50 meters used by the Maya in ceremonies and rituals. In this cenote, various ceremonies were carried out in which precious relics and offerings of high value were thrown into the cenote. Later, the Maya also began to make human sacrifices on this site. The main human offerings were children, warriors, and Mayan maidens. It is believed that all their sacrifices were for the welfare of their people, wealth, prosperity, and soil fertility, as they were offered to the god of water.
*Near the cenote is a temazcal used to purify the offerings.
*This is considered one of the cenotes with more archaeological findings.
*This cenote is not suitable for swimming due to the plants and currents in the depth of its fresh waters.
Sacred Cenote was where sacrifices were made to Kukulcan and the Water God.
Walk through the Temple of a Thousand Columns
Discover the Temple of a Thousand Columns, an impressive structure with many columns carved in a quadrilateral. On these columns, it is believed that various roofs were supported. The certainty of the nature of the top is unknown to date. However, you will find impressive detail at every turn, even over the years.
The temple of a thousand columns was believed to be in operation for large gatherings.
This temple has approximately 200 columns in total.
Corridor between the Temple of a thousand columns
Less than 3 km from Chichén Itzá is the spectacular Cenote Ik-Kil, the sacred blue cenote. Take a dip in its refreshing waters 48 meters deep and enjoy the site's natural beauty. Some diving competitions have been held in this cenote, which is ready to receive visitors! It has stairs and an incredible magnitude. If you visit the archaeological site, a walk through this cenote and a dip in the water will relieve your hot body after hours of sunbathing.
You should know that visits to this cenote are controlled and are available only from 9:00 to 17:00 hours.
The price to enter the Ik-Kil cenote is 90 pesos MXN.
Cenote Ik-Kil, currently used for regular swimming and professional diving.
The Temple of the Jaguars is also known as the platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars, where you can find a platform with only 4 steps, which lead to elevated panels which show carved the course of the sun throughout the day.
The eagles and jaguars in the sculptures represent warrior hunters who carried sacrificial victims to the gods.
Those depicted as eagles in ancient times wore feathers of the bird that gave them their name due to the precision with which they hunted.
Jaguar knights were the most vital members of the army. They fought with wooden clubs with obsidian knives and carried armor and jaguar skins. They were in charge of finding prisoners for Maya's sacrifices.
The nuns' house or group is the name given to the three eastern and southeastern buildings at the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá. In general, you can see that the nuns' house has Puuc-style constructions, which have three floors in each building and a tiny door in front. The middle floors have representative murals with paintings and stone mosaics.
These sites were used as a shelter or convent for the nuns or religious women who lived in the region and were built during the time of the Itzaes.
House of the Nuns in ancient Chichén Itza.
Next to the "Templo de los Guerreros", you will find the local market of Chichén Itzá, 81 meters long. The market has a central staircase and tiles, allowing the entrance to an open esplanade at the front. You will find a row of columns supporting a roof covering approximately 17 meters on each side. The 24 columns of this site are among the tallest in the area.
It is believed that previously it was a ceremonial site. Still, when the temple of the thousand columns was built, it became a utilitarian center, since its appearance was less threatening.
Mexico is one of the countries rich in travelers' favorite gastronomy, and Yucatan is no exception; that's why during your visit to Chichen Itza, you can't miss a gastronomic tour of the best restaurants and dishes of the region.
Some of the typical dishes you will find in Chichén itzá and nearby Valladolid are:
Typical Yucatecan food. Near Chichen Itza.
The Chichén Itzá Museum offers a complete view of Maya history and culture. Explore the exhibits and discover fascinating archaeological artifacts, where you can find over 800 never-before-seen pieces of the Mayan culture.
INAH is partly in charge of this project, as new pieces have been found to exhibit in the museum due to the construction of the Mayan train, which has resulted in the salvage and exhibition of new elements of the Mayan culture. Live this experience online through INAH.
You can visit the virtual museum of Chichen Itza online directly on the INAH website.
Don't miss the sound and light show at Chichén Itzá at night. This experience lasts approximately 30 minutes.
During the show, you can visit some of the monuments inside the site because, in addition to the pyramid, you will find several buildings illuminated by lights of different colors where you can take amazing pictures for your social networks.
Visiting Chichén Itzá during the Light and Sound Show at night will undoubtedly be an experience you want to repeat. Tickets for this nighttime experience are available from 3 pm to 8 pm. The price from Tuesday to Saturday for the light and sound show at Chichén Itzá is MXN 708, while on Sundays, the entrance fee is MXN 650. You should confirm the availability of the days of the show, as it tends to change seasonally.
Nights of Light and Sound at Chichén Itza. Illuminated pyramid in a Yucatecan Huipil.
Admire the beauty of the Temple of the Three Lintels, a frieze with three sculpted lintels in decoration representing Kukulcan. Observe the intricate details and marvel at the incredible Maya architecture. This site is currently under guard with access only to experienced archaeologists, as it is still under observation and collection of ancient data.
Although you cannot enter the area, you will observe a few meters away and take some pictures.
Temple of the Three Lintels at Chichén Itzá.
Don't forget to take home a souvenir of your visit to Chichén Itzá. Explore the “Mercado Artesanal” and find a variety of handicrafts, jewelry, and unique souvenirs to give as gifts or to commemorate your experience.
Right next to the warriors' building, you will find hand-carved and hand-sculpted Maya crafts, mostly in wood or ceramics. You will also find statues, Mayan calendars, mugs, decorations, and small souvenirs to give as gifts or to keep as a souvenir of your visit to this beautiful and meaningful archaeological site. Inside the stalls, you will also find clothing and shoes; many clothes, such as Huipiles, Quexques, and leather shoes, are made by Yucatecan artisans.
Handicrafts market in Chichén Itzá. Buy calendars, handicrafts and more.
Tzompantli is an important structure represented by a horizontal platform with hundreds of skulls carved on the outside. The base is found in three squares of skulls divided by moldings.
In the same squares, in addition to skulls, which are representations of human sacrifices, you can find eagles and warriors with shields and arrows.
The Tzompantli is a representation dedicated to the certain and can be found in several Mayan cities; however, this is one of the oldest.
Tzompantli, a platform with carved skulls around it where sacrifices were carried out.
The platform of Venus originally had an Ochre color and was a symbol of energy in space. Venus is represented by jaguar claws, which emerge from the mouth of a feathered serpent.
Venus was an important planet for the Mayas because they could measure time and seasons together with it. It is believed that this platform was created to offer sacrifice to Venus.
Remains of blue, red, and yellow paint can still be found on the stone bas-reliefs.
The total height of the base is 4 meters, and from side to side, it measures 25 meters. All sides project the famous snake head that characterizes Chichén Itzá.
Take a Guided Tour
One of the best decisions you can make when visiting Chichen Itza is to hire a guided tour, this will provide you with a wealth of information about the sculptures in the area, and you will even learn a little about the history and traditional ceremonies that used to take place in each building. You will also learn about the meaning of the carvings and architectural buildings. The tour guides are bilingual, so you can translate the tour if you take English-speaking visitors.
In front of each building or attraction in Chichén Itzá, you will find stones with information from INAH, which offer historical, architectural, and cultural information about the area.
In all the representations of Chichén Itzá you will find informative boxes, do not miss valuable information.
Chichen Itza is a breathtaking destination that captivates history and culture lovers. From its emblematic monuments to its hidden treasures, this Mayan archaeological site offers an unforgettable experience. Be sure to explore its historical wonders, sample the local food, shop for authentic souvenirs, and immerse yourself in the rich history of this Mexican gem. Get ready for an unforgettable trip!
If you want to know a little more about the history of Chichén Itzá and archaeological data. In that case, you can visit the INAH site to get constantly updated information.
→ Visit this Chichen Itza, Valladolid, and Cenote Tour with transportation and buffet included.