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Visiting Chichen Itza: A Simplified Guide

Explore Chichen Itza, a Mayan wonder near Cancun. This guide provides insights, history, and top-rated tours for an unforgettable experience.


Manuel M.,


Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the world (the only one in North America) and is also a favorite destination for millions of tourists worldwide. This incredible ancestral site dates back approximately 1,500 years, and visiting it will allow you to discover and learn about the Mayan culture and how the ancestors lived in this magnificent city. In this guide, you will find all the information you need to visit Chichen Itza, saving money and making the most of this unique experience.

Chichen Itza

What is Chichen Itza?

Many people may think that Chichen Itza is about an ancient pyramid; however, it is much more than that.

Chichen Itza was one of the largest and most important Mayan cities. Chichen Itza, built around the 6th century A.D. it was an important center of trade and religious ceremonies and was inhabited by more than 50k Mayans.

And part of the success of this city could be due to its proximity to an impressive sacred cenote, a cavity in the rock filled with fresh water. This water source was essential in a region as dense and complicated as the Mexican jungle. The water was not only for drinking, but also for cleaning, cultivation and religious rituals. In fact, some say that the name Chichen Itza means "at the mouth of the well of the water charmer".

Although today we see ruins, at one time Chichen Itza was one of the most powerful cities of the Mayan Civilization. But something happened between the 12th and 15th centuries, and its population vanished. Some say it was a great drought, others speak of the arrival of the Spaniards or even climatic changes and the emergence of other cities, such as Mayapán.

And although this marvelous city was hidden in the jungle for a long time, it was rediscovered in 1841 by explorers John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. Since that time, it has fascinated travelers and history buffs alike, earning UNESCO World Heritage status in 1988 and being named one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Quite a treasure!

Where is Chichen Itza located?

Chichen Itza is an ancient city located in the Yucatan Peninsula, in eastern Mexico. It is strategically located between Merida, the Yucatan capital, and the famous Cancun in Quintana Roo. If you love details, the exact coordinates are 20.6843°N, 88.5678°W.

The great thing about Chichen Itza's location is that it is close to some of the main tourist destinations on the Yucatan Peninsula. Not only is it a stone's throw from places like Tulum and Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo, but also from gems like Valladolid, Merida and Izamal in Yucatan. All of them are destinations that travelers love.

Is it allowed to climb El Castillo?

Although El Castillo is Chichen Itza's most iconic and majestic pyramid, it cannot climb it.

It is common for many travelers to directly associate Chichen Itza with El Castillo, its most famous pyramid. But, as with other ancient structures at the site, climbing El Castillo is not an option. This is due to the efforts of local archaeologists and experts who seek to preserve this ancient gem for generations to come.

How Much Does it Cost to Go to Chichen Itza?

Below is a list of Chichen Itza ticket costs, however, please note that prices may vary depending on when you visit the Mayan ruins.

Chichen Itza Tickets cost:

You should know that since it is the most important Ancestral Mayan City in Mexico, the prices to visit it are likely to increase. We also recommend guided tours to get to know all the mysteries hidden in this archaeological site.

What to do when visiting Chichen Itza

As mentioned above, Chichen Itza is not only one of the largest archaeological sites not only in Mexico, North America but also in Central America, but it is also an ancient Mayan city, so the Mayan people had a series of buildings and temples in which they worshiped their gods and carried out all their activities, among the most important buildings include:

The perfect Timing to visit Chichen Itza

Visit early at 8 AM to avoid crowds and heat, or in the afternoon after 2-3 PM when tour groups leave. The site closes at 5 PM.

Time Zone

From October to April, Quintana Roo is one hour ahead of Chichen Itza. Plan accordingly.

Directions and Parking

Use a map to locate the ticket office, leading you to the official parking. Avoid parking on the road to prevent car damage or theft.

Prohibited Items

Professional camera equipment (like lenses over 300mm), gimbals, GoPros, drones, tripods, or Bluetooth speakers are not allowed. Security checks bags at the entrance. Leave prohibited items in your car or be prepared to rent lockers on-site.

Use comfortable clothing

Wear comfortable walking shoes for exploring the ruins spread across two square miles. Bring snacks, plenty of water (to avoid high prices and plastic waste), sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat for protection against the intense sun.

Pyramid Climbing is Off-Limits

Climbing the pyramids at Chichen Itza is prohibited to preserve them. However, other nearby Mayan sites like Coba Ruins and Uxmal offer climbing opportunities.

Explore Beyond the Main Pyramid

While El Castillo is crowded, lesser-visited areas like the Osario offer fascinating structures, including a Mayan astronomical observatory. These areas are quieter and worth exploring.

Key Attractions at Chichen Itza

1. Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo)

Iconic pyramid dedicated to the feathered serpent god Kukulkan. Known for its 365 steps, equinox shadows resembling a snake, and an echo mimicking the sacred quetzal bird.

Gran Juego de Pelota - Chichen Itza | AirportCancun.com Photo

2. Great Ball Court (Gran Juego de Pelota)

One of the largest ancient ball courts, where the Mayan game pok-a-tok was played. Notable for its acoustics and the high stakes of the game.

3. Platform of the Skulls (Tzompantli)

Display platform for heads of war victims and sacrificial losers of pok-a-tok, adorned with skull carvings.

Sacred Cenote Chichen Itza  | AirportCancun.com Photo

4. Sacred Cenote (Cenote Sagrado)

A limestone sinkhole considered a portal to the underworld. Used for human sacrifice, including valuable items and human victims.

Temple of Warriors  | AirportCancun.com Photo

5. Temple of Warriors

The Warriors temple is one of the last and most impressive structures, featuring bas-reliefs of warriors and a Chac Mool statue, where the hearts of enemies might have been displayed.

Thousand Columns Chichen Itza  | AirportCancun.com Photo

6. Plaza of a Thousand Columns

Meeting hall with remnants of columns and a frieze depicting the rain god Chaac.

7. Cenote Xtoloc

The city's freshwater source, surrounded by storage tanks in its heyday.

8. Mayan Observatory at El Caracol

Round building used for astronomical studies, showcasing the Mayans' advanced understanding of celestial events and their spiritual significance.

How to Get to Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is easily accessible, situated just outside the small town of Pisté in the Yucatan Peninsula. Despite being hours away from popular spots like Tulum or Cancun, reaching it is hassle-free.

From Cancun to Chichen Itza

A car journey takes approximately 2 hours 40 minutes. Tours are highly recommended for a relaxed experience, with options including guided visits, cenote stops, and customizable itineraries. Buses leave at 8:45 AM and return at 4:30 PM.

Another great way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itzá is through a tour to Chichen Itza, there are available private tours or collective.

From Tulum to Chichen Itzá

It's a 2 hours 15 minutes drive northwest. Options include guided tours combining Chichen Itza, Valladolid, and cenotes, or a direct ADO bus departing at 9:10 AM and returning around 4:10 PM.

From Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itzá

The drive is about 2.5 hours. You can choose from diverse tours, including private itineraries and visits to Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and cenotes. ADO bus leaves at 8:10 AM and returns at 4 PM.


Taking a Tour to Chichén Itzá


Opting for a guided tour is the simplest way to experience Chichén Itzá. It takes away the hassle of planning and lets you relax and enjoy. However, not every tour is the same. Here's what to consider when selecting a tour:

While these tours might not be the cheapest option, they often include multiple activities and a buffet lunch, providing a clear idea of your total costs.

Overall, considering what’s included and transportation, these tours offer good value for your money.

eTransfers Fleet  | AirportCancun.com Photo

Tour with eTransfers:

Experience Chichen Itza firsthand with eTransfers. Our tours, based in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, include the comprehensive Private Chichen Itza Tour and the Chichen Itza Tour – with shared transportation. Visit our website to learn more and book your adventure with us!


Conclusion: Unveiling the Ancient Wonders of Chichen Itza

In summary, visiting the Chichen Itza archeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, offers a profound insight into the Mayan culture and the grandeur of ancient civilizations. This ancient city, nestled in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, not only boasts the iconic El Castillo pyramid but also reveals a complex tapestry of history, from its rise as a bustling Mayan city to its eventual decline. As a significant archaeological site, Chichen Itza continues to captivate visitors with its intricate architecture, astronomical prowess, and spiritual significance.

Whether you're journeying from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, the experience of exploring the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza is both accessible and profoundly enriching. With various tour options offered by eTransfers, including private and shared tours, your adventure to this ancient city promises to be both educational and unforgettable. Embrace the opportunity to delve into the mysteries of Mayan culture and witness firsthand the awe-inspiring legacy of Chichen Itza.