After our week in Mexico City, we were off to Cancun for a few days. We are not the type of travelers that enjoy staying on a resort and Cancun being a resort city made for an interesting stay for us. We stayed in an AirBnB away from the resorts and the main reason why we came to Cancun was to visit Chichen Itza.
Having seen places like Teotihuacan just outside of Mexico City, we had high hopes for Chichen Itza to blow us away. It had to be better. It is a New Wonder of the World. It took us over three hours to drive there from Cancun, involved us needing to rent a vehicle, and took an entire day out of our itinerary.
The site itself was pretty impressive and we were definitely happy that we escaped Cancun for a day to be here and to marvel at the site. But, is Chichen Itza worth it? Here is our day from Cancun to Chichen Itza and everything you need to know to make sure your trip goes smoothly.
Our Experience in Cancun
As soon as we landed in Cancun, we knew that it was going to be nothing like our time in Mexico City. Prices were astronomically more expensive for just getting a ride into the city. In Mexico City we used Uber to get everywhere we wanted to go. We found out when we landed in Cancun that Uber had been cancelled in the region in order to make sure that the taxis can overcharge you for these rides.
It was the beginning of May and the air was extremely humid. We could not step outside without breaking into a sweat. Luckily the further you traveled inland like on our road trip to Chichen Itza it became less and less humid. However, it was still scorching hot.
Beaches were overrun with seaweed that has proven to be a major problem for the tourism in the area. You could not get into the water without wading through the seaweed. Excess was heaped on the beaches and decomposing in the scorching hot sun providing us with an odor that stung the nostrils.
Cancun is an expensive city in comparison to Mexico City. We knew that this was going to be the case, but were blown away by how expensive things were. $500 pesos for a cab ride from the airport to the city. The driver was confused why we were not staying at a resort and did not know where to take us despite us providing him with the address.
Markets will try to rip you off in any way possible. We went to Mercado 21 and there is a very popular scam throughout this market. Do not buy any jewelry here. It is not what they say it is. At least we cannot trust their word. To describe this briefly without getting into detail, they have a stone that they sell on rings here. They claim it is found in the cenotes and it changes color depending on the light. It is pretty cool to see and the story that they provide about it would make anyone consider purchasing such a beautiful ring. However, a quick Google search would show you that the only stone that has this property is found in Turkey. What scam artists will do is dye a piece of glass with a certain chemical to give it the same color changing properties.
What is funny is they started at $2,000 USD for this ring. They made their way down to $500 with some haggling while I was searching on my phone. Then, when I pulled Natalie out of the store saying no we are absolutely not buying it, they offered it to us for $150. That is a major sale! What is even funnier is EVERY STORE has this same stone and same story, but they have a different names for the stone. Do not get ripped off by this.
Regardless of our experience in Cancun, the main reason why we came here was to see Chichen Itza. So we put up with all of this silliness. When we had enough, we rented a car for $45 USD per day the night before and prepared for an early morning trip to Chichen Itza.
Our Experience Visiting Chichen Itza: Day Trip from Cancun
We woke up before 6 a.m. in order to leave at that time so we could get there right when the park opens at 8:00 a.m. If you travel often, you are likely used to these early mornings to get to where you need to be. This was just another day.
I drove while Natalie caught some more sleep on the way there. Little did we know that our phone’s GPS was set to “Avoid Tolls” and we ended up going the longer route by almost an hour. This had us arriving there a little past 9:00 a.m.
The route we took on the way there through the small towns would have been a better route to take on the way back. It would have been best to take the shorter route at 2.5 hours to Chichen Itza and pay the tolls to get there at opening rather than skip most of the tolls and spend more than 3 hours driving through small towns to arrive late.
Regardless, the drive through the small towns and seeing people get their morning routine started made for an enjoyable ride that we would not have seen on the way back. It was a pleasant drive with lots of dogs walking on the roads and people getting their days started. Besides the unmarked speed bumps that you need to watch out for, the drive was completely safe.
By the time we arrived, there was about a ten minute wait in line to get our tickets. When purchasing your tickets, you need to pay twice which was confusing. There is a state charge of $406 pesos and a federal charge of $75 pesos. This can be paid at once with cash or twice using your card.
When you are inside there is a lot of walking, but less than half that of walking around Teotihuacan. The area is almost completely open and really hot, so make sure you prepare for a really sunny day. The first thing you see when you enter is the main structure that Chichen Itza is so famous for. And it is really impressive.
These ancient Mayan ruins are incredibly constructed and kept for thousands of years. It is no wonder why it is one of the New Wonders of the World. The interesting thing that people do when they are there is clap at the front of the pyramid which causes an echo of your clap to return to you sounding like a bird or animal.
Besides this main structure, there are many other ruins scattered throughout the site all with an interesting story to them and how they were significant in this once thriving area. There is also a cenote on site that was once the site for some sort of sacrifice. They have since found lots of bones from human remains in the cenote.
There is really a lot to take in at this site and it is very impressive. We did not want to get too deep into the history and significance of Chichen Itza in this post, but if you want to learn more about this incredible site then visit here.
If you are interested in souvenirs, there are many for you to choose from while you are here. They take up shop strategically in the shaded areas and they do not bother you as much as in other places we visited while in Mexico where they will come up to you and try to sell you something. Here, they stay at their table and try to get you in to seeing what they have to offer.
How Far is Chichen Itza from Cancun
Chichen Itza is a 2.5 hour drive from Cancun via toll highways. If you do not want to travel the highways, you can drive just over 3 hours through towns and pay a final toll on the last stretch to Chichen Itza.
From the shorter drive to Chichen Itza on the highways, you will pay approximately $180 pesos one way. The longer drive will still have you paying approximately $78 pesos for a small stretch of highway before arriving at Chichen Itza.
Is it Safe to Travel from Cancun to Chichen Itza
Yes. Absolutely it is. There is not doubt that it is a road that is taken care of, and we drove both ways that you can get there. The highway on the way back to Cancun and through the towns on the way there.
There are police stops along the road, and we were stopped twice by police that were checking every vehicle driving by. They will ask to see your drivers license. I only had an English drivers license from Canada, no international driving permit, and there was no problem with this.
The only thing that was dangerous about our drive through the towns were the speed bumps. When you are driving 70+ kilometers per hour and there is a speed bump that you cannot really see and there are no signs warning you of a speed bump, it makes for a really bumpy ride. This happens a lot through these towns, so you need to be very diligent when you are driving.
Chichen Itza Cost
Chichen Itza Admission Fee: $481 pesos
This entry fee includes a $406 pesos state charge and a $75 pesos federal charge.
Other costs of traveling to Chichen Itza from Cancun include:
- Tolls: $258 pesos
- Rental Car + Gas: $1000 pesos
- Parking: $30 pesos
- Drinks, snacks, and souvenirs: Too Much
Total Chichen Itza Cost: $1,769 pesos (one person admission)
Best Time to Visit Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza Opening Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Everyday
The best time to visit Chichen Itza is as soon as it opens. Get there right at 8:00 a.m. There are two reasons for this:
- It gets hot here around mid-day. Like really hot. If you are not prepared for how hot it gets, you could suffer heat stroke like the couple of people we saw get carried off in an ambulance. Make sure you prepare for the heat and get there early to take advantage of the cooler temperatures.
- Tour buses arrive between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. This is when things get really busy here. This is what you want to avoid. Getting here before this time will allow you to get those photos in and enjoy the area before it becomes overcrowded with people.
How Long to Spend at Chichen Itza
We were at Chichen Itza from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This was enough time to walk around the entire grounds and do some souvenir shopping while we were there. We were not rushed at any point of this, so it is safe to say that you should budget 3+ hours for touring the grounds.
What to Prepare for Chichen Itza
If you want to pay cash for your tickets to avoid being charged twice, then bring $481 pesos per person. Also, bring enough cash for the tolls of approximately $180 pesos one way. In addition, bring pesos for drinks, food, and souvenirs, approximately another $300 to $500 pesos per person depending on your spending habits.
Make sure that you bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and lots of water and snacks. We were here for four hours excluding the drive. That sun gets extremely hot in this area and we were scorched by it. Make sure that you prepare for a really hot day with lots of walking. While we were there, two people got heat stroke and had to have ambulances called.
Check the weather on the day of, but be prepared for 30+ degrees Celsius feeling even hotter than that in that open area. There are some areas in Chichen Itza with tree shade, but for the most part it is an open area.
You may also want to bring your swimming gear and a towel to enjoy some of the cenotes in the area on your way back from Chichen Itza to Cancun.
How to Get to Chichen Itza from Cancun
Driving From Cancun to Chichen Itza
Hire a Driver from Cancun to Chichen Itza and Back
Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun
Driving in a foreign country is not without its headaches. I have driven in four or five different countries at this point in my travels. Still, it is not for everyone and there is a lot you need to consider when driving in a foreign country. You should definitely do your research on driving in Mexico if you plan to do this. There is not that much different compared to the rest of North America, but some helpful tips online for those that want to check it out.
There were times in Cancun that I was nervous because of the lights and roundabouts. However, once we were out of the city it was smooth sailing. Other than those speed bumps that we mentioned earlier. Be careful with those. You will want to make sure you keep your eyes on the road looking out for these as you drive through small towns. They are not marked and caused us to bottom out our car while driving to Chichen Itza. There is more than enough parking at Chichen Itza and parking costs $30 pesos.
We were stopped at a traffic checkpoint by police twice. Though a little intimidating, they were easy to deal with and just checked my drivers license. It was not a big deal and we moved on without any further questions. It would have been difficult if they had further questions because they did not speak English.
Just because we are the type of traveler that likes to get behind a wheel does not mean that everyone is. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons and judge whether or not you could drive here. It may be better to consider these next two options instead.
This was one option that was presented to us by one of our taxi drivers that we seemed to enjoy while we were there. He was helpful and when we asked him the best way to get to Chichen Itza, he agreed that it may be better for us to rent a car to get there if we did not like tours. He also offered to drive us there and back and showed us his prices for that which were on a laminated card. His prices were obviously higher than what we spent on our rental car for the day including gas and tolls, but still a pretty good option if you want to go at your own pace in Chichen Itza without a tour group.
A more hands-off and stress-free way of getting to Chichen Itza from Cancun is to book a tour. This can be done through various websites and while you are in Cancun. However, we prefer to book a tour beforehand because it seems everything in Cancun is a rip-off. We did see how much it would cost for a tour while in a market, and though the price was fairly reasonable per person you can still negotiate them to a slightly cheaper price and even that does not compare to the price you can get online. Especially considering you are packed on a large bus rather than having a private tour or one that is a small group tour.
Best Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun
As we just mentioned, choosing a tour is a great alternative to having to drive there by yourself or hiring a driver. Definitely the cheapest option available considering the cost of hiring somebody or renting a car. It also is completely stress-free and avoids anything bad happening to you while you are driving which could easily ruin any trip.
We do recommend booking a trip in advance if you do choose to go this route. There are tour providers everywhere in Cancun, but due to our lack of trust with people trying to sell you things in Cancun we feel it is best to book online with good reviews and have the satisfaction of knowing you are in good hands.
However, booking something last minute is still an alternative. Most tours have the same things included: bus ride there and back, tickets, lunch or snacks, tour guide, visiting a cenote, and possibly another stop. Compare them and see which one appeals the most to you.
Is Chichen Itza Worth It
Ultimately our trip from Cancun to Chichen Itza was well worth it. It had to be. It was the main reason we came to the resort city. Other than visiting this place, Cancun was unbearable compared to our time in Mexico City. It was overpriced and the locals were just after every dollar from you. It was like we were in a completely different country.
We would recommend that you stay in Merida instead. It is not a resort town, still fairly large, and will not give you the same vibes that Cancun gave. You can still visit many cenotes in the area and visit Chichen Itza at a comparable distance. Looking back on it, this is where we would have stayed.
Regardless, we learned a lot about ourselves and what we look for in a city when we are traveling there. We now know to avoid the resort towns as much as possible and look for a city that is maybe a little less known to get to where you want to go.
Chichen Itza is a must visit when you are in Cancun. It was a pretty incredible site and it was the perfect day trip from Cancun. Having said that, our time in Mexico City was much better than that of Cancun. And Teotihuacan is a comparable attraction to Chichen Itza and may have been a more enjoyable experience for us at less than half of the cost.
Have you been to Chichen Itza before? What was your experience like? Leave a comment below!