How To Explore Chichen Itza Easily

As one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramid at Chichen Itza stands a monument to one of the most advanced civilizations in world history. Buried deep in the jungles of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, accessing Chichen Itza’s pyramid (and the intact ancient city that surrounds it) can seem daunting.

Most tourists from the U.S. visit Mexico’s beachfront resorts, a luxurious hotel system that makes it difficult to leave. The prospect of renting a car in a foreign country with a language barrier also deters people from exploring the backroads. So, how can you visit Chichen Itza easily?

Getting There (and Back)

1. Tour Bus
Though taking a tour bus can seem touristy (hence the name, Tour Bus), it can often be the most cost-effective way to see the ancient city. Cruise the beachfront by your hotel and you’ll find tour group salespeople to bargain with (make sure they’re legitimate before giving them money). Some tours are one-fourth the price of a taxi and they include food and other stops. Time and efficiency can be a downside, though.

2. Rent A Car
Renting a car in Mexico is actually easier than you’d think. If you don’t know Spanish, learn a few key words and that’s all you’ll need. Driving in Mexico is like driving anywhere else. Make sure you learn the intricacies of how cars pass other cars, though. This will be your most efficient means to access Chichen Itza.

3. Taxi
A taxi will take you directly to the ancient city and back to your hotel as quickly as you want. Hailing a taxi in a tourist center is easy, but be warned: this will be your most expensive option by far.

4. Rent Mopeds
This option is cheaper than renting a car and easier to handle. The downside comes from the speed and safety of a moped. You’ll need a helmet. And, you’ll need some patience when driving to Chichen Itza at a slower speed. It may increase your time by 45 minutes.

When You’re There

5. Ticket Prices
To enter the ancient city, you’ll pay a price. Not much, (maybe 10 U.S. dollars), but be sure to have money with you when you enter the city. Also, be prepared to pay to park your rental car (if you went with Option 2). That will cost about 30 U.S. dollars.

6. Tour Groups
If you take a tour bus, the package often comes with a tour guide that you can follow through the city. If you didn’t, you can usually tag along with a tour group and no one will notice that you’re a newcomer. That’s  great way to learn something about the ancient city; however, you don’t need a tour guide at all. Read a book before coming to Chichen Itza and you can create your own self-guided tour.

7. There’s More? Budget Time
Make sure you leave enough time to see all of Chichen Itza. There’s much more than just the famous pyramid. The pyramid rests at the center of a once-thriving city. Budget about three hours to see the sport courts, the observatories, and the freshwater caves.

Around Chichen Itza

8. Cenotes
A few miles outside of Chichen Itza, you’ll see signs for cenotes - underground caverns filled with fresh water. You can swim in some, or simply look and photograph. Since the Yucatan has no major freshwater rivers, the Mayans used these cenotes to fuel their empire. The jungle is full of them! Most are free or inexpensive to explore.

9. City of Valladolid
This Spanish colonial city stands just a few miles from Chichen Itza. Ironically, the conquistadors used stones from destroyed Mayan cities to build Valladolid’s original buildings and Catholic Church.

10. Other Mayan Ruins
Closer to Cancun and Playa del Carmen, the Mayan ruins of Coba and Tulum stand as evidence of the Mayan civilization’s scope. These ruins are less preserved than Chichen Itza, but still worth exploring. They also provide more freedom to climb and navigate individually.


Tom Malone is the Editor-In-Chief of The Adventure Tribune and author of adventure novels, like Across Americana. He is based in Denver, Colorado, where he adventures through the Rocky Mountains while not traveling abroad.
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