Mayan Ruins


Many of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico are found in the Yucatan Mexico tucked into the jungle and along the coast. We love learning about the history and culture of the places we travel. If you are traveling to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or elsewhere in the Riviera Maya, we highly recommend taking the time to visit some of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.

While you likely think of lazy beach days and island hopping when you think of the Yucatan Peninsula, spending a day exploring the rich Mayan culture in this area is incredibly rewarding. While some of the ruins are located in top tourist destinations like Tulum and Cozumel, others (like Chichen Itza) require more of a drive to get to.

You’ve probably heard about the ancient Mayan civilization and Mayan ruins but how much do you know about them? It’s one thing to see them in photos but a completely different experience to see them in person. We really enjoyed exploring the different ruins on our recent Mexico vacation and highly recommend you be an ancient Mayan pyramids tourist too.

After visiting many different ruins, we’re diving into the top 4 best Mayan ruins in Mexico so you can decide for yourself which ones are worth the visit. Each of these Mexican ruins has a unique appeal and offers a good amount of history and a lot of interesting photo worthy sites!

Table of Contents

What are Mayan ruins?

Mayan ruins are the impressive remains left over from an ancient civilization built by the Maya. These large settlements were made out of stone and therefore are still relatively intact. The Mayan civilization lived in the Yucatan Peninsula region prior to the Spanish conquer in the 16th century.

When you’re walking through the Mayan ruins you’re literally walking where Mayans did, centuries ago (about 3000 years ago). Some ancient Mayan ruins were actually Mayan temples used for many different types of ceremonies including human sacrifice. Mayan civilizations consist of different buildings, pyramids, streets (“sacbe” in Mayan), and cenotes that acted as freshwater sources for the community.

Where are the Mayan ruins?

The majority of the Mayan ruins are found in the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula. This area was well connected to the ocean and was home to many ports (like that of the Tulum Ruins) which made the area wealthy and populated. But in total, there are around 4400 Mayan ruins scattered throughout Central America.

For our list of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico, we kept it to ones that are more accessible in the popular Riviera Maya tourist destination. All of these Mayan ruins are located within a few hours of Cancun, Mexico.

What are the most famous Mayan ruins?

The most famous ancient Mayan sites are Chichen Itza, Tulum Ruins, and Coba. By far the most famous Mayan ruin is Chichen Itza’s El Castillo pyramid. It’s one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and the most photographed Mayan ruins in Mexico.

mayan history at coba ruins in mexico

Can you climb the Mayan ruins?

Most ancient Mayan ruins sites do not allow tourists to climb the pyramids. This is because the Mayan ruins in Mexico see such a high volume of tourists that it would wear down these historically significant structures. While you can’t climb the pyramids, you can sometimes walk through some of the other buildings. We loved doing this as it gives you more of an understanding of how the Mayans lived.

There has unfortunately been an increase in vandalism and disrespect of sacred grounds leading to further conservation efforts. While you used to be able to climb the Coba pyramid, from our 2022 trip we can confirm that this is no longer allowed.

What is the best time to visit the Mayan ruins?

If you are going to visit Mayan ruins, we highly recommend getting an early start to your day. Exploring Mayan ruins is one of the best cultural experiences and therefore a very popular thing to do in Mexico. Getting to these ruins when they first open will help you to beat the heat and have the fewest crowds.

historic mayan ruin remains at chichen itza mexico

You will want to avoid visiting Mayan ruins on Sundays, whenever possible! Entrance is free to Mexican citizens on Sundays making it the busiest day to visit.

Mayan ruins in Mexico are open all year round. The best time to visit the Mayan ruins is between November to February. As North America and Europe are in their cool winter months, Mexico’s location close to the equator makes it a perfect place to visit. During these months, the days are cooler and less humid making it more enjoyable to visit.

The Yucatan has a rainy season from June to October with September being the wettest month. This is also the time with the highest chance of hurricanes.

How to visit the Mayan ruins

The best way to visit these historical sites is with a Mayan ruins tour. A tour guide will be a wealth of knowledge and provide many Mayan ruins facts that you would never know otherwise. For those interested in Mayan history, booking a tour is ideal as these sites have very minimal readings throughout explaining the significance of the structures you are viewing.

Are there entrance fees to visit the Mayan ruins?

Yes, there are entrance fees to visit the ruins. The money raised from entrance fees goes towards conservation efforts to keep the ruins preserved and maintained.

mayan culture at coba ruins

The best Mayan ruins in Mexico

The best Mayan ruins aren’t always the most obvious or easiest to find (even with a GPS). Let us break down our list of what we think are the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.

1. Chichen Itza

Location: 97751 Yucatan, Mexico

Hours: Open 8 am to 5 pm daily, last entry at 4 pm

Entrance Fee: The Chichen Itza entry fee is $614 MXN ($48.75 CAD/$36 USD)

What makes Chichen Itza ruins special:

  • It’s one of the best preserved ancient Mayan ruins. You can still see the intricate stone carvings of warriors, skulls, and snakes (among others)
  • Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World
  • The Chichen Itza Pyramid is one of the most photographed sites in Mexico
view of El Castillo Pyramid, chichen itza photos

Chichen Itza Mexico (pronounced chee-chen eet-sah) is the most famous Mayan ruin in Mexico. Located 197 km (122 miles) west of Cancun, it takes around 2 and a half hours to drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza along Cancun-Kantunil/Mexico Highway 180D.

Its name comes from Chichen – mouth of the well, Itza “water witches”. The entire site of the ruins at Chichen Itza is awe inspiring. This was one of the bigger Mayan cities – estimated to house between 35,000 – 60,000 people.

An international marvel, Chichen Itza welcomes over 2.1 million tourists a year. While this Mayan ruin receives a lot of recognition and we think it is well deserved. Despite being quite touristy with souvenir shops throughout, you can’t help but marvel at the intricacies of this impressive historical site.

Chichen Itza is home to one of the best Maya pyramids (certainly the most famous one). El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan’) is one of the most recognizable sites in Mayan culture. Other sites of interest are the Great Ball Court and the Temple of the Warriors. As with other Mayan civilizations, the city is built around a cenote (the Sacred Cenote) that acted as the communities fresh water source.

Mayan temple at Chichen Itza

As this Mayan site is located a few hours away from Cancun, Chichen Itza tours are a great way to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tours are offered from many different Yucatan cities and include transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Most Chichen Itza tours take the full day and will include a stop where you can enjoy a quick dip in a cenote.

2. Cobá (Zona Arqueológica de Cobá)

Location: 77793 Quintana Roo, Mexico

Hours: Open 8 am to 5 pm daily, last entry at 4 pm

Entrance Fee: Coba ruins entrance fee is 90 MXN ($7.15 CAD/$5.30 USD)

What makes Coba ruins special:

  • The ruins are tucked into the jungle, not clear cut like other Mayan ruins in the area, making it feel more authentic
  • You can rent bicycles to tour the different buildings
  • More interactive, you can climb on, near, and through different areas
Coba is home to one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

The Coba Mayan ruins are our favourite ruins we visited. In our opinion, Coba is one of the top Mayan ruins Mexico has to offer. Coba (thought to mean “chopped water”) is about a 45 minute drive inland from Tulum. Being a bit further from the typical tourist zones you can expect fewer crowds at this Mayan site. Scattered over an area of 80 km2 (31 m2), much of the site is yet to be excavated.

When we were driving to the ruins, we almost completely missed them. Despite our GPS, we were confused about where the ruins could be as all we saw was some lagoons and a jungle. Much to our surprise, that is all you can see from the outside. Unlike most of the other Yucatan Mayan ruins, the Coba ruins are tucked into the jungle. Not only did this provide some very welcomed shade throughout, but it made the whole site seem much more authentic.

When you first arrive at Coba, you will find a large parking lot where you can pay 50 MXN ($4 CAD/$3 USD) for parking. At the entrance, you will see a small building where you can buy your tickets, grab some snacks and a few souvenirs. This is definitely the least touristy ruin and therefore the shopping is limited. While there are a few people throughout the ruins selling cold drinks, I recommend grabbing a big bottle of water before you start.

Once you’re inside Coba, there will be a few ruins to explore and then you will see a bunch of bikes. You have 3 options of how to explore Coba: walk, rent a bicycle, or hire a bicycle taxi to drive you. We opted to rent a bicycle and we were very happy with our decision! Coba Ruins bike rental costs 60 MXN ($4.75 CAD/$3.50 USD) and allowed us to happily explore at our own pace without tiring. Even with bicycles, Coba took us about 3 hours to explore.

Coba is one of the oldest Mayan ruins in Mexico with signs of human structures dating back to 50 BC. At its peak, it was said to be home to about 50,000 Mayan people. The city was known for its large network of roads (sacbes) of which there were more than 50 in the community. As you explore the grounds, you will see 16 of them. These roads connected the different areas of the Mayan city such as the residential zones, the nearby lagoons, and, of course, Nohoch Mul, the main pyramid area.

The main attraction at Coba is the Nohoch Mul Pyramid. It’s the tallest Mayan pyramid in all of the Yucatan. There are also painted frescoes all around. These are big rock sculptures that are over 6 feet tall. They depict the daily life of the Maya civilization – it’s really interesting having these to look back in time.

You may have read other travel blogs stating that you can climb the Mayan pyramids at Coba. An increase in tourism has led preservation efforts to enforce no more climbing up these pyramids. While we were disappointed that you can no longer climb to the top, we respect the Mayan culture and the desire to preserve these national treasures.

Due to the ruins being away from the typical tourist areas, if you don’t have a car rental, taking a Coba ruins tour is the best way to see the pyramids of Yucatan. Touring this ruin is often combined with other ruins in the area.

The best Mayan ruins in Mexico are the Coba ruins. Tucked into the Mexican jungle, Coba is a great Mayan ruin in the Yucatan Peninsula

If you are wanting to see both the Tulum ruins and Coba ruins as well as some cenotes, a tour including transportation from Playa del Carmen will cost $81 CAD ($59 USD). If you’d rather tour through Chichen Itza, you can take a Chichen Itza and Coba ruins combo for $206 CAD ($149 USD). This tour includes a trip to a cenote, 2 meals, and transportation.

3. Tulum ruins (Zona Arqueológica de Tulum)

Location: 77765 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Hours: Tulum ruins hours are 8 am and 5 pm daily.

Entrance Fee: The entrance fee for Tulum ruins is 90MXN ($7 CAD/$5.30 USD).

What makes Tulum ruins special:

  • Beautiful coastal setting perched on the edge of a cliff providing amazing Caribbean Sea views
  • Many beaches located on site
  • Located in Tulum making it easily accessible for tourists in the Riviera Maya
Mexico's Mayan ruins, Tulum ruins are one of the best in the area. Mayan ruins in Mexico

We really enjoyed our time at the Tulum ruins! They ended up taking around 4 hours to walk through including finding parking and standing in the long line at the entrance (make sure you visit early). In our opinion, the Tulum ruins have the nicest setting out of any of the Mayan ruins sites. The ruins make for the perfect blend of jungle, ocean, and enchanting Mexican history.

The Tulum pyramids are surprisingly well preserved for being perched on a flat part of the ground near the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. We would have thought that the salt spray from the ocean would do way more to tarnish and break down this impressive site. Instead we were pleasantly surprised at how well preserved these beautiful structures were.

The Tulum ruins were heavily used for trade with its ideal location being on the Caribbean coast. The seaside location makes for some unreal photographs. It also helps provide some much needed wind as otherwise there is very minimal shade offered. You will have views of the Tulum ruins beach which has stunning white sand and is a hotspot for sea turtles to lay their eggs. For this reason, you’re no longer allowed to explore the beach on foot.

The oceanfront mayan ruins in Tulum are some of the best in the world. Tulum ruins have a lot of Mayan culture

Tulum ruins parking is a bit of a nightmare, especially later in the day. We strongly suggest getting to these ruins first thing in the morning so that you can grab a parking spot. You’ll be parking along the road heading towards the Tulum ruins. There will be someone who’ll collect the 150 MXN ($12 CAD/$8.80 USD) parking fee from you as you get out of your car.

If you’re up for an adventure, we highly recommend parking in Tulum Town instead and renting a bicycle to take you down to the ruins. Not only is this a lot of fun, but it will save you money!

You are guaranteed to see a Tulum ruins iguana or ten – they are everywhere! After you park they will be scattered throughout the edges of the road heading to the Tulum ruins entrance as well as throughout the grounds.

If you are looking to explore the Tulum ruins but are staying in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you may consider taking a day tour to the ruins. Transportation will be included as well as a professional tour guide. If you want to partner the ruins with a visit to a few refreshing cenotes, this Tulum day tour is a great option.

4. San Gervasio (Zona Arqueológica San Gervasio)

Location: 77684 San Miguel de Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Hours: Open from 8 am to 4 pm daily

Entrance Fee: The San Gervasio entrance fee is 216 MXN ($17 CAD/$13 USD)

What makes San Gervasio ruins special:

  • Far less busy than other ruins in the area
  • Ideal location located on Cozumel and easily accessible without a long drive
  • Interactive and allows you to get up close and personal with the ancient buildings
Cozumel mayan ruins called San Gervasio are some of the best mayan ruins in Mexico

You may be in Cozumel and wondering “What is San Gervasio?” Well, San Gervasio Mayan ruins are a cherished Mayan civilization that sits on one of our favourite places in Mexico: Cozumel. One of the best things to do in Cozumel is explore this slice of Mayan culture.

The San Gervasio Mayan ruins are found on the island of Cozumel, just off the coast of Playa del Carmen. It is made up of 19 structures in the area ranging from temples, complexes, and buildings all connected by sacbe (white roads) in a 4 km2 (1.5 miles2) area.

These ruins are fun to visit as they are far less busy than other ruins in the area. We loved that these ruins were more interactive and you could even walk right up to some of the buildings and look through the “windows”.

The San Gervasio ruins caught us off guard. We rented a scooter to tour around Cozumel and stumbled upon these ruins along the way. We didn’t know there were Mayan ruins on Cozumel and had no expectations on what to expect. While much smaller than other Mayan ruins in the area, with how easy they are to get to and how close they are to the typical tourist route, we knew they had a spot on our list of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.

The San Gervasio ruins were the center of worship for the Mayan Goddess Ixchel: Goddess of childbirth and fertility. Historically Mayan women would come from all over Mexico at least once in their lifetime to give offerings and prayers to the Goddess. We’re not saying this works or anything but Samara did get pregnant 5 months later so don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Cozumel ruins San Gervasio archeological site is one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Some of the main sites at the Zona Arqueologica San Gervasio include:

  • Ixchel Temple: the place in which offerings and prayers for fertility would happen.
  • Ka’na Nah: is said to be used for religious purposes and showcases stucco decorations.
  • Manitas: features red handprints that are made with a mixture of vegetable dye and lime which are said to be offerings from the pilgrims.
  • Cenotes are seen all over the area including the main road leading up to the site.

A San Gervasio ruins tour is one of the best ways to see the sights. There are many Mayan ruins spread over a large area with very minimal explanation throughout of what the different buildings are. Having a guide explain the structures would bring a whole new level of appreciation to the area. We like this Cozumel Private Island Tour because it combines a tour of Cozumel with the top sights like the San Gervasio ruins, Punta Sur Park, Mayan Bee Sanctuary, and the chocolate Kao Kao Factory.

The best Mayan ruins Cozumel has on the island, San Gervasio takes about 2-3 hours to explore.

Thanks for stopping by!

Mexico is such a great country to dive into the culture and history. Exploring history is a whole lot more fun when you’re able to visit physical buildings and interact with buildings from centuries earlier. It is easy to be impressed with Mayan culture as you walk through these large ruin sites. There are a lot of ruins in the area which is why we’ve listed the best Mayan ruins in Mexico based on their location in the tourist zone and their impressive structures.

Have fun exploring, amigos!

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Discover the best Mayan ruins in Mexico,
The 4 best Mayan ruins in Mexico are Tulum ruins, Chichen Itza, Coba ruins and San Gervasio in Cozumel Mexico. Close to the Riviera Maya
Explore Mayan culture and Mayan history visiting the many Mayan ruins in Mexico. From Chichen Itza, Coba ruins, Tulum ruins and San Gervasio on Cozumel

One of the activities that stuck out the most on our recent trip to Mexico was visiting Chichén Itzá (chee-chen eet-sah). We love diving into the culture and history of the countries we visit and Mayan culture was one we were super excited to learn about. There are so many great Mayan ruins in Mexico you can visit, by far the most popular being Chichen Itza. Whether you are visiting Cancun or the Riviera Maya, we highly recommend you plan a day trip to Chichen Itza on your vacation.

To help you make the most of your day trip to Mayan ruins, we’ve put together a complete list of our best Chichen Itza travel tips. This is everything you need to know about visiting Chichen Itza Mexico.

chichen itza photos

Table of Contents

Quick Facts About Chichen Itza

Before we get into what to expect when visiting Chichen Itza, let’s jump into some quick facts about this historical phenomenon.

What is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is one of the most recognizable and photographed Mayan pyramids. It’s a world recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chichén Itzá is the remains of a city that is made up of many important structures ranging from the most famous El Castilo pyramid (known as the Mexico Pyramid) to the lesser known Cenote Sagrado.

Chichen Itza was conquered during the Spanish invasion in the mid 16th century. It was then rediscovered in the 19th century only after the area was cleared of the surrounding jungle to unveil the now famous ruins. It wasn’t until 1988 that Chichén Itzá was recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. This is a huge archaeological site sitting at around 10 square km (4 square miles).

Who built Chichen Itza?

There is a prominent Chichén Itzá cultural significance that is widely respected in Mexico. Chichen Itza history dates back to the fifth century and was built by the Maya, an ancient people that was native to the Yucatan region. It is believed that this site was chosen thanks to the cenote as it provided clean freshwater to the area.

Where is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is located inland in the Yucatan Peninsula. The drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza is around 197 km (122 miles) or about a 2.5 hour drive inland (west). The closest city to the ruins is the small town of Valladolid around 44 km (27 miles) to Chichen Itza’s east. If you’re staying in Merida, it will be a 120 km (75 miles), 1 hour 45 minute drive east from downtown Merida.

How to get to Chichen Itza?

With Chichen Itza’s inland location not being on the typical tourist path, you will need to figure out a way of getting to the ruins. Most people will come from either Cancun, Merida, or the Riviera Maya region. There are a few different ways to get to Chichen Itza based on what experience you are looking for.

Chichen Itza Day Tours

Booking a day trip to Chichen Itza is one of the best ways to see the ruins. This will take all of the planning out of your day and remove the hassle of driving the long distance. Due to the driving distance and the size of the ruins, you can expect Chichen Itza day tours to take the whole day (10-12 hours).

chichen itza photos

Day tours are one of the most common ways to see Chichen Itza and depart from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Merida. Most tours will include an air conditioned vehicle, entry to the ruins, a knowledgeable guide, a trip to cenotes, and lunch.

Chichen Itza excursions from Cancun and the Riviera Maya

When visiting Chichen Itza, many people are coming from Cancun. This full day combo tour includes round trip transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. You will spend the day exploring Chichen Itza, swimming in a cenote, and visiting the town of Valladolid. A buffet style lunch and tequila tasting are included in this all inclusive tour leaving you to just sit back and enjoy your day.

If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, this private cultural Mayan ruins excursion is one of the best tours available. You will visit the ruins at both Chichen Itza and Coba – our favourite ruins in Mexico. You will have the opportunity to cool off with a dip in Chukum cenote and round off the experience with an included lunch in the quaint colonial town of Valladolid.

If you think that sounds like too busy of a day, this private Chichen Itza tour is very similar but skips visiting the Coba ruins. Instead, you will spend longer at Chichen Itza while still enjoying lunch in Valladolid and cooling off with a visit to a cenote. This tour includes roundtrip transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum.

Chichen Itza excursions from Merida

If you are coming from Merida to Chichen Itza and traveling with a group, this private full day tour is a great option. Private tours are great as you will have the flexibility to go at your own pace. The tour price fluctuates based on how many people are in your group and includes round trip pickup, cold drinks and lunch at a local restaurant, a knowledgeable guide to take you around the Mayan ruins, and a stop at the popular Cenote Ik Kil to cool off at the end of the day.

ADO Bus or Colectivo

One of the most cost effective ways to get to Chichen Itza is by taking the ADO bus. These buses are safe to take in the Yucatan Peninsula and are a great way to get yourself to the ruins. You can choose to catch a bus that will take you directly to Chichen Itza or one that will take you to nearby Valladolid. There are multiple buses that leave daily from Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.

If you’re staying in Valladolid or Merida, you can take a colectivo to Chichen Itza. From Valladolid the Colectivo station is on Calle 46 and in Merida the station is on Calle 60. It is important to note that these are not on a reliable schedule as they simply leave whenever they are full. This is considered a safe and affordable mode of transportation throughout Mexico.

When visiting Chichen Itza you will want to get there as early as possible. If you choose this method of travel, we highly recommend staying overnight in Valladolid and catching the first bus or colectivo to Chichen Itza to make sure you get there bright and early.

Car Rental

renting a car at Cancun international airport

If a tour isn’t right for you, you may consider renting a car and driving yourself to Chichen Itza. We rented a car on our road trip around the Mayan Riviera and ended up driving ourselves to Chichen Itza. While the drive is long and there are some toll roads along the way, it is quite direct and easy to get to. If you are not staying overnight in Valladolid, you will want to make sure you leave early to get to Chichen Itza before the crowds show up.

To park right at the main entrance of Chichen Itza, there is a paid monitored lot. For only 30 pesos ($2 CAD) you can have peace of mind that your car is safe as you spend your day walking through Chichen Itza. But get there early as the parking lot can fill up quickly. There are other parking lots but are maintained by locals and cost way more – with a longer walk to the entrance.

Best time to go to Chichen Itza

Mayan temple at Chichen Itza

Let us be the first to warn you: the interior of Mexico is hot. You’ll quickly realize how much the ocean cools down the coastal cities you visit when you feel the heat at Chichen Itza. We visited Chichen Itza in April and even the locals were uncomfortable in the heat. We witnessed a tourist collapse from the heat and paramedics had to come to provide care. We recommend dressing lightly and timing your visit appropriately.

Best Time of day

To beat the heat (and the crowds) we recommend visiting Chichen Itza as early in the morning as possible. Getting there at 8 am when the gates open is the best way to see this historical site.

Like any other tourist attraction, we recommend avoiding visiting on the weekend when Chichen Itza sees the most visitors. Sundays are the busiest day in Chichen Itza. Like many other ruins in Mexico, Mexican residents get free access to Chichen Itza on Sundays.

Best Time of year

If you’re at the planning stage of your Mexican vacation to see Chichen Itza, the best time of year would be November to March. Even though the crowds will be larger than the summer it’s worth avoiding the heat.

chichen itza photos

The Spring Equinox (March 20-21) is also when the Serpent of Light appears. This is when the setting sun makes a serpent appear when the Mayan pyramid is looked at at the right angle.

The shoulder season is April, May, September, and October. These months are when the crowds are going to be less. But keep in mind September and October are hurricane season in Mexico and can bring strong winds and rain.

Where to stay when visiting Chichen Itza?

If you are not booking a day tour to Chichen Itza and are instead taking either a private vehicle or a bus, you’re going to want to book a hotel near Chichen Itza. This Mayan site is a few hour’s drive from the typical tourist hotspots of Cancun and Playa del Carmen making it a lot to get yourself to just for the day.

Valladolid is the most common city to stay in near Chichen Itza. This old colonial town is rich in history itself and is a great off the beaten path place to stay in Mexico for a night or two. Being off the tourist path, the city is very affordable, and hotels, food, and souvenirs are cheap. There are even a few cenotes nearby you can visit.

view from our hotel in Valladolid
View from our room at San Clemente Hotel in Valladolid
  • If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Valladolid, Hotel San Clemente is a great option for those looking for midline accommodations. This is where we stayed and we really enjoyed it. There is a nice pool, a tasty restaurant, and the location is super central.
  • If you’ve got a bit more money to spend, Hotel Zentik Project & Saline Cave is worth the extra dough. You will feel the luxury in every corner of this hotel from the stunning rooms to the amazing salt cave.
  • Traveling on a budget is easy in Valladolid and Villa lirios is a great option to choose for the night to rest up before you visit Chichen Itza. The basic rooms are clean and comfortable and the price is right for frugal travelers!

Should I book a tour to see Chichen Itza?

Yes!! We normally like the freedom to explore ourselves but given the significance of this site, we truly believe that booking a guided tour is well worth the cost.

Booking a Chichen Itza tour is one of the best ways to see the ruins, especially if you’re wanting to stay in one of the coastal cities like Cancun or Playa del Carmen. You’ll have an early start to your day and having someone else take the hassle of driving out to the ruin is worth the price itself.

Combine that with the guide that will explain the historical significance of the site as you walk through and you will end up getting far more out of your experience than if you were to take yourself.

Visiting Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza sees millions of visitors every year. We found it incredibly interesting and loved our time here. You may be wondering how much time you need in Chichen Itza. Most people visit Chichen Itza and walk the grounds for 3-4 hours.

You’ll be happy to know there is a Chichen Itza restaurant (more like a concession) where you can fuel up on snacks and water. You cannot bring food and drinks into the site so be sure to finish up before you enter. We suggest grabbing a Chichen Itza map – the grounds are pretty big and it’s nice to know where you’re going. Once you get through the ticket booth there is a short walk to the site where you’ll go past many vendors selling trinkets and souvenirs.

inside the ticket booth at Chichen Itza
Just kidding! Inflation sucks for everyone - the price is now 614 MXN ($65 USD) for adults

Chichen Itza Cost and Hours

The Chichén Itzá’s entrance fee is $614 MXN for adults (13+). Check up to date pricing here.

This Mexican archaeological site is open Monday to Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm with the last entry at 4 pm. We strongly recommend getting there early as it gets very very hot on the grounds – we even saw people needing ambulances as they had extreme heat stroke.

ambulance helping person with heat stroke at chichen itza

What to see inside Chichen Itza?

You may not know that there is more than just the famous Mayan Pyramid to see at Chichen Itza. In fact, Chichen Itza has Old Chichen which includes 6 sites and Chichen Itza has another 20 that are connected by 75 roadways, all with their own importance.

Sacred Cenote (Cenote Sagrado)

This sacred cenote brought life to the civilization being used as a well and acting as the main fresh water source for the Chichen Itza people. There is a large opening where you can see this cenote which was thought to be the reason the civilization chose this location to build.

This has been an extensively studied cenote. Over 200 bodies have been discovered at this site – thought to be human sacrifices. Gold, jewels, and ceramics have also been found under the surface of the water.

It’s one of the larger cenotes we saw in Mexico – the Chichen Itza cenote is 200 feet in diameter and 89 feet of sheer cliff to the water.

Chichen itza photos

El Castillo Pyramid (Kukulkan Pyramid)

The main attraction at Chichen Itza is El Castillo Pyramid (aka Kukulkan Pyramid). Between the 4 sides of the Chichen Itza pyramid, there are 364 steps (91 steps x 4 sides), one for each day of the year, with the top platform acting as the 365th step.

One cool thing we learned is that when visiting if you clap near the pyramid there’s a unique echo that comes back to you. It’s said to be the sound a sacred Mayan bird makes.

One of the coolest things we learned about this site is that a serpent appears when the sun’s shadow makes what looks like a snake coming down the steps of the Chichen Itza pyramid. This happens during the Spring and Fall equinox.

The Great Ball Court (Juego de Pelota)

One of the more interesting places at Chichen Itza is The Great Ball Court. It’s where the Mayan people played a game called pok-ta-pok. It’s a similar game to modern day basketball except the hoop is turned on its side and the players can’t use their hands and feet – instead, they use their hips, upper body, and thighs.

The importance of winning a match could dictate the outcome of everything from politics to sacrifices.

The court is an architectural marvel. You can whisper at one end of the arena and people at the other end could clearly hear what was said.

The Temple of the Warriors

One of the most impressive structures at Chichen Itza is The Temple of the Warriors. Even though the stonework has seen better days you can still tell the magnitude and engineering that went into creating it.

There is a statue called Cac Mool, that is said to be used for offerings. The Mexican temple also has many stone carvings of deities and warriors.

Other important sites at Chichen Itza include:

  • Tzompantli (skull platform)
  • The Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars
  • The Platform of Venus
  • The Temple of the Tables
  • The Steam bath
  • Sacbe Number One (White Road)
  • Group of a Thousand Columns
  • Akab Dzib (Dark Writing)

  • El Mercado
  • The Osario
  • Temple of Xtoloc (Maya word for Iguana)
  • The platform of the Tombs
  • House of the Metates
  • House of the Mestizas
  • Casa Colorada (Red House)
  • La Casa del Venado (House of the Deer)

What to pack to Chichen Itza?

Whether you are visiting Chichen Itza with a day tour or driving yourself, you can count on this being a full day excursion. You will want to pack a day bag and dress appropriately to ensure you have the best day possible. First things first, Chichen Itza is BIG so make sure you wear good walking shoes (not flip flops like we did!). It is also very hot with minimal shade so be sure to dress cool.

Regardless of how you choose to travel here, we recommend bringing a day bag with a bathing suit and towel, a change of clothes, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a water bottle. There are souvenir stalls throughout the ruins with fun trinkets at a surprisingly affordable price so be sure to bring some cash (pesos for the best conversion) along!

Thanks for stopping by!

One of the things we love most about Mexico is how diverse traveling here is. You can spend one day enjoying the best beach excursions in Cancun and the next soaking up all the culture and history in the country. Chichen Itza is one of the largest and most famous Mayan ruins in the country and receives millions of visitors a year. It was one of the core memories from our trip to Mexico and we highly recommend stopping in for a visit! We hope that this guide to visiting Chichen Itza answered all your burning questions about this historical site.

Happy exploring!

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