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All about Chichén Itzá in Mexico

Updated: April 6, 2024

Main Category: Day Trips

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Author: Tobias

The Archaeological site of Chichén Itzá is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and the most visited attraction. Chichén Itzá is about 125km away from Mérida. The journey by car takes about 1h 40min from the city center of Mérida and the place is most of the time very busy. The admission fee for foreign adults is about 614MXN. Different prices may apply for residents or children.

Day Trips

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Address:

Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, Mexiko

Website:

Category:

Trip

Phone:

+52 985 114 8390

Distance:

125km from Mérida

Travel Time:

1h 40min from Mérida

Admission:

Mex$ 614

Price Level:

Very high

Since:

About 1,500 years ago

Google Rating:

average rating is 4.5 out of 5, based on 423 votes, Ratings

Opening Hours:

• Monday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
• Tuesday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
• Wednesday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
• Thursday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
• Friday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
• Saturday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
• Sunday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

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Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá was one of the largest and most diverse Maya cities. Today, Chichén Itzá is the largest Mayan archaeological site in the Yucatan Peninsula. It was built by the Mayans and is one of the most popular attractions.


It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new seven wonders of the world (the only Wonder of the World in North America).


Chichén Itzá is more than just the well-known pyramid, Chichén Itzá is an entire ancient mayan city. Most estimates put the city at well over 1,500 years old. Chichén Itzá was built in two stages, the Pre-Classic and a latter period.


The Pre-Classic period was greatly influenced by the Mayans. After an invasion of Toltecs, this changed in the 10th century. So, the most iconic buildings of Chichén Itzá, such like the like pyramid El Castillo (Kukulkan) may have been built by the Toltecs, and not the Mayans.


Chichén Itzá is very impressive, but you have to realize that it is usually very crowded, there is a vendor trying to make a deal on every corner, it is a vast area and there is hardly any shade. If you have small children, for example, I would rather choose a different destination.


Central temple with a statue of Chacmool
Central temple with a statue of Chacmool

The world of archaeology


Some interesting figures about Mayan archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula:


 
Figures about Mayan archaeological sites
Figures about Mayan archaeological sites
 

Chichén Itzá night show


Every evening, Chichén Itzá offers a very special experience: you can visit the Mayan ruins under the stars in the moonlight and take part in a light show.


Part of the ruins are then illuminated in different colors and only a limited number of visitors are allowed into the complex. The event starts at around 7:00 pm and runs until around 8:30 pm.


Times are of course subject to change and you should be there about 30 minutes before the event starts. The actual night show ("Chichén Itzá Noches de Kukulkan") takes place at the main temple "Temple of Kukulkan".


Accompanied by music, images are projected onto the pyramid using laser technology and the story of Chichén Itzá is told (but only in Spanish). The light show lasts around 20 to 30 minutes.


The ticket for the visit to Chichén Itzá also includes admission to the light show in the evening. However, a second ticket for the light show is required, for which you can register online or the ticket is available from the afternoon at the ticket office.


If you are coming by car from Mérida or somewhere a bit further away, I would take a local hotel and drive back the next day. By the way, you must keep your parking ticket, as you will have to show it when you leave.


If you don't want to do the visit on your own, you can also book a tour (including the tickets), which is of course the easiest option.


Chichén Itzá during equinox


If you visit Chichén Itzá during the equinox, it can be a special experience.


An equinox is an astronomical event that occurs twice a year, once in spring (on March 20 or 21) and once in fall (September 22 or 23). The Earth's axis is then tilted neither towards nor away from the sun and so day and night are almost the same length (12 hours).

In the late afternoon, thousands of visitors from around the world wait in front of the Kukulkan pyramid in Chichén Itzá to see how the illusion of a snake creeping slowly down the northern staircase is created by the sunlight and the shadow of the pyramid's shape. At the end of the "snake" is a stone snake's head at the foot of the pyramid.


This is by no means a coincidence, but was planned by the builders. The phenomenon of light and shadow occurs from 4:00 pm and concludes around 6:00 pm.


If the time does not suit you: During the Light and Sounds Show in Chichén Itzá, the shadows are artificially created with floodlights.


Sacred Cenote


No trip to Chichén Itzá is complete without a visit to the Sacred Cenote, which is connected to Chichén Itzá by a 300m raised pathway. The large cenote is 165 to 200 feet (50 to 61m) in diameter.


The use of the sacred cenote was exclusively ceremonial. The pre-Hispanic Maya made ceremonial offerings and threw valuable objects into the cenote. Later, human sacrifices were also made.


The sacrifices were warriors, children and virgins thrown to the bottom of the cenote. Various platforms were built at the edge of the cenote for this purpose. This is known because numerous artifacts have been found in the water over the years.


The artifacts included gold, copper, jade, shells and the bones of around 200 people who were thrown into the water as sacrifices. Due to its proximity to Chichén Itzá, the cenote is of course very popular with tourists today.


Some interesting figures about cenotes:


 
Interesting figures about cenotes
Interesting figures about cenotes
 

Sacred Cenote
Sacred Cenote

A few tips


Chichén Itzá opens at 8:00 am. In the first hour until 9:00 there is still very little going on, then it slowly fills up. Around 11:00 am the crowds start to appear in full force.


Between 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm is always the busiest time to visit Chichén Itzá, this is when the big tourist buses arrive from the surrounding resorts.


 

Especially in Chichén Itzá, it's key to get there ideally just before it opens.

 

There is no shade in large areas of the site (and the area is not really small). Especially in summer, you should therefore definitely think of suitable clothing and sun protection. It is not a bad idea to take something to drink with you, even if you can buy it on site.


The photos are already over 20 years old. At that time it was possible to climb the temple pyramid El Castillo and you had a nice overview of the area. This is now no longer allowed.


We have more background information and travel tips on Mayan archaeological sites.


Central temple from above
Central temple from above

How do you get to Chichén Itzá from Mérida?


You can reach Chichén Itzá very well by car. Public transportation can be used as well. For example, an ADO bus leaves three times a day from Mérida Noreste Terminal, Calle 67x50 and Calle 52 (No. 531), to Chichén Itzá.


The trip takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Back there is only one bus from ADO in the late afternoon, alternatively you can take a bus from Oriente Bus Company, which runs more frequently. Of course there are also cabs. If you prefer an organized tour, there are many providers.

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Best Chichén Itzá Tours

If you would like to explore the Yucatan Peninsula and Mérida with a guided tour, there are wonderful experiences from Viator. We have selected the three best tours for you.

You save time and nerves, get all the insider tips you need from an expert tour guide and can join up with others if you wish. And it's also safer to travel in a group.

Chichen Itza, Private Cenote, Food Experience & the magic Izamal

My Top Recommendation (likely to sell out)

Chichen Itza, Private Cenote, Food Experience & the magic Izamal

The very best Chichén Itzá tour and free cancellation. It starts from US-$97

average rating is 5 out of 5
Best Chichén Itzá Tours

Another very special experience

Chichen Itza Full Day Tour

Slightly less expensive and also free cancellation. It starts from US-$90

average rating is 5 out of 5
Best Chichén Itzá Tours

Not either/or, but also!

Chichen Itza Elite Private Tour from Merida

If you are looking for the full VIP program. Free cancellation (from US-$260)

average rating is 5 out of 5
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