No matter how beautiful our vacation destination is, we always follow a ‘Leave the Resort!’ philosophy to seek out the rich culture and stories a country has to share, whether it be through their culinary, architectural, or natural wonders. Below is a little guide detailing all you need to know to leave your resort and take the best day trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, or Tulum.
If you have a little extra time, be sure to drive along country roads through the small villages along the way, stopping and visit the crafts and farmer’s markets. There are gems just waiting to be discovered that can change your perspective of a destination and how you see the world.
Chichen Itza is an expansive collection of Mayan ruins in the Yucatán, Mexico, dating back to 600 A.D. We spent the day exploring this ancient Mayan society. We could spend hours just walking around the base of the impressive the step pyramid, El Castillo, and appreciating the detailed stone carvings at the Great temple of Warriors. With this much history, having a guide or guidebook can really help you understand the symbolism and significance behind the architecture.
Visiting Chichen Itza is an easy day trip from Cancun and the surrounding areas, but to help make the most of your visit we’ve outlined our top tips to know before you go.
- Set the alarm and head out early! The Chichen Itza ruins open at 8am ~ and is located in the central standard time zone, which is conveniently 1 hour behind Cancun time only half of the year, so double check your time zones. It’s recommended to be a few minutes early if you really want to beat the crowds. If traveling in a group, once you arrive have one person park while the another gets in line at the ticket booth.
- To give you an idea of the crowds, every year over 1.4 million people visit the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins; a UNSECO World Heritage site and a New Seven Wonder of the World.
- If you’re driving from Cancun, it’s a two and a half hour (200km / 125mi) drive on the toll highway. From Playa Del Carmen, Chichen Itza is a comparable (180km / 111mi). There are two tolls for a standard car in each direction $67pesos and $267pesos ($632pesos return trip ~ 2017). Fill up with gas before you go and be sure stay within the speed limits.
- Sails & Spices Note: There is plenty of highway patrol, so the route is quite safe. Even so, at dawn and dusk some industrious folks have been known to fake a vehicle breakdown or flat tire to lure in a tourist or two and relieve them of a few dollars. Don’t bother to stop, local authorities can assist any drivers that have broken down.
- If an early morning wake up call while on vacation isn’t your idea of a good time you can also spend the night near the ruins, like in the bungalows at The Lodge, and take a leisurely 10 minute walk over in the morning.
What to Bring to Chichen Itza
- Your camera! The ruins make for stunning photos, particularly at sunrise. Many of Mexico’s top attractions do not allow tripods, monopods, or any “filming” without a government permit. As long as your camera is handheld, you’ll be fine.
- Chichen Itza is a sprawling site with limited shade. On a sunny day remember to bring lots of water, your hat, and sunscreen! There aren’t any hills to climb, but as the site is large it’s best to wear some good walking shoes.
- There is so much history behind the ruins that having a guidebook or hiring a guide will help paint a vivid picture of the ancient city. Guides may be hired at the front entrance though prices will vary.
- On site vendors sell all manners of high quality artisan souvenirs including masks, pottery and jewelry so bring cash if you want bring some handmade crafts back with you. An ATM is located just outside the main gate.
After a day of walking in the hot sun, stop for a refreshing swim at one of the nearby cenotes on the way back to your hotel. Two recommendations are Cenote Il Kil or Cenote Samula, and both are on the google map below.
Continue Exploring Mexico’s Tastes and Sites
Explore more of Mexico’s great culture! Catch a sunrise at the incredible sea-side ruins of Tulum, explore local Mexican cuisine at the Ritz-Carlton Culinary Center, or reminisce on a trip for your taste buds with one of our favorite Mexican recipes:
- Visiting The Ancient Ruins of Tulum
- The Ritz-Carlton Cancun’s Culinary Center
- Vegan Ceviche Recipe
- Squash Tacos with Homemade Tortillas Recipe