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Exploring Chichen Itza tour from Playa del Carmen

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A major highlight of our Mexico trip was to see Chichen Itza. We were so excited to learn more about its history that we decided to take a guided Chichen Itza tour from Playa del Carmen.

As most of you know, Chichen Itza is known for its Mayan Ruins. It is perhaps the largest, most famous, and most accessible Mayan site, located about 125 kilometres west of Cancun and Cozumel. Rightly so, it’s considered one of the wonders of the modern world. We were intrigued by the history of this place, fascinated by what the ancient Mayans discovered and the sciences that they have preserved over the years. 

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza tour from Playa del Carmen

Main Pyramid at Chichen Itza - Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Read all about its history, travel tips and itinerary. A quick guide to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world.
Exploring The Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza

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About Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is an archaeological site located in the Yucatan region of Mexico. It is one of the most visited locations in Mexico. Known for its rich Mayan history, the entire complex is over 1,000 years old.

The Mayan name “Chichen Itza” means “at the mouth of the well of the Itza.” And as you read along, you will know why!

The main pyramid, called the El Castillo or Temple of Kukulkan is the most popular. There are many other architectural structures in the complex as well that are of historical significance to the Mayan culture and researchers alike.

Getting to Chichen Itza Ruins

There are many ways to get to the historical Chichen Itza complex. You can rent a car and drive ($30-80/day on a mid-size car), use the tourist buses or interstate buses, ADO bus, or book a tour (that includes pick up, drop off, entrance fee and/or lunch with a guide for $50-130+)

If you are staying at a resort in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, it will take you around 2 – 2.50 hours to reach Chichen Itza. The same duration from the Cancun International Airport – if you wish to start exploring as soon as you land.

What to pack for Mexico? Outfit Ideas for Mexico travel

CHICHEN ITZA ENTRANCE FEE
  • Ruins entrance – 480 pesos or $24 USD (for foreign nationals)
  • Car Parking – 30 pesos or 1.50 USD
HOW TO GET TO THE MAYAN RUINS?
  • Drive from Tulum – 2 hour
  • Drive from Playa del Carmen  – 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Drive from Cancun – About 2 hour 25 minutes
CHICHEN ITZA TOURS – VIEW GUIDED TOURS BELOW
  • Original Chichen Itza Tour with Lunch > BOOK HERE
    • Full day tour with a guided exploration of Chichen Itza from Riviera Maya Hotels (hotels Playa del Carmen)
    • Traditional Buffet lunch
    • BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE
  • Chichen Itza – Classic Tour from Playa del Carmen > BOOK HERE
    • Full day guided tour of Chichen Itza from resorts Playa del Carmen and Cancun
    • Traditional Buffet Lunch 
    • Explore Ik Ill Cenote and swim (good reviews about the cenote on TripAdvisor)
    • BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE
  • Chichen Itza – Classic tour from Cancun > BOOK HERE
  • Chichen Itza Lights and Sound Show with Cenote Swim > BOOK HERE
    • Guided tour of Chichen Itza, with Light and Sound Show
    • Access the Temples at Chichen Itza through a private entrance with no lines
    • Swim in a sinkhole at Cenote Hacienda Chukum
    • BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE
  • Chichen Itza and Ek Balam Tour > BOOK HERE
    • 2 Mayan ruins exploration one from the Classic Mayan period and another from post Classic period (save money on 2 tours)
    • Swim in the sacred Cenote Hubiku
    • Full day tour from Cancun or Playa del Carmen hotels and resorts
    • BOOK YOUR TOUR HERE

Things to pack and the best time to visit Chichen Itza

The best time to visit Chichen Itza is from November to March when the weather is not super hot, but just warm. Summer months from late April to July are very hot and peak seasons.

We visited in late September and early October – we found the weather to be perfect and very few crowds. All the photos here were captured with the guided tour. 

Items to pack for Chichen Itza


 

Chichen Itza Tour from Playa del Carmen

We decided to book a tour with a local company for this trip. The cost of the tour was $75.00 USD per person and included entrance fees to the site, lunch, and pick up/drop off from our Playa del Carmen resort.

The entire tour took us about 7 hours and we were at the resort by 3:30 pm local time, to relax at the beach. Although booked as a group tour, we were given the perks of a private tour, as we were an English speaking group, with the two of us and another couple.

Our guide, Marco, covered everything about Chichen Itza including their history, current events, and initiatives and also included fun activities.

Girl exploring Chichen Itza tour from Playa del Carmen

Exploring Chichen Itza 

I was so excited when we reached the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. We started early in the morning, around 6:00 am and we arrived at the archaeological site at about 08:30 am.

Our tour guide arranged for the passes and we all quite excited to learn more about this beautiful site. Chichen Itza ruins are federal property and the entrance fee is about 232 pesos for an adult. The entrance fee to the site is divided into two amounts, one being the state (culture) and the second being the federal. The land under the monuments had been privately for a long time.

After the entrance gate and just before reaching the main pyramid, you can see water bodies called cenotes. All the cenotes in the region are connected to each other and are considered sacred by the Mayans even today.

El Castillo or the main pyramid

Our tour guide took us directly to the main pyramid of El Castillo. It was bright and sunny that day (September) and we had the entire complex to ourselves. The pyramid is massive. It has 91 steps leading to the top, with figurines of the serpents at the base of the steps.

Few days prior to our arrival (September 22 to be exact) the entire site was filled with tourists, historians, and astronomers to witness the wonderful sight where the sun aligned with the peak of the pyramid and the serpent.

The Autumn equinox as its called, the northwest corner of the pyramid casts a series of triangular shadows against the western balustrade on the north side that evokes the appearance of a serpent wriggling down the staircase.

El Castillo at Chichen Itza - Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Read all about its history, travel tips and itinerary. A quick guide to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world.
El Castillo

The El Castillo or the temple of the Kulkulkan dates back to the 9th century. Its believed to be dedicated to the serpent deity, KulKulkan. Each of the pyramid’s four sides has 91 steps.

In the past, tourists were allowed to climb up the steps and reach the top court, but not anymore. The 91 steps on each side sum up to a total of 365 (including the temple platform on top as the final “step”) which represents the 365 days of the year.

I was so fascinated with such scientific facts that it was mind-blowing, to say the least. The Mayan civilization is one of the oldest civilizations of the world and they were so far ahead in terms of science and astronomy. They built such structures without the use of many instruments or metals of any kind.

They were great observers of nature and believed in recording everything. They recorded the change in seasons, time, and reasons for why certain events occurred and how to resolve them. The only thing they didn’t record is “how” they built these massive and accurate astronomical structures.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Read all about its history, travel tips and itinerary. A quick guide to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world.
Chichen Itza

As you walk away from the main pyramid you will see a whole area full of columns. This area is called the Temple of the Warriors. 

The Temple of the Warriors

The Temple of the Warriors is a three-level pyramid with neighboring colonnades on two sides creating a semi-enclosed court. The building at the top of the pyramid has a doorway framed with feathered-serpents and two chambers; one contained a chacmool and the other a throne.

Buried within the base of the temple is another, the older structure is known as the Temple of the Chacmool. The interior walls of the temple were decorated with wall paintings showing scenes of warriors with captives, a lake, and thatched houses, all with some attempt made at achieving perspective.

Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza. Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Read all about its history, travel tips and itinerary. A quick guide to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world.
Temple of the Warriors

The total number of columns here is 260, signifying a total of 260 days in the Mayan cycle.

To summarize this theory in general, it is hereby put forward that the Maya specifically created, or rather invented, a 260-day cycle in order to allow them to accurately track the occurrence of successive conjunctions involving the Earth and Venus, over a full 2000 year grand cycle.

So that this might be achieved, the 260 day period of the Mayan calendar was further combined with a basic Earth year of 365 days, as a means to generate an extended 52 year period of time.

The Mayans regarded the number 13 and 9 as very scared. Considered as a sacred number, the number 13 is synonymous with a spiritual connection with the Great Architect of the Universe(God). The number 9, refers to the 9 planets, deities, and worlds in Mayan civilization.

The Great Ball Court

Archaeologists have identified thirteen ballcourts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichen Itza.

The Great Ball Court located to the north-west of the Castillo is the most impressive of all. The parallel platforms flank the main playing area and the walls of these platforms stand are set high up in the center of each of these walls. There are rings on them, carved with intertwined featured serpents.

The Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza. Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Read all about its history, travel tips and itinerary. A quick guide to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world.
Ball Court

At the base of the high interior walls are slanted benches with sculpted panels of teams of ballplayers. We discovered something very interesting in this ball court area.

Depending on what spot you stand on you can actually hear some whispering something from one end of the site to another. So, if you are standing at the base of the courtroom facing them, you can hear your teammate whispering from the end of the ball-court. 

Deities of Chichen Itza

In and around the ball court area, you will find a lot of structures dating different historical periods. Some of the structures are in poor shape, almost most of them have also lost the color (historians believed it was red in color).

Deities of Chichen Itza. Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Read all about its history, travel tips and itinerary. A quick guide to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world.
Deity Chichen Itza

Some of the other structures include – the Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars, the Platform of Venus (dedicated to the planet Venus), the Temple of the Tables, the Steam Bath  ( a unique building with a water bath and a steam chamber operated by heated stones) and lastly a causeway leading to the Cenote Sagrado nearby.

The Osario pyramid and Temple of Xtoloc

The Osario is a step-pyramid temple dominating its platform. There is a temple on top which leads to a natural cave 12 metres (39 ft) below. There many several skeletons and artifacts such as jade beads, found in this area.

Archaeologists believe neither that the structure was a tomb nor that the personages buried in it were priests.

There is a temple located outside the Osario platform as well. It overlooks the other large cenote at Chichen Itza, named after the Maya word for iguana, “Xtoloc.” The temple contains a series of pilasters carved with images of people, as well as representations of plants, birds, and mythological scenes.

The image below is situated at the end of the ball court. This seat was for the ruler and a “guest” who would then watch the players display their game.

Being a religious and ceremonial site, all the ball games were used for worshiping purposes. The winner of the ball-game is sacrificed to the Gods to keep them happy. The winner was chosen as he is considered the best of the breed. It was a matter of pride to be sacrificed.

Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Read all about its history, travel tips and itinerary. A quick guide to Chichen Itza, one of the wonders of the modern world.
Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza Facts and History

  • Chichen Itza is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and in 1988 was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The term Chichen Itza means ‘the mouth at the well of Itza’. It is believed Itza means ‘water magicians’, deriving from the Mayan Itz for ‘magic’ and á for ‘water’.
  • El Castillo (the Temple of Kukulkan) is the famous pyramid that dominates the site of Chichen Itza and it actually sits on another much older temple.
  • During the Spring (20th of March, some historians claim its June 21) and Autumn Equinox (22nd September), sun rays create a shadow across the Kukulkan Pyramid that gives the appearance of a serpent slithering down the staircase.
  • The best time to visit is from November end to March when the temperatures are not too hot. Spring and Autumn are great to witness the equinoxes. The ruins are open daily.
  • Many of the sites in Chichen Itza are known for their unusual sounds. If you clap once from one end of the Ball Court, it produces nine echoes in the middle of the court. Additionally, a clap in front of the Kukulkan Pyramid creates an echo resembling the serpent’s chirp. 
  • The Chichen Itza complex has lots of stalls selling Mayan souvenirs, including mini Chichen Itza pyramids, blankets, and masks. They are said to be made by local Mayans. Be careful though as some of the items could be priced a bit higher as the vendors have to pay to the private landowners for using the stalls/land use.
  • I bought a small handkerchief from an old Mayan lady (for $1USD). Also got a blanket for $12 USD and a small pyramid for $2 USD.
  • One interesting fact is that my guide said that I looked Mayan and I took that as a compliment 🙂
  • Try to arrive early to get some amazing shots, including the sunrise above the pyramid. The ideal time is to reach the site by 08:00 am local time and be the first one to access the site. After 10:30 am or so the area gets crowded with tourists.

Chichen Itza was more than a religious and ceremonial site. It was a sophisticated urban center and a hub of regional trade. 

Today you can wander and marvel at the sophistication at which the Mayans built this place. The Mayans believed that knowledge is power. They were great observers of nature and seasonal changes. They recorded and recorded everything they saw and achieved perfection in their skills.

Our guide said (Marco, archaeological guide), “As long as you set your heart in it, you will succeed, just like the Mayans did”.

 

Additional Resources on Mexico Travel

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Chichen Itza Tour from Playa del Carmen

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27 Comments

  1. This is getting me so excited! We are going next week, but doing it on our own. Your photos are amazing by the way! We are hoping to get there early before the crowds, hope our photos turn out half as good as yours!

    1. Aww… thats really sweet of you!Thanks Megan. I am sure you will have an amazing time. Let me know if you need any recommendations
      Happy Travels girl!

  2. I love this guide!!! This is high on my bucket list. And I must say your dress is gorgeous and I love your photos! What time was your tour? You was able to get a lot of clear shots!

    1. Thanks so much babe! My dress is from Aritzia 🙂
      My tour pick up time was 6:00 am and we were there at 8:00 ish.
      Pick up was from Playa del Carmen

  3. Great write up. I know nothings of the Mayans. As a teenager I explored some ruins, but that was when I was immature and didn’t care learn anything. But now that I am reading this, it is making me want to go back to actually experience it. It is interesting how they sacrificed the winner of the Ball game and I can’t believe they were happy about it.

    1. Yea I found that interesting for sure. But it makes sense to offer the “best”
      Nevertheless Mayan history is so fascinating and these ruins so beautiful! Hope you can revisit soon!

  4. Absolutely gorgeous photos! I love all the historical and political facts behind Chichen Itza 🙂 Great to know that you should arrive by 8 am.

  5. Woah this is amazing! I’ve seen SOOooOO many photos of this place but never knew a single thing about its history or intricacies. I think the most mindblowing fact for me is how the light shines through on the Equinoxes. That is crazy. Awesome post – definitely saving it for my future travels in Mexico!

  6. Wow those ruins are impressive!! I love it when you can combine travel with history, there’s so much to discover in this world.

  7. You’ve got a beautiful way with words. Made me feel like I was right there sitting in front of those amazing ruins. 🙂

  8. I loved Chichen Itza when I was there! It’s an incredible structure, and one that everyone needs to see when in Mexico. Great photos too!

  9. I love that you put together the interesting facts and tips at the end 🙂 We opted for diving instead of chichen itza on our one free day, so this means we have to go back right? 🙂 🙂 I booked marked this for our next trip!

  10. nice blog and nice pictures! 😊 my friend and i will go there in may. do you have any tips for us how to go there or can you recommend some company or guy who might bring us there?

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