10 Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins

Chichen Itza is amazing to see in person! Located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, these Mayan Ruins are rich in history and easy to see when visiting Cancun or Tulum. Read below the top 10 tips for visiting Chichen Itza.

  1. 1. Dress the part
  2. 2. Pick a way to see it
  3. 3. Get a Guide
  4. 4. Explore all the buildings
  5. 5. Pack water
  6. 6. Brace yourself for the vendors
  7. 7. Go early!
  8. 8. Experience at Equinox
  9. 9. See a sacred cenote
  10. 10. Pack a hat or umbrella!

1. Dress the part

Wearing the wrong outfit can lead to sunburns, blisters, animal bites, or worse. Make sure to dress for an outdoor adventure, keeping in mind the sun exposure, ground conditions, and overall climate. Closed-toe shoes, hats, and long sleeves are definitely recommended for this.

2. Pick a way to see the ruins

  • Large group tour
  • Self-drive, self-guided tour
  • Self-drive, guided tour
  • Group Tour & Cenote

The most popular way to see the Chichen Itza ruins is by a group tour. Almost every hotel in Cancun or Tulum will have tour operators set up directly in their lobby and the tours include roundtrip transportation, guided tour, and entrance fees to the grounds. Tulum & Cancun are about 2 and a half hours away, so plan for this to be an all-day trip.

If a group tour isn’t your speed, then consider renting a car and driving there yourself. A super easy and highly recommended adventure for those who are used to traveling outside of tour groups. The roads are easily marked, parking is plentiful at the site, and there are tour guides you can hire directly at the ruins. Parking is only $2 USD, so don’t stress about parking outside the ruins parking lot, otherwise, you’re at high risk for a break-in.

3. Hire a Guide

Even if you drive to Chichen Itza yourself I highly recommend still hiring a guide! Without an experienced local guide, you’re basically wasting your money. The ruins stand pretty solitary on-site and there is little signage anywhere. Without a guide or a book, you’d basically be guessing what the buildings are for, which is crazy! Hire the guide and find out the myths and facts behind these sacred grounds.

4. Explore the entire grounds

Chichen Itza - Temple of Warriors
Chichen Itza – Temple of Warriors

There’s more at Chichen Itza than just the big pyramid in the middle! Make sure to walk the entire grounds to see the ball court, Temple of the Warriors, and Wall of Skulls. Grab a map at the front to make sure you don’t miss any buildings. Located across four acres, it can be easier to miss than you think!

5. Pack water!

The Yucatan Peninsula is hot!!! I’m from Florida and I was still toasty after this adventure. The locals will warn you about the heat there ahead of time and take their warning. Make sure to hydrate while you’re walking around. As the ruins span over so much land, you’ll be surprised just how much you walk and sweat.

6. Brace yourself for the vendors

Mexican Souvenir
Mexican Souvenir

I travel constantly and the number of vendors here is truly unbelievable. This has to be one of the heaviest vendor spots I have ever been to. Vendors line the walk all the way from the ticket area through some areas in the ruins. The majority of them sell very similar items like jaguar whistles, novelty skulls, and handwoven jungle-themed blankets. While these items may not be for you, consider purchasing something small anyways to support the local families. The vendors selling here are from poor local families, so even a small purchase will help feed their family.

7. Go early!

As with almost every tourist attraction, the best time to visit is early morning. Buses will start bringing groups around 10:30 AM, so if you can make it there before you’ll have no one in your photos! Alternatively, if you come after 3:00 PM you’ll also avoid a lot of the crowds, though not the heat!

8. Experience at Equinox

If you want to see Chichen Itza in its full glory, then visit during an Equinox. Twice a year around May 21st & September 21st, a light and shadow effect will take place on the pyramid and it will appear as though a snake is slithering down the steps. This will happen on a nightly basis naturally throughout this equinox time, though if you can’t make it then they do offer a nightly light show to reenact what you would see.

If you do plan to go during an equinox then be prepared for the crowds. As this natural occurrence is limited to such a small time of year, the amount of people that show up is insane!

9. See a sacred Cenote

Mexico Cenote
Mexico Cenote

These natural sinkholes were sacred to the Mayans. Not only their water natural water resource in the jungle, but the Mayans also used these pools for human sacrifice to please their gods. Virgins, warriors, and even children were sacrificed to bring better gifts to the Mayan people. It was believed that if you gave the Gods the best human sacrifices then they would receive blessings by the Gods.

Cenote in Mexico
Cenote in Mexico

There are two big Cenotes out at Chichen Itza. You can explore them from above or climb the ladder to the water below. Swimming at Chichen Itza isn’t highly recommended, as their one tends to stay green with algae. There are other Cenotes around though that you can swim in. Our tour group specifically included the swim in one and it was a super cool experience!

10. Pack a hat or umbrella!

Chichen Itza - Temple of Warriors
Chichen Itza – Temple of Warriors

I’ll say it one more time so you know where I stand on this; the sun here is brutal! (Look how shiny my skin is in this picture?!)

If you want any pictures where you’re not covered in sweat, consider packing a hat or umbrella. Using an umbrella seemed so strange to me at first, but you’re quickly able to drop it for pictures and not mess up your hair in the process!

Did you know that most of the ruins are still undiscovered?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *