Visiting Chichen Itza in the Yucatan is one of the most popular things to do in Mexico.
Not only is the site one of the seven new wonders of the world, but it’s also incredibly historically significant and awe-inspiring.
Founded by the Maya people roughly 1500 years ago, Chichen Itza was once the most populous city on the Yucatan Peninsula and, as it has been impeccably preserved, you can still find temples, pyramids, cenotes, and abundant culture at the site.
So, what should you know before you go to Chichen Itza, Mexico?
In this article, we’ll cover:
- ✅ 12 essential tips for visiting Chichen Itza
- ✅ What to bring to Chichen Itza
- ✅ The best time to visit
- ✅ And so much more!
12 Essential Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza in Mexico
Tip #1 – Arrive as Early as Possible
Given that Chichen Itza is the most visited site in all of the Yucatan Peninsula, to say it gets busy is an understatement.
To beat the hordes of fellow visitors, I recommend showing up as early or late in the day as possible. Personally, I showed up at around 8 AM and had the place to myself (save a few others) for a couple of hours.
Conversely, if you want to show up for the light show (more on that below), plan your visit for the late evening. If not, keep in mind that during certain times of year Chichen Itza closes as early as 5 PM.
Tip #2 – Be Sun Ready
It’s no lie that the sun beats down hard on Chichen Itza. Granted, I planned my trip to the area in August (big, big, big mistake), but I found the sun and humidity to be absolutely stifling.
Tip #3 – Don’t Pack a Tripod
You can imagine my confusion when I got to Chichen Itza before everyone else, whipped out my tripod, and then immediately had a man tell me that I needed a permit to use it. Womp, womp.
I’ve read contrasting facts on this — some people say they used tripods no problem, others have said they had to pay for a permit. So, when in doubt, either be discreet or have a backup plan.
The photos that I took at Chichen Itza of myself were by way of propping up my camera on my backpack.
Tip #4 – Arrive via Bus (or a Tour!)
When I traveled to Chichen Itza, I did so by taking the ADO-brand bus from Valladolid. This bus will take you from the main station and drop you off directly at the steps of Chichen Itza for less than 5USD.
In my experience, the first-class ADO buses are clean, cheap, and efficient. My only tip would be to download a google map of the area to your phone beforehand, so you know exactly where you are every step of the way (especially if you don’t speak Spanish well).
🔥 Alternatively, taking a tour is a great way to see the area. This highly-rated Chichen Itza tour includes a stop in Valladolid, transportation to a cenote, and more!
If you’re not keen on taking a full-day trip tour, then you can also book a guide at the main Pavillion of Chichen Itza as well.
Tip #5 – Be Aware of the Vendors
One of the main tips I wish I had known before going to Chichen Itza is that the vendor army comes out in full force. Lining the trails and roadways of the site, the vendors are there to sell you everything from cheap knick-knacks to higher-end items.
There is nothing wrong with purchasing a souvenir or two, but keep in mind that they can be relentless, so mentally prepare yourself for that.
Personally, I purchased a hand-painted piece of artwork which I absolutely LOVE (it’s hanging in my living room as we speak).
Tip #6 – Allot 2-3 Hours
How long does it take to traverse Chichen Itza, you ask? Whether you travel independently or with a tour, I recommend you allot 2-3 hours.
Sure, you can spend more or less time here, but I think this is a perfect window to not get burnt out of your surroundings, yet still get a good feel for the place.
Tip #7 – Bring Cash With You
While there is certainly an ATM in Chichen Itza, I found that the lines were too much to handle and that the ATM could be easily skipped by getting cash out elsewhere.
I have a thing where, whether I’m at home in Canada or abroad, I try to only take money out of ATMs in banks, and that’s definitely what I recommend in Mexico.
Find a bank in a nearby city, hit up the ATM, and you’ll be set for the day.
Read More: Is Coba, Mexico Safe?
Tip #8 – Pack Water and Snacks
Though water and snacks will be available at the pavilion when you first enter the grounds, I highly recommend you bring your own supply for the day.
Not only is it a pain in the butt to have to head back to the doors every time you want to eat or drink something, but fare here also tends to be highly overpriced.
Tip #9 – Consider the Light Show
On select nights after the sun goes down, the great pyramid of El Castillo gets lit up with a spectacular light and sound show.
This show includes a 3D mapping that tells the story of the ancient Mayas; giving a glimpse into the lives of the earliest inhabitants. Check the Chichen Itza website for exact days and times.
Tip #10 – Avoid Sundays and Holidays
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds at Chichen Itza, then definitely avoid Sundays or Mexican holidays. Sundays in Mexico mean that local citizens get free access to many of the major sites, Chichen Itza included.
While this is awesome for the locals, it’s definitely not a tranquil experience. Try and plan your visit for any other day of the week.
Tip #11 – Don’t Expect to Swim
Though it’s believed that the site of Chichen Itza was originally chosen due to its proximity to Xtoloc Cenote, an underground freshwater source/limestone sinkhole, there are actually no swimmable cenotes within the Chichen Itza grounds themselves.
The other notable cenote at the site being Cenote Sagrado (sacred cenote) in which sacrificial human remains were found.
If you’re yearning for a dip after visiting Chichen Itza, then I recommend going to Cenote Ik Kil (one of the most famous in the Yucatan, and only 5.7km away), Cenote Yokdzonot (18km away), or Cenote Lol-Ha (25km away).
🔥 This Chichen Itza day tour from Cancun or Playa del Carmen includes a stop at Ik Kil Cenote!
Tip #12 – Prepare to Walk
The core excavated area of Chichen Itza covers approximately 1.9 square miles (5km), and is, for the most part, pretty spaced out. For this reason, you’ll find yourself racking up your daily dose of steps in no time.
Although it is one of the more wheelchair-accessible ruins in the Yucatan (it’s fairly flat and has maintained trails), be prepared for a full day out in the sun.
Chichen Itza FAQ
What should I bring to Chichen Itza?
To beat the heat, you should bring a sunhat, sunscreen, and a large water bottle to Chichen Itza. A sun umbrella is also a good idea. Additionally, make sure you have enough cash on you for the day, and bring a nice camera to document your adventures.
If you plan on going to a cenote after Chichen Itza, then definitely bring a bathing suit and quick-dry towel as well.
What is there to see at Chichen Itza?
Some of the most famous sites are Casa Colorada, Temple of the Bearded Man, La Iglesia, Tomb of the High Priest, Sacred Cenote, Temple of the Skulls, Main Ball Court, El Caracol, Temple of the Warriors, and Temple of Kukulkan.
Is it worth going to Chichen Itza?
One of many ancient ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula, it is absolutely worth going to Chichen Itza. One of the seven new wonders of the world, this site is excellent to learn about ancient cultures and traditions.
What’s the best time to go to Chichen Itza?
The best time to go to Chichen Itza is during the winter months, and either early in the morning or late in the evening.
Is Chichen Itza crowded?
While you’ll never be shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone, Chichen Itza does get relatively crowded from late morning to early evening. For this reason, I recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the evening.
Can you climb Chichen Itza?
Due to the sensitive nature of the ruins, El Castillo and the other structures at Chichen Itza can not be climbed.
That’s it for my top 12 tips for visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico!
I hope this gave you a ton of inspiration and knowledge for your trip — don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts.
Have fun in Mexico!