Chichen Itza was one of the largest cities of Maya people who are probably the first civilizations in Americas along with the one in Peru. Chichen Itza was huge and unique that reflects in the architecture style of the city. Most of the Maya’s heritage from 6th century is lost or destroyed (purportedly) over time and Chichen Itza in Yucatan state of Mexico is the finest Mayan ruins today from all the regions they lived from Mexico to Costa Rica. No wonder it is voted as New Wonder of the World and around 2 million people visit this ancient site from all over the world every year. If ancient civilizations are your cup of tea, this is a paradise.
So how was my experience?
What did I love in Chichen Itza?
I loved local people than anything else. They are super friendly, helpful and welcomed with smile. Honestly, I was not much amazed with the architecture since they are very scattered and very few are in good shape like El Castillo(meaning ‘The Castle’). One special attraction and definitely worth visiting are cenotes (meaning ‘Sink Holes’) which were primary water supply for Mayans around Chichen Itza, which were formed by collapsing rocks and thus creating a pool. They are unique and colorful formations with hanging rocks and roots. The most famous one is Il Kil with crystal clear waters.
Swimming is major fun activity in cenotes and all the required gear can be rented on site. There are also cenotes which allow scuba-diving for more thrilling experience.
Did Chichen Itza meet my expectations?
Not really, as a tourist. Sure there is so much Mayan civilization to learn and the talent of these people is astonishing. Especially, El Castillo is such an unique structure with 91 steps on each side leading to the top of the temple of Kukulkan (Maya’s snake deity), and when added together along with the top produces no of days(365) in Mayan’s calendar year. Also during equinoxes, noon Sun creates an illusion of snake crawling down which perfectly aligns with the snake head on the bottom of the pyramid. There is a Great Ballroom(Mayan’s sport complex) and several small structures all around the site. It is believed Mayans used advanced maths, physics and astrology earlier than many other civilizations. I only wished there is more to experience that.
How did local people treat?
This is the best part. I was doing my first solo trip and local people made me felt comfortable. I was in the tour bus with a guide who speak mostly Spanish and there is a woman with her family behind me, she helped me with all the hand signs and little English she know while I tried my Spanish from Google Translate. Ha Ha. That was funny. She even helped me with the buffet items to choose. There are people everywhere who smile and initiate conversations.
What are the food options around Chichen Itza?
I booked a tour from Cancun and they took us to a buffet for lunch half way thru the journey which major tour agencies do. Honestly, it was so bad that I filled myself with watermelons. Also there are very few popular restaurants around Chichen Itza, one among them is Hacienda Chichen which serve decent food. I would recommend bringing packed food from hotel while visiting Chichen Itza.
How to reach Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is about 200 KM from Cancun and 3 hours by bus. There are several rental car agencies in Mexico but tour buses are the cheapest, safest and most recommended. You wont have to deal with buying tickets to Chichen Itza, standing in line or look for a guide when a tour is booked.
Insurance is must when rental car is booked. Also make sure you have all travel and car documents for police check up thru out the journey.
Where did I stay?
Since Chichen Itza can always be covered in a day, I stayed in Hotel Zone, Cancun and booked a day trip to Chichen Itza. If looking for accommodation around Chichen Itza, Hacienda or Mayaland are renowned.
What and where to shop?
Shops in Chichen Itza are high-priced. To support more local people, shop at Valladolid, a small city on the way to Chichen Itza. This is also a common stopover if a tour is booked from Cancun. Feel free to stroll thru the colorful streets and spot an Instagram worthy colorful house. And when found a pretty shop, grab a vibrant handmade bowl, colorful pot or locally made decorative pot holders.
Is it worth all the money and time?
It can be for once. But I wouldn’t primarily visit Chichen Itza. When combined with Cancun, it can make a wonderful 3 day trip.
Any tips for first time visitors?
Mexico is a safe place, just keep an eye on surroundings. There are few things worth considering:
- Always check travel alerts on your country embassy website before planning to Mexico.
- Stay in tourist-y zones. There are states in Mexico where there can be riots at any time and should be avoided. With that being said, most visited places like Cancun, Chichen Itza, Mexico City, Belize, Guadalajara (This is now trending among cheap and best destinations) and several others are safe all times.
- It is always best to book a small sized tour to visit Chichen Itza.
- Avoid street food near archaeological sites. Many people reported sick after having food around Chichen Itza.
- Avoid driving or walking late nights in the remote places.
- Carry cash. It helps (Not full of pockets).
- Dress comfortably and prepare to walk. A lot.
- Always smile and make friends.
Will I do it again?
I would visit Mexico again definitely but may be not Chichen Itza. There is more to experience in this beautiful country. Tacos and tequila are calling!
Te Veo Pronto!!