Mexico: A day trip to Chichen Itza

The archeological site Chichen Itza is one of the new seven wonders of the world and is maybe the biggest tourist attraction in Mexico, with an average of 1,4 million visitors a year. Located in the Yucatan region, the site is easily reached from popular beach destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. We went on a day trip to Chichen Itza from Tulum, and the tour also included a visit to the cenote Ik Kil. The cenotes are also connected to the Maya culture, as the cenotes were the entrance to the “under world”.

Chichen Itza
The old Maya city was built around 6-700 A.D., but is well preserved and is today on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It was one of the oldest Maya cities, and it was actually built after other famous Maya cities like Tikal in Guatemala and Copan in Honduras (which I also have visited on this trip). The site has several temples and monuments, all decorated with impressing carvings. Quite a sight – but the stories behind it all makes it even more interesting, as most of the monuments are connected to some kind of religious ritual.

El Castillo is the most famous building in Chichen Itza (I have to admit that I did not think the site included much more than this one before I went). It is also called the Temple of Kukulkan (Kukulkan was one of their more than 200 Gods – the God of wind, sky and the sun). There is actually another temple underneath the steep pyramid we see as well. For the Maya people, El Castillo was a very sacred temple. When they were doing their sacrifices, the one getting sacrificed would be killed in a brutal way on the top of the pyramid; by taking a knife under the lowest rib bone and then taking the beating heart out.

Another interesting site in Chichen Itza is the ball court. The court is the biggest in the Maya world and was used to play a sacred ball game between two teams. The rules said that they were not allowed to touch the ball with their hands, feet or head – and the ball was very heavy, about 3-4 kilos. And no, they were not playing for fun – the purpose is very interesting and quite horrifying. Actually, the captain of the winning (!) team had to be sacrificed after the game. This is because the Gods only deserved “the best blood” – how crazy is not that?

There are numerous of other ruins on the site. For example, the horrifying skull platform, which basically is a platform filled with skulls. Other things to see on the site are Temple of Warriors, Temple of the Jaguars, Thousand Columns Market and The Venus Platform. In other words; Chichen Itza is so much more than only El Castillo!

Ik Kil Cenote
Yucatan, and especially the area around Tulum, is famous for its many cenotes. A cenote is a sinkhole filled with water and can either be above or under the ground. You can swim in them and the water is cold and refreshing. The cenotes are also popular spots for scuba diving, as there are fishes living in them.

We visited the cenote Ik Kil as a part if our trip to Chichen Itza (as mentioned, the Maya culture considered cenotes as the entrance to the “under world”). It is a stunning place, but the big crowds of tourists were a major drawback for me. Anyway, it is quite a sight, and the cenote is more than 50 meters deep!

Some additional tips for visiting Chichen Itza:
♥ Going on a tour may be expensive (we paid 1045 pesos including lunch), but I doubt arranging it yourself will be much cheaper as the regular bus to the site is quite expensive, so is the entrance fee.
♥ No matter if you go on a tour or alone, having a guide is essential (it is included in most tours). The site is huge and there are many interesting details you would miss if going without a guide
♥ Chichen Itza is located in a very hot place without a lot of shadow spots (and there was no breeze when we visited) – bring a hat, or maybe even an umbrella to protect yourself against the sun.
♥ Water and drinks are expensive on the site so bring a few bottles.

In cooperation with momondo

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6 thoughts on “Mexico: A day trip to Chichen Itza

  1. That looks like a fabulous trip! Did you feel that a day trip was sufficient time to explore and see it all?

    The cenote looks amazing, but as you say the amount of tourists must be a drawback. Since there are multiple cenotes, do you know if is possible to visit a less popular one?

    • It was a great day! A day is enough to see Chichen Itza – we had a guided tour first (lasting for about 1,5 hour) and then we had 2 hours to explore it by ourselves.

      There are many cenotes that can be visited, you can even scuba dive in some of them! If I’ve had more time in Tulum I would spend a day exploring several cenotes.

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