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Everything You Need to Know for a Perfect Day Trip to Chichén Itzá

Last Updated on May 5, 2022

Are you ready to experience one of the seven wonders of the world?!

Taking a day trip to Chichén Itzá is an absolute MUST if you’re visiting the Yucatán Peninsula!

During our last visit to the Yucatán Peninsula, we went on a tour of Chichén Itzá with Cancun Passion tours. This trip was our first time staying at an all-inclusive resort, the Moon Palace Cancún, and booking excursions and tours instead of booking an entire trip with a tour company. For us, booking a Chichén Itzá tour was the best option for us because everything for the day was included! You can see the details of our day trip Chichén Itzá tour here.

In addition to our review of Cancún Passion’s Chichén Itzá Tour, we discuss the good and bad of souvenir shopping at Chichén Itzá and provide you a self-guided tour of Chichén Itzá! If you aren’t interested in Cancun Passion, you can find many other tours of historic Mexico here!

If you aren’t interested in booking a formal tour with an agency, you can easily access Chichén Itzá via public transit or by driving. Getting to Chichén Itzá from Cancun is quite easy if you’re traveling by car or bus. It is only a two-hour drive from Cancun to Chichén Itzá. If you’re visiting Chichén Itzá without a tour group, you can hire locals guides at the site, or hire your own from an independent tour guide agency.

A Perfect Day Trip to Chichén Itzá

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Review of Cancún Passion Day Trip Tour to Chichén Itzá

For our visit to Chichén Itzá, we toured with Cancun Passion. One of the greatest parts of our tour with Cancún Passion was the tour guides! Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, engaging, and went above and beyond to make your tour special and exciting! Since our Chichén Itzá tour was all-inclusive, a coach bus and lunch were provided. The bus was air-conditioned and incredibly comfortable, which was perfect since it was hot the day we visited Chichén Itzá.

For our day trip to Chichén Itzá, we were picked up at our hotel in the morning. We first drove to a cenote where we got to swim! We then went to lunch where we could also do some souvenir shopping. After lunch, we went on our Chichén Itzá tour with a guide! The nice thing about our Chichén Itzá day trip was that our day trip allowed for about an hour and a half of free time to explore the grounds without a guide.

Planning a whole trip to the Yucatan and Riveria Maya? Check out this 10 day Mexico itinerary!

Sample Day Trip to Chichén Itzá from Cancun Itinerary

  • 8 AM Depart Cancun
  • 10 AM Visit Cenote Samaal
  • 12 PM Lunch and shopping
  • 1:30 PM Guided Tour of Chichén Itzá
  • 3 PM Free time to explore Chichén Itzá before closing

What Time of Day Should I Visit Chichén Itzá?

If you want to avoid crowds or the heat, consider visiting Chichén Itzá closer to closing time, such as after 3 PM. Some tour groups do their tours in the early morning, so in the morning you get tour groups. With Cancún Passion, we arrived around 2:30 PM and the heat wasn’t unbearable, and the crowds were starting to clear. During this time of the day, the light isn’t as harsh either, making for beautiful photos!

Have Lunch and Shop at Pueblo Maya

Lunch was included at an authentic Yucatán restaurant and had the chance to do some shopping. At Pueblo Maya. Pueblo Maya served traditional Yucatán dishes such as The restaurant also features a beautiful botanic garden and shop, where you can support local artisans and purchase authentic handicrafts. It was great to be able to buy quality souvenirs at a shop where you knew you were purchasing authentic items. Much of the shopping at Chichén Itzá itself is overrun by vendors selling things that may or may not be authentic.

What Souvenirs to Buy at Chichén Itzá

If you’re planning to do some shopping, consider buying things that have significance in Mexican culture. Anytime we travel, we prefer to buy things that have meaning to the local culture, instead of some tacky souvenir. We like to have our souvenirs have meaning! We did most of our shopping while at Pueblo Maya! Mexico is known for:

Obsidian

Obsidian is a beautiful black stone formed from volcanic rock that changes color in the sun. Obsidian was available to ancient Mayan households regardless of socio-economic status and was used in hunting, agriculture, food preparation, and for many other daily activities.

Silver

Mexico is known for its high-quality silver jewelry! A number stamped on the instead of your jewelry is an indicator of its purity. The higher the number the better!

Mayan Calendar

The Mayan calendar is one of the most common souvenirs you’ll see. The calendar is not only beautiful, but it is an important symbol of Mayan culture and history. Pueblo Maya offered a special custom Mayan calendar where you could select a special date in your life, and they would print your Mayan calendar for you!

Pottery

Another beautiful souvenir from Mexico is the pottery! Different pottery styles come from different areas of the country, so there are many styles to choose from!

Hammocks

Handmade hammocks are a popular craft piece from the Yucatan if you’re looking for something for your home!

Custom Necklace

In addition to a custom calendar at Pueblo Maya, you could get custom necklace charms with your initials or name in Mayan hieroglyphics!

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Your Self-Guided Tour of Chichén Itzá

The Perfect Day Trip to Chichén Itzá

Chichén Itzá at its peak likely was 30km large and was home to 30,000  Mayans. The name Chichen Itza, means three words in the Mayan language where “Chi” means mouth, “Ch’en” means well, and “Itza” “means mouth of the well.

In this self-guided tour, we are highlighting the top things to see at Chichén Itzá . There is much, much more than what we’re including here! You can see a full list of the archeological sites on Chichén Itzá’s webpage.

El Castillo

Did you know Chichén Itzá is the whole archeological site and the El Castillo is the Mayan pyramid pictured here? The Castillo is a Mesoamerican step-pyramid and fine example of how the Mayans were amazing astronomers. The pyramid itself is a calendar! The pyramid has 91 steps on each site, with a final step at the top making a total of 365, the number of days in a solar year. Ninety-one is also how many days that separate each of the four phases of the annual solar cycle: winter solstice, spring equinox, summer solstice, and fall equinox. During the fall and spring equinox, the sun casts a beautiful triangle shadow pattern down the pyramid that looks like a snake! This snake represents the Mayan deity Kukulkan.

If you clap your hands in front of the pyramid at Chichén Itzá, you’ll hear a sound that kinda sounds like a bird. The echoes themselves are to represent the quetzal bird, a spiritually important animal to the 12th century Mayans. But ever wonder why you hear this echo? Well, it’s all because the Mayans were pretty great scientists. Physicists today have studied why this phenomenon happens in front of the pyramid. It seems that the steps of the pyramid form a “Bragg diffraction grating.” Diffraction occurs when a light or sound wave hits an object and changes upon interactions with the object. It’s been suggested that the steps on the pyramid diffract the acoustic waves from your clap, changing their tone and frequency, into the echo you hear!

During the Mayan event in 2012, the constellation Orion rose over the pyramid. It’s amazing the Mayans were able to predict this event thousands of years ago and we could see it during our lifetime!

Temple of the Jaguars

The Temple of the Jaguars at the Great Ball Court in Chichén Itzáa is another beautiful representation of Mayan culture. The jaguar was the Mayan god of the underworld and symbolizes power. At the base of this Temple, you can see an example of the jaguar thrones that are in many of the temples at Chichén Itzá.

The Great Ball Court

The Great Ball Court is where the ceremonial ball game, Pok-ta-pok. The Mayans believed in the existence of a place of darkness called Xibalba, an underworld located deep below the ground and sea ( cenotes where the spirits go in the afterlife) The myth tells the story of brothers Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué, who represented the luminous side of the cosmos, going to the underworld to fight against death and darkness. They were sacrificed and transformed into the sun and the moon. The ball game became an ancestral tradition, representing the fight between light and darkness.

The snake is a recurring symbol in Mayan culture. According to Mayan mythology, snakes were the vehicles by which the sun and stars would cross into the heavens. The shedding of skin was also a symbol of rebirth and renewal.

Like how we mentioned earlier, there are a few spots in the Great Ball Court where the acoustics are remarkable! Since the game was played at night, the court was designed so spectators could hear the ball!

Temple of the Warriors

The Temple is a stepped pyramid surrounded by hundreds of columns. “The Thousand Columns” were beautifully designed to represent Toltec and Maya men and priests, making these structures and important military and religious site.

Sacred Cenote

The Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá is the most famous cenote in Yucatán. For the Mayans, it was dedicated to the Maya god of rain, Chaac. The cenote was used exclusively sacrificial and ceremonial purposes and we know this because jewelry, riches, and plaques and above all more than 120 human skeletons have been found by underwater archaeologists.

Observatory

The Mayans were knowledgeable astronomers so it’s no wonder they had an Observatory to study the skies! This circular building looks much different from the other structures at Chichén Itzá. The Observatory is located a short walk away from the popular archeological area. This area of the site is definitely worth visiting because some of the other structures, including the market and baths, so what life was like for the inhabitants of Chichén Itzá.

Day Trip to Chichén Itzá: Swim in a Nearby Cenote

Cenotes, or sinkholes, are formed from the collapse of porous limestone bedrock, which exposes the groundwater. Most cave cenotes have fresh water, filtered by the earth, making them incredibly clear and almost magical. To the Mayans, cenotes were a symbol of the underworld.  Many of the cenotes served as water sources, but some served a religious purpose.

Our tour included visiting a Cenote! From reading other reviews, it seems that Cancún Passion will rotate which Cenote you visit. We visited Cenote Samaal located not far from Valladolid! If you have the opportunity to swim in a cenote, do it!

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Ik Kil is another cenote, located closer to Chichén Itzá. Ik Kil is more popular and will likely be busier than exploring another cenote.

Why You Should Tour Chichén Itzá

Whether you’re a first time visitor to Chichén Itzá or a regular visitor, this wonder of the world will amaze you! Chichén Itzá is nothing like anything else in the world, so if you’re always searching for something unique and exciting visit it! We hope that this guide to a day trip to Chichén Itzá will help make your visit memorable!

Planning a whole trip to the Yucatan and Riveria Maya? Check out this 10 day Mexico itinerary!

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Pam & Kathrine

Hello! We are sisters from southwestern Pennsylvania sharing with you the best of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and beyond!

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