If you can only do one tour during your stay in Cancun, this is the one. The grand-pappy of all must-sees! Any desk clerk at your hotel should be able to help you arrange a tour.
The temples and pyramids at Chichen-Itza, which means "Mouth of the well of the Itzaes", are the Yucatan's best known monuments.
This Mayan city was founded around 800 AD. The style of architecture later became heavily influenced by the Toltecs. Toltec influence is obvious in the many depictions of Kukulkan in the stone reliefs and the 75-foot pyramid named after him (the "Pyramid of Kukulcan" or "El Castillo").
Try and arrange something where you get to spend as much time in the park as possible. Most tours are only there for 2 hours, so if you do this, you'll have to really hustle to see everything. But if it's all you can manage, even a short tour is worth the spectacle!
Do not miss: Temple of the Warriors (hundreds of columns lined up with carvings of warriors along the walls); Observatory "El Caracol" (building with circular tower); Temple of the Skulls 'Tzompantli' (near the ballcourt - hundreds of carved skull reliefs); Sacred Cenote (where victims were drowned in sacrifice); El Castillo (don't worry, it's impossible to miss!).
See my Chichen Itza Travelogues for more photos of Chichen Itza.
If Chichen Itza is not on your itinerary for your Cancun travels, make sure you put it there. It is a day trip that lasts about 12 hours, and is worth every minute.
Advertised price was $65 USD per person. Wal Mart's price $44 USD per person. As for us, we got the tour for $30 USD for both of us (had to sit through the time share spiel, but was worth the 90 minute ordeal).
A van picked us up at our hotel at 7:30 AM and took us to the bus. We boarded a very comfortable tour bus, and were entertained by our host during the trip. We stopped at a souvenir shop about half way there that had bathrooms and a snack area. Arriving at Chichen Itza, we grouped up outside the entrance while our host obtained our tickets. $4 USD charge for the use of a video camera, but all other camera's were free. Outside the entrance there are several vendors with souvenirs of Chichen Itza. If you don't have a hat, you should get one before starting the tour, as the sun was intense. There are a couple of snack areas inside, where soda's and popsicles are a welcome treat.
Once inside, we were again grouped together by language and introduced to our guide. Our guide took us around to almost all of the ruins, stopping to explain fully the history and purpose of the buildings, along with "sound" demonstrations. The guided tour lasted over an hour and a half, after which time we were allowed to wander around on our own.
After reboarding the bus, we stopped for a buffet lunch at a wonderful little place. The food was excellent, and they entertained us with dancing. After lunch, we traveled to a cenote where (for an additional $6 USD) you could tour and swim in the underground cenote. We once again boarded the bus for the remaining trip home. The bus dropped us off at the front door of the hotel at around 7:15 PM.
Remember to take a hat, sun screen, good walking shoes, your camera, some spending money, and an ear for history. This was one of the most fun and educational days of our vacation to Cancun.
If you have to pick a one day trip during your Cancun vacation then Chichen Itza has to be it. David's dad who managed all of our tours made sure we went to this place. It is three hour journey, but worth every minute. It takes you to the most breathtaking ruins in the Mayan world. A most do is the climb up El Castillo which will give you the most magnificent views over the surrounding miles of lush jungle. David's dad and mom really liked this destination of all the places we went. Anyways, inside the Mayan pyramid is the famous Chac Mool sculpture and the Jaguar Throne. However, El Castillo isn't the only interesting feature to be found at Chichen Itza. The Mayan Ballpark, the Temple of the Warriors, the Cenote of Sacrifice and the Observatory provide other spectacular scenes from a world long forgotten. Chichen Itza just offers so much for you to do that you can't leave Cancun without going here. I promise you that you will really regret not visiting Chichen Itza if you get the oppurtunity. Me and David thought it would be a boring trip and didn't want to get up so early, but it was worth every second of it. Just the Mayan ruins up close and personal give you a real understanding and appreciation of the history. The only problem with Chichen Itza is that it is far inland and you will find the temperature considerably hotter than normal. I would recommend you take plenty of water and sturdy footwear. Pay attention to the warning signs. The climb inside of the pyramid to see the statue of Chac Mool and the Temple of the Jaguars is also extremely steep and very hot . Outside of the main Chichen Itza complex you will find a typical Mayan village a short walk away. Here you will find some very cheap restaurants and I would recommend you stop off for an authentic Yucatan meal. Beware the mass of street sellers. A simple No will be enough for them to leave you alone, but the handicrafts they sell are authentic and cost next to nothing. I bought a few while I was there.
Chichen Itza was one of the most important cities to the Mayans. On this tour you visit the El Castillo Pyramid & the Sacred Well & also the ball court which was the centre of ceremonial sports & also you visit the temple of the warriors.
I went to Chichen Itza in December 1999 when you were still allowed to climb to the top of pyramid, it was well worth going to the top & seeing the fabulous views.
The tour costs around 50 Sterling pounds & includes an English speaking guide & also lunch.
It was well worth going to see the pyramid but i must admit the tour guide did bore me abit as he did talk for too long.
I have heard that the pyramid of Chichen Itza has some connection with the pyramids of Giza in Cairo Egypt. If anyone knows more about this please let me know.
Chichen Itza is about a 2-1/2 to 3 hour bus trip from Cancun. More than a few people avoid the excursion, because it sucks up pretty much and entire day. But it is more than worth the drive! This place is incredible! You get a sense for how advanced the Mayan culture must have been as your guide tells you some of the interesting facts about the temples and how they align for certain celestial events.
Ask you hotel front desk about a day excursion. It's cheap. (I think ours was $40). Make sure to take a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water. Chichen Itza is in the middle of the jungle. And let me tell you, the temperature difference between here and the coast is VERY significant. Especially when you start hiking around. But be prepared, and you will be fine.
Dominating the center of Chichén is the Temple of Kukulkan (the Maya name for Quetzalcoatl), often referred to as "El Castillo" (the castle).
The pyramid was closed for "going up" during the time that we went and I think they should just close it all the time. It would be better so that they can preserve this structure for future generations. Beside, the steps are so steep and anybody can fall and have an injury. The pictures look best anyway when you are photographing the whole pyramid itself...
This step pyramid has a ground plan of square terraces with stairways up each of the four sides to the temple on top. On the Spring and Autumn equinox, at the rising and setting of the sun, the corner of the structure casts a shadow in the shape of a plumed serpent - Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl - along the side of the North staircase. On these two days, the shadows from the corner tiers slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun's movement.
Another Cancun Attraction you shouldnt miss! It is also a whole Day Trip. You will experience the Old Mayan World with centuries old Architecture. The pyramid climb (The Castle) is a must do even for the weak hearted like me! I had to get all my nerves just go climb that thing and it still took me about 30 minutes. Dan in the other hand probably took less than 5 minutes to go up and down. Take your time to go to each ruin and take lots of pictures. Listen to your tourguide if you have one since he will give you a lot of good information about this place.
Chichen Itza translates to: Mouth of the well of the Itza (Warrior). The Mayas built many palaces, temples, and monuments at this site. They were Warriors, but they also studied the stars and left a written record in carved glyphs. The Mayas originated in the Yucatan area around 2600 BC. Archaeologists do not know why the Mayas left their city. When visiting, check out the 75' pyramid of Kukulcan, the temple of the Warriors, the observatory and the Sacred well. It is HOT here! Don't forget to wear a hat, cool clothes, and drink plenty of water.
In the jungles of Yucatan lies one of the largest and best preserved archeological sites in Mexico, Chichen Itza. The ruins are a strange combination of Mayan and Toltec influences, spanning hundreds of years of intermittent inhabitation. Founded around the middle of the fifth century by the Mayans, Chichen Itza was taken over at some point by the Toltecs, probably around the year 900. It flourished until a point around the year 1200, at which time it was abandoned.
Chichen Itza is about 120 miles west of Cancún, a trip of about 2 1/2 hours. The site is large, so bring comfortable clothes and shoes. One of the highlights is El Castillo, the pyramid-like structure with its steep stone stairs (a troublesome climb for some, but definitely worth it for the view). Twice a year, during the equinox, a shadow on the north staircase of the pyramid takes the shape of a descending serpent--huge crowds gather to witness the event. Other highlights include the ball court (the largest ever discovered), the astronomical observatory, a deep, circular cenote (sacred well), the Temple of the Warriors, and the group of the thousand columns.
A ways away from the main temple complex is the Cenoate. Take the walk out there. I know it's hot and your tired, but do it for me...
The Cenoate is essentially a large sink hole filled with water. This Cenoate was where they dumped the bodies of the human sacrifices after the religious rites were performed.
But the real reason to walk out here is they have a little stand where you can buy ice cream. See, now I convince you...
This temple isn't as recognized as the main temple complex, but it is just as interesting. I believed it is named "Temple of a Thousand Pillars" or something similar. They guess that the pillars used to support some sort of roof and a market of some sort was underneath. Without the roof, it takes on a very surreal look.
On the very top, though it is hard to make out in the picture, they have the stand where human sacrifices used to take place.
Definitely spend some time exploring around this thing. Keep an eye out for the wild Iguanas. They can be up to 5 feet long, and look utterly prehistoric.
It´s a couple of hours by car from Cancun, but I think that it's impossible to skip its visit.
Chichen-Itza it's popular worldwide, and it would be silly not to visit it, being so close. So, have swim in the early morning (great!) visit Chichen-Itza, and have another late swim to receive the night (even better)
What can one say about the breathtaking Chichen Itza? Well, it's one of the new Seven Wonders of the World for a reason. It was once a city of over 40,000 people. The Castillo, the Ball Court, the Observatory...simply amazing. These huge Mayan ruins are not to be missed. Indeed, the descendants of those whose lived here over 1000 years ago still live in this area.
I will have a separate page about Chichen Itza shortly, with much more info and pictures. The journey from Cancun lasts two-and-a-half to three hours. Most people get there by tour bus, though you can drive there too. The tour I took took us through the Mexican city of Valladolid & to a place to buy our souvenirs before arriving at the ruins. Afterwards, we went to a ceynote and a delicious Mexican buffet before heading back to Cancun.
You can make reservations on line before heading to Cancun, or you can do what I did: arrange my trip through a travel agent at my hotel. My advice is to do so before you leave - you'll probably save some money.
Either way, you owe a Chichen Itza daytrip to yourself. It's a fascinating, indeed inspiring place. And it's a good way to break up a beach vacation.
Cancun is so close to the Mayan ruins at Chichen-Itza that we thought it was a "must visit"! This was the one tour that we actually paid for, getting the discount rate of US$33 each for a fully-guided day trip (8 AM to 6 PM). These ruins date from about 514 AD and were abandoned by about 1250. Photo of the 75 foot tall El Castillo (or the Pyramid of Kukulkan), the largest structure on the site. The names for the structures were given by the Spaniards when they arrived on the scene in the 1500s. This particular pyramid has 364 steps (91 on each side) plus the top platform to equate to the 365 days of the year. Only the side shown and the left side actually have completed steps - the other two sides were never completely finished. The 45 degree angle of the steps is a bit daunting when you are on the top looking down - the steps are narrow and there are no hand-holds at all. You trip and you are toast!
Another of the many buildings - this one called the Observatory (or Caracol). The Mayans were very mathmatically inclined and had calculated the sun-cycles even more accurately than our present calendar (they did not need a Leap Year every 4 years to correct for errors!). Their belief was that the world began on Aug. 13, 3114 BC and their birthdays, etc. are counted as the number of days elapsed since that date. We also visited the Tulum ruins during our trip, and I would rate them behind Chichen-Itza in terms of overall enjoyment.