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If you have ever spent much time reading up on Chichen Itza, you will realize how intriguing and thought-provoking this place is.  Located in the deep jungles of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, a day trip to Chichen Itza is out of this world.  Spending a day in here will take you back in time to the world of the ancient Mayans.  It’s a world of incredible genius, astronomy, worship, and human sacrifice.  This spectacular wonder of the ancient world should not be missed.

There are plenty of ruins to be explored in this area of the world.  They are all notable and unique.  But, most famous of all is Chichen Itza.  And, for good reason.  This complex is filled with temples, ceremonial grounds, and the famous pyramid, Kukulean.  They are not far from Cancun and the Riviera Maya, making this a great way to break up days spent at the beach.

Getting There

Many tour companies will pick you up from your Cancun area hotel in the early.  Buses are generally nice and air conditioned to help provide comfort against the tropical heat.  But, it can get a little cold.

 The drive is long and the jungle goes as far as the eye can see, so don’t plan on it being a scenic drive.  They will tell you about the culture and history as you make your way into the heart of Yucatan.

Sacred Cenotes 

There’s a handful of beautiful, sacred cenotes in the area.  These are large sinkholes in the ground which generally hold water.  They are also known for being conduits to the spirits of the ancient world.  

Il-Kil is a large, predominate cenote near Chichen Itza.  Peering over the edge, through the vines, and down into the sink hole is just the coolest thing!

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Of course, if you were listening on the bus ride, you’ll know that this was the site of incredible amounts of human sacrifice.  Personally, I imagined that at the bottom of this very deep pool, there must be layer upon layer of human bones and skulls. 

Don’t let that stop you from jumping in and having the bucket list experience of swimming in a Mexican cenote!  The water is very cold and dark, and there’s a lot of little freshwater fish, but the feeling is surreal and the views from the bottom looking up and out are so cool!

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Local Villages

Generally, tours stop at a village after the cenote for lunch and a traditional Mayan performance.  The cost of this stop may or may not be included in your tour, so be sure to check this and bring some extra pesos if it is not included.  Either way, make sure to eat something and drink a lot of water here, as well as use their bathrooms.  The time at Chichen Itza ends up being very hot and it is a very long day from start to finish.  It is also a good idea to bring some spare change here as tips are expected as part of the meal and performance.

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Chichen Itza 

Thousands of years ago, this was a major metropolis and the center of Mayan culture.  The grounds and structures are incredibly spectacular! Its Mexico’s most visited ancient site and also one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The pyramid, El Castillo de Kukulcan, is one of the most impressive works we’ve seen in our travels.

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 The pyramid’s design served as a calendar for the ancient people.  Miraculously, if you visit on either the spring or fall equinox, the afternoon shadows actually creating a moving serpent that slithers down the pyramid’s steps!  It is astounding that these ancient people were able to figure out this way to honor their legendary priest-king.

The rest of the compound is large and other structures are equally impressive.  Visitors will get to see the Great Ball Court where participants are said to have played to the death.  There many other temples, structures and sculptures that surround the grounds.  These spots serve as a reminder of the traditions, technology and treachery that these ancient Mayan residents lived by.

What To Bring

This is a full day trip, lasting around 12 hours.  There are a variety of activities throughout the course of the day.  You will want to consider bringing the following items:

  • Small bills and change to use for tips, assorted purchases, and locker rentals
  • Towels, swimsuits, and a change of clothes
  • Water, water, and more water!
  • Snacks for the ride
  • Sunscreen
  • A warm top for the bus ride back – after a day in the sun, the A/C gets pretty cold!

What To Leave Behind

Don’t bring a tripod – they will not let you take it onto the grounds.  There’s plenty of people who are happy to take pictures for you though.

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27 Comments

    1. I’m sure you’ve seen the ruins somewhere before – they’re so popular and idyllic! The water has fish, but as far as any other animals go I can’t imagine there would be many. They’d either have to fall in from the top edge would result in an 85 foot fall, or work their way down the enclosed staircase.

  1. Loved reading this, now looking forward to seeing Chichen Itza! the ceynote looks unreal, I really hope we get to stop there. Brilliant tips, already made a note of your tips for the bus!

  2. Chichen Itza looks so so so awesome! Would’ve loved to visit when I was in Cancun last year but sadly I didn’t have enough time. I guess that just means I’ll have to go back to Mexico soon! 😀 #FeetDoTravel

    1. I would really like to visit Tulum sometime soon – I love the way the ruins jut out toward the beach!

  3. I did this tour years ago . I swam in the center and clibed partway up Chitchin itza. I had heard that too many people were being injured so you couldn’t climb it anymore. Werd you able to climb it?

  4. Chichen-Itza is a place I’ve never visited but the tour sounds fun. The cenotes look beautiful although after your comment about the sacrifices, it puts me off swimming a bit! And I love the idea of visiting on an equinox – must be a fascinating sight, but no doubt a little busy to visit at that time! 😉

    1. I can’t figure out how this ancient civilization figured out how to engineer everything for the equinox! It is incredible to think about this accomplishment!

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