Chichen Itza is a unique tourist destination for its architectural, artistic, scientific, and historical importance. It’s one of the most relevant Mexican archaeological sites and the second most visited site in Mexico after the pyramids of Teotihuacan. Here’s a complete guide to visit Chichen Itza and make the best out of your visit.
Where is Chichen Itza?
The Mayan city is located in the town of Tinum in the center of the state of Yucatan. The capital of Yucatan, Merida, is 76 miles northwest of the archaeological site. The distances between Chichen Itza and other cities are: Valladolid (26 miles), Tizimín (60 miles), Kanasín (74 miles) and Progreso (100 miles). Other cities in border states near Chichen Itza are Playa del Carmen and Cancun (Quintana Roo, 115 miles, and 126 miles accordingly) and San Francisco de Campeche (Campeche, 184 miles).
Driving from Cancun to Chichen Itza
The journey from Cancun to Chichen Itza is 126 miles westbound on the Cancun – Kantunil Federal Highway (Mexico 180D), which can be done by car in 2 and a half hours.
Driving from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza
The distance between the main city of the Riviera Maya and the archaeological site is 115 miles. The westbound drive on Mexico Federal Highway 180D takes just over 2 hours. Another option to go from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza is to take an ADO bus which takes about 3 hours.
Things to do in Chichen Itza
The main activity in Chichen Itza is to tour the archaeological city with monuments and ensembles of great architectural, scientific and religious value, such as the Pyramid of Kukulkan, the Sacred Cenote, and the Wall of the Skulls. Other important attractions to know are El Caracol, the court for the ball game, the temple of the Warriors, the Group of 1000 Columns, the House of the Nuns, the Temple of the Bearded Man, the Red House, the House of the Deer, the Tomb of the Great Priest and the Temple of the Boards.
Located 26 miles from the archaeological site, you will find Valladolid, a Yucatecan colonial city, and Mexican Magical Town with streets edged by impressive mansions. Its main tourist attractions are the Church of San Gervasio, the former convent of San Bernardino de Siena, the Municipal Palace, the Casa de Los Venados and the Calzada de Los Frailes. Less than 2 miles from the Mayan site is the beautiful cenote Ik Kil. Other beautiful cenotes near Chichen Itza are Zací and X’Kekén.
Equinoxes in Chichen Itza
The Temple of Kukulkan offers symbolism that amazes during the solstices and equinoxes. It is unclear how the Mayans achieved these feats when there was no scientific, mathematics, and astronomy modern knowledge.
On the staircase of the Temple of Kukulkan, the silhouette of the feathered serpent is formed, in a dazzling and precise effect of natural lights and shadows, as time progresses during the sunset of the equinox in the northern hemisphere. On these equinoctial days of spring and autumn (March 20 or 21 and September 22 or 23), crowds gather in Chichen Itza to watch the incarnation of the god Kukulkan descend.
How long is the visit to Chichen Itza?
Visiting the entire Chichen Itza public access area requires several days. However, it’s possible to take a one-day sightseeing tour that takes you through the main buildings. Visitors who go on day tours from Merida, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun, spend between 4 and 6 hours in the archaeological city and are satisfied with their experience.
Schedule and Official Information
Chichen Itza’s daily schedule is from 8 am to 5 pm. Access is until 4 pm . The official website of Chichen Itza is that of INAH. It provides information on the site’s history, its architectural ensembles, constructions, the main declarations about the archaeological city and its monuments, its location, schedules, entrance prices, and services provided. The evening light and sound show is currently suspended. Total cost to enter the site is 539 pesos (US $25.75) per adult.
History of Chichen Itza
The first buildings of Chichen Itza date from the middle of the fifth century, so the archaeological city is more than 1500 years old. By the 980s, it was the main political, economic and religious center of that region of Yucatan. The so-called “protection polygon” of Chichen Itza has an area of about 9 square miles, although the area that visitors travel is about 292 thousand square miles.
The climate in Chichen Itza is warm with an average annual temperature of 80 °F and peaks above 94 °F. You should dress for tropical weather and comfortable shoes to walk several kilometers. Also, keep in mind that it rains in the summer.
Chichen Itza offers many incredible attractions in the charming state of Yucatan and is an excellent choice for a day trip if you’re in Cancun or the Mayan Riviera.
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