It seems like almost everyone has heard of Chichen Itza at some point or another, and for good reason. It is one of the most well known tourist attractions in the Yucatan, one of the 7 modern wonders of the world, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Like most popular tourists attractions, there are a lot of, well, tourists. Large crowds, long lines, and lots of strangers in your vacation pictures are just a few of the side effects of visiting a popular attraction which sometimes can lead to a negative experience. Imagine if you could get a personal guide and an almost empty site to explore without hundreds of people and tour buses hanging out in the backgrounds of your photos all for way cheaper than booking an excursion through a tour company? Luckily, your visit to Chichen Itza can be exactly that.
When we were initially planning our road trip through the Yucatan, we knew Chichen Itza was on our list of activities we definitely wanted to experience. I knew we would have a car since we were road tripping through the Yucatan, but I didn’t want to have to make a trip all the way from Merida or Tulum. We decided to spend a couple of days in Valladolid which is only about 45 minutes from Chichen Itza. I’ll be making a separate post about Valladolid soon so stay tuned.
From Valladolid, you can either take the toll road to Chichen Itza (180D) or you can bypass it and take 180. We did it both ways and personally, I didn’t think the toll road was worth the fee. It was about $10 USD and it is pesos only. The road was very empty and it was a fast ride. Once you pay the toll there and the toll back, it can get quite pricey. On our way home we took 180 and it took about the same amount of time and you got to drive through a couple of small towns. The scenery was better and it was free.
Once you get to Chichen Itza, you have a couple of different options for parking. The first option is to park your car alongside the road before you enter the park and walk up the drive. It is a little bit of a walk, but it is free. We took option number two, which was to drive into the park and pay about $2 USD to park inside the gates. Since we were in a rental car, I didn’t want to risk it getting damaged parked on the side of the road, but it is probably perfectly safe if you choose to go this route. If you plan to pay to park your car, make sure to have some pesos handy.
When to Go
If you want to beat the crowds, you are gonna need to set your alarm clock pretty early. Most tour buses start rolling in around 9-10 in the morning, so you’ll want to get there before they do. I was a little worried about how bad the crowds would be because it was January, one of the busiest times of the year. We decided to visit on a Monday because the weather was supposed to be really nice and we wouldn’t have all the extra weekend visitors. We left Valladolid around 7 in the morning and got to Chichen Itza right as it was opening at 8. There were a few people already there, but for the most part, we had the whole place to ourselves.
Not only did we have the ruins to ourselves, but since we were there before the tour buses, the shop keeper were still setting up their shops. We weren’t interested in shopping or buying trinkets, so it was nice not having someone yelling at us every 5 ft trying to get us to buy jaguar calls or Mayan masks. Another one of my splurges was I wanted to hire a personal guide. Since it was so early, we didn’t have any problems picking one up at the entrance and it was really nice that our “tour” was just the two of us. Another added bonus is you only spend a couple of hours visiting, so by the time you leave, you still have your entire day to go visit cenotes in the area.
Hire a Guide
If you do a lot of research on this topic, you’ll get a lot of conflicting advice. It is totally a personal preference, but I would highly recommend getting a personal guide. When we first walked past the ticket booths into the actual archaeological site, I was very surprised at how small the site was. When you hear about Chichen Itza being one of the 7 modern wonders of the world, you imagine a massive site with lots of pyramids and excavated areas. We visited Tikal in 2016, and it is HUGE. He couldn’t have seen everything even if we had a whole week. I was expecting the same for Chichen Itza, but the site really only consists of one pyramid, a ball court, the observatory, a temple, and a few other small things. If you go wandering around on your own, you will be done in 30 minutes and will miss out on interesting facts about the site.
Our guide was fantastic. He was an older Mayan man and was very knowledgeable about the ruins and Mayan history, plus he spoke English was was a must for us. He was able to show us all of the inscriptions and what they meant and why they were significant. Even if I had noticed the serpent heads or the skull pictures, I wouldn’t have understood why they were there or what they meant. He also pointed out areas that were still being excavated and was able to explain why they did a full restoration on half of the pyramid, but only a partial restoration on the other half. Since we have visited several Mayan sites over the years, he was able to help us link them together through history and why each one was significant. It was 700 pesos per person, but I think it was completely worth it. Don’t make a trip all the way to Chichen Itza just for a selfie. Splurge a little and you can learn so much more about the site.
So how much did it cost to visit Chichen Itza? I’ve broken it down below so you can see how much each part cost individually, including our tour guide splurge. All prices are shown in pesos.
Entrance Fee: $232
Personal Guide: $700 pp
When converting that to USD, it comes out to about $90 for the entire day for 2 people. If you were to book a tour with a group, they are about $100 USD per person, plus you are there with thousands of other people and have to share your tour guide with 20-40 other people. If you can, I would put in a little extra work just so you can have an overall better experience for a fraction of the price.
If you have any more questions or if you are planning your own trip to Chichen Itza, please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email. I’d be happy to help you out!