Bucket List Trip: Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil

Bucket List Trip Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil

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As one of the most famous Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza really does deserve to be one of the modern seven wonders of the world. Is Chichen Itza worth visiting? Definitely. 

The site is large and the ruins are a fascinating example of Mayan architecture.  After seeing all the impressive buildings in the sunshine, you can combine your trip with a visit to a gorgeous cenote nearby, for a dip in the water to cool off.  A fantastic day trip; it will be a day you remember forever.

How to get there?

Bus

ADO has buses that go to Piste, which is the nearest large town to Chichen Itza.  We were staying at a hotel before Chichen Itza and were advised that the second-hand buses e.g. Oriente, Mayab will often stop if you let them know where you need to get out.  The second-hand buses are cheaper, although they will also be air-conditioned and safe.  Due to the popularity of Chichen Itza, there are buses that head to Piste from all the major towns nearby.

Colectivo

Basically a mini-van that has a set destination, it waits until it’s full and heads off once full.  We were able to jump in a nearly full bus in Valladolid and get our enormous bags in the back.  The journey took about an hour and like the second class buses, the colectivos dropped us straight to the door of our hotel which was extremely helpful

Drive

If you hire a car, Chichen Itza is only a short 45-minute drive from Valladolid, an hour and a half from Merida, 2 hours from Tulum and Playa del Carmen or 2 and a half hours from Cancun.

Taxis

Many taxi drivers are willing to make the drive to Chichen Itza.  When we were leaving to go to Tulum we were offered a taxi from Chichen Itza to Tulum for USD $100 (originally USD $150 was offered).

We got a taxi from our hotel to Chichen Itza – the five-minute drive cost $80 pesos one way.

Tours

Being a major tourist attraction, tours to Chichen Itza are offered from lots of different destinations throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.  If you don’t want to deal with buses or colectivos, then this might be the best option for you as you will often have a guide to take you around the ruins.

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Restaurants

We only ate at the hotel we stayed at as breakfast was included in the rate, so we don’t have any restaurant recommendations for the area.  We also had dinner here and although the food was perfectly ok it wasn’t incredible and due to it’s proximity to a major tourist attraction felt quite overpriced.

There are food options at Chichen Itza but we didn’t see any prices. But be aware that if you try and buy a beer at Chichen Itza that you’ll be charged $90 pesos for one!

Activities 

Chichen Itza
Bucket List Trip Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil

Day ticket price $481 pesos

Night ticket price $510 pesos

As one of the seven modern wonders of the world, it is likely that if you’re reading this article, that Chichen Itza is already on your radar.  The site is large and if you decide to only visit one set of Mayan ruins during your trip, it is worth making the visit to Chichen Itza. We felt incredibly safe making the journey by ourselves and found everyone very helpful. Just so you are aware, the ruins at Chichen Itza can not be climbed.

We stayed at a hotel nearby and got the free shuttle to the ruins at 8.30 am.  By the time we arrived, there was a queue out the door, so if you can get there earlier, you’re more likely to have the place to yourself.  We actually saw a sunrise tour advertised at our hotel, so that could be a great option if you want a tour without the crowds.  We were in by 9 am and it was still quite quiet, but by the time we left and more tourist buses had arrived, the ruins were more crowded.

We would advise that for your visit to Chichen Itza you wear comfortable shoes and take some mosquito repellent. It had recently rained when we had visited and we were glad we had trainers on to navigate the puddles.

I would definitely recommend hiring a guide when you get there if you are travelling solo and not visiting as part of a tour.  Yes, it costs money but you’re travelled all that way and are paying lots of money to get in, so pay for the guide.  You’ll appreciate what you’re looking at so much more with someone explaining the sights.  

The Maya were incredibly fascinating culture and listening to someone passionate about the culture and architecture is worth the money.  You could download a book beforehand to save yourself $15 dollars, but if you’re not planning on coming back anytime soon, why not do it properly?

Chichen Itza El Castillo Temple - Bucket List Trip Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil
Chichen Itza El Castillo Temple

We were approached by a guide who told us that a private tour for a couple costs $1000 pesos.  He had another couple wanting to do the tour and so said we could do it for $500 pesos per couple.  Another couple overheard and expressing their interest we got the price down to $200 pesos per person (just over USD $10) to have one of the wonders of the world explained to you.  To hire this guide, we needed to pay for the tickets and the cost of the guide in cash. However, if you are paying at the main entrance, you can pay for your tickets using a credit card.

Our guide Luis was fantastic.  He told us lots of interesting facts about the ball court and the grisly fate that awaited the victors.  The incredible acoustics found in the ball court and the main temple shows how incredibly architecturally advanced the Mayas were. Luis explained how the Mayan numbers play a huge part in the construction of their buildings too.  He explained the history of the Maya and kept us entertained for the duration of the tour.

Our tour lasted about 75 minutes and we then spent a further 45 minutes exploring the ruins at our own pace.  After 2 hours the site was filling up quickly and having really enjoyed our time at Chichen Itza, we had seen everything we wanted to.

As a note, there are also two cenotes within the Chichen Itza complex but these were used for sacrificial purposes and can not be entered by the public.

We were originally meant to go to the light show shown in the evening but the evening we went it was cancelled during to huge thunderstorms that caused a power cut. We had booked tickets for mid-November, so it might be worth checking the weather before you book.  We heard so many good things about this show but it was equally as impressive seeing the site in the day time.  If you get the chance to go at night, let us know what it’s like. 

Cenote Ik Kil

Get here as early as possible.  This cenote is often included as a stop-off for all the people coming to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen and Cancun.  This is because it is so beautiful, so don’t be put off by the crowds and come and visit.

Entrance fee: $80 pesos per person

It is very important to take a shower before you go into this cenote.  The cenotes are freshwater eco-systems and suntan lotions and anti-mosquito sprays can damage their environment. So if you’re going in the water, make sure you have a wash in the showers available near the changing facilities.

There are plenty of toilets and security lockers to leave your things whilst you go and swim in the cenote.  All you will need is your flip flops, towel and swimming goggles.

We found that the cenote was very busy with people taking pictures but that once you got to the bottom there were a lot of people that were hesitant to get in or move away from the side.  If you go a bit further out, you can float in the water and with your ears under the water, imagine you’re there floating in paradise on your own.  Looking up at the sun and the gorgeous green vegetation, take the time to appreciate this natural wonder.

Bucket List Trip Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kil
Cenote Ik Kil

We spent an hour at this cenote, we just loved it.  Having arrived at 10.45ish the place was already very busy, but it was still a fantastic experience. If you’re going to Chichen Itza, you should definitely include this cenote. It would be a missed opportunity if it wasn’t included in your itinerary.

Accommodation

Hotel Dolores Alba

We had bought tickets for the evening light show and because it finishes late, we decided to stay nearby. There is a famous cenote, Cenote Ik Kil, near Chichen Itza and the entrance was right opposite our hotel.

Pros

  • Close to Cenote Ik Kil and Chichen Itza. If you get a colectivo or a second-hand bus, Mayab or Oriente, let the bus driver know and they’ll drop you at the door.
  • 2 swimming pools – one ‘natural’ and another smaller, rounder one near the restaurant. Lots of sun loungers.
  • Room was large. Two beds and lots of room.
  • Towels and toiletries included.
  • Fan and air conditioning in the room.
  • Breakfast included in the rate. Fresh fruit, eggs and coffee.
  • Free shuttle to Chichen Itza every morning at 8.30 am. Although we did have to remind the staff it was time to go.

Cons

  • This was the first hotel or hostel we’d stayed in that didn’t have drinking water available for people to drink. It wasn’t even given at breakfast. Glad we had our water bottles as we had to fill up our bottles from the tap.
  • The hotel decor is quite dated.
  • Bad WIFI
  • Uncomfortable hammocks near the pool.
  • Expensive bar. $40 pesos for a beer?!
  • Be careful as you enter the room – there is a sloping concrete roof over the doorway that is about head height.  Duck or you’ll take half your head off!

Chichen Itza is worth visiting if you’re planning a trip to Mexico. Having one of the most beautiful cenotes nearby, makes this an incredible day trip to remember. Have you been to Mexico? What were your favourite ruins?

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