How can you plan your own day trip to Chichen Itza?
Planning Chichen Itza yourself
As you may already know, we are currently in Mexico for a month and a half. A trip to the world-famous Mayan city Chichén Itzá is, of course, not to be missed. This wonder of the world has been on our bucket list for some time, so now we can tick it off! But how did we plan our day trip to Chichen Itza, and additionally Valladolid and Cenote Ik Kil, ourselves? You’ll found out here!
Chichén Itzá is the landmark that Mexico loves to show off. In all the tourist regions (especially in Cancun and Playa del Carmen), you will find a huge number of organized tours that offer you a day trip to Chichen Itza. Most tours stop in the historic city of Valladolid and at the most famous cenote Ik Kil. All three of these attractions are worth visiting! Most organizations charge around 2000 peso/person (about 90 euros/person) for a tour.
You leave early in the morning (around 7 o’clock) and return around 6 o’clock. They all promise a luxurious air-conditioned bus. Also, with many organizations, you get a full Mexican buffet. Entrance to Chichén Itzá and the cenote Ik Kil are included in the price. This is not expensive but still, we chose to map out our own tour. We think that these tours give a limited time to stay in certain places. For example, you can only stay 45 minutes in Valladolid and that is really short. We prefer to choose how long we stay somewhere.
Our own tour
We left for our own tour from Cancun. You can also leave from Playa del Carmen or even other places in Mexico. It is important, however, to look up in advance whether there is an ADO bus running to Chichén Itzá. From Cancun, one ADO busruns in the morning. That’s the one we took. Chichén Itzá is about a three-hour drive, so you’ll arrive around noon. Taking the ADO bus was nice! It is easy, cheap (about 350 pesos or 15 euros), luxurious and safe. All ADO buses are equipped with air conditioning and TVs. The seats can be adjusted to different positions, so you can definitely take a power nap on the road. Some buses also have USB connection so you can charge your phone if necessary. The ADO buses also travel on toll roads, have only a few pick-up points (only at ADO stations) and so they are certainly safe from possible robberies.
Arrived at Chichen Itza, we had to wait about 10 minutes in line at the entrance. The entrance fee is 254 pesos (about 10 euros) and it is well worth its money. Because there is so much more to see than just that one famous Mayan ruin you see on pictures everywhere. There are more impressive ruins and there is even a hotel in the middle of the park! Beware: it is extremely touristy. Everywhere there are vendors that try to sell something to you. After a while, this can become annoying. Still, it’s worth checking out some of the stalls. In fact, most vendors make their own products, mostly sculptures, bracelets and hammocks. And there really are gems among them! If you want, you can buy a nice souvenir here.
We discovered Chichén Itzá on a Wednesday. It was pretty quiet here then. You could take nice pictures without too many people photobombing you. However, avoid Sunday (and the rest of the weekend if you can), because that’s when Mexicans have free admission to this park. Consequently, it is very crowded.
Cenote Ik Kil
After our visit to Chichén Itzá, we took a taxi to cenote Ik Kil. This cenote is near by so the taxi was not expensive at all. Our driver himself was kind enough to wait until we wanted to go to Valladolid. We agreed on a price together to go to cenote Ik Kil and then drive on to Valladolid. This cost us 400 peso (17 euros) in total.
Cenote Ik Kil is really worth seeing! Although again it is touristy, we loved jumping into the water after a few hours of heat at Chichén Itzá. The cool down was welcome. To take good photos, however, you shouldn’t go in the afternoon. Then there are just too many people in the water and it is difficult to take a picture without people. After half an hour of swimming, we had enough and returned to our taxi. Remarkable how this man could stand to wait in his car (without air conditioning) in temperatures of around 30 degrees!
Because we had heard so much about it, we had become curious about the historic city of Valladolid. This town is 40 minutes away from Chichen Itza. You drive past typical Mexican houses, neighborhoods and stores. The ride itself is an attraction!
Valladolid itself is small but so cozy! In the park about the church, you can sit by yourself for a few hours and just look around and take it all in. The city is tremendously photogenic. So much color, traditional stores and restaurants make the city attractive. Still, we were tired from the entire excursion and Valladolid was mostly a place for us to rest. We ended up not staying there very long, a few hours at most. You have to take into account that you still have to take the bus for two hours towards Cancun, so leaving on time is recommended.
Valladolid’s ADO station is right in the center, so within walking distance. Good to know: You can buy your ticket back in advance (for example, at Cancun’s ADO station when you leave in the morning for Chichén Itzá), but it’s best not to. After all, you don’t really know when you want to return ‘home’ and usually there are enough seats available on the bus. So booking in advance is not really necessary. Unless, of course, you know exactly how long you want to stay and when you want to go back.
It was a very tiring day, we admit. But we are glad that we planned this trip ourselves. We never felt that we had to rush anywhere or that we were limited in time. We chose not to let our day depend on others and we saw everything that an organized tour also offers. In the end, we paid 1384 peso/person (about 60 euros/person). This sum includes transportation (taxi calculated for 2 people, you can share if you travel with a group) and adult entry fees. Food, drinks or other purchases are not included in this sum. So we can say that our own tour was clearly cheaper. Applause to ourselves!
Planning Chichen Itza yourself
Hopefully this post has been able to inspire you to take a different approach to plan your trip(s) through Mexico. You can easily map out and organize certain tours yourself. It takes a little perseverance, but it pays off. On this blog you will find even more useful tips that can make your trip more enjoyable. Good luck!