Visiting Chichen Itza from Cancun: A Road Trip

If you’re in Cancun, you’ve likely got beaches on the mind, and rightfully so. The beaches in Cancun are stunning. You might also be thinking about Chichen Itza and if its possible to visit from Cancun. The answer is yes! Cancun is a great starting point to visit Chichen Itza.  Chichen Izta is located just over two hours from Cancun, making it a very popular tourist attraction. 

El Castillo at Chichen Itza

El Castillo

Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city that is famous for its impressive architecture.  In fact, so impressive that it has been named one of the 7 new wonders of the world. El Castillo, the giant pyramid is the front runner while at Chichen Itza.  You’ll see plenty of people posing for pictures and clapping at the El Castillo to hear its unique echo.  No doubt, El Castillo is remarkable and my main reason for visiting Chichen Itza, but there are other areas to explore here as well.  After roaming around the ruins, temples and cenotes you’ll likely find that a few hours have slipped by.  To visit this ancient city you will be required to pay 254 Pesos (~$18 CAN).

How to Get to Chichen Itza

There are a few options to get yourself from Cancun to Chichen Itza. You can join a tour group, take public transit or rent a car. There are a ton of tour operators in Cancun that are very happy to take you on a day trip if thats what you wish. Personally, we don’t enjoy large tour groups and LOVE road trips, so we opted to rent a car.

Driving to Chichen Itza

Town of Valladolid near Chichen Itza

Town of Valladolid near Chichen Itza

The drive is quite straight forward, and there are plenty of signs pointing you in the direction of Chichen Itza or Cancun. There are two routes that will take you between both location. Option one is a quiet, pay toll highway and prices varies depending on where you get on and off the highway.  The second option is  a road that takes you through a ton of small villages and over what felt like millions of speed bumps. Having taken both routes, I’d be very happy to never see another speed bump again and pay the toll. Also, the toll road is much quicker as you avoid traffic, slower speeds, traffic lights and I’m going to say it again, the dreaded speed bumps. But really, both ways will get you to Chichen Itza and back to Cancun. 

Stops between Cancun and Chichen Itza

Palomitas Cenote near Cancun

Cenote Palomitas

Since we had a 24 hour car rental, we decided to make a little adventure out of this journey. If you have more than 24 hours, there are a ton of Mayan ruins in the Yucatan area that you could visit.

We left directly from the Cancun airport and spent the night in a hotel 10 minutes away from Chichen Itza.  This allowed us to arrive as soon as the grounds opened. We visited Chichen Itza early in the morning and had plenty of time left to explore on our way back to Cancun. Lucky for us, this area is covered in cenotes (beautiful sinkholes) so we spent our time exploring as we drove towards Cancun. Have a look at my post about cenotes near Cancun to help you plan your stops. Valladolid, a town on the way is also a nice stop for some well deserved tacos and a stroll.

Be prepared for crowds at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza at 8:30am before tour buses started arriving

Chichen Itza at 8:30am before tour buses started arriving

I’m going to give you a heads up, Chichen Itza is a very popular tourist attraction and can be very busy! Prior to visiting Chichen Itza, I expected it to be busy, it is a wonder of the world after all. But I didn’t expect it to be as busy as it was, especially so early in the morning.

We arrived at the main gate and parked at 7:35am, thinking we were beating the crowds, only to find a few hundred people already lined up and waiting. The gates don’t open until 8am, so apparently you need to be even earlier if you’d like to be at the front of the line. Once you’re past the main gates, the crowd spreads out a little bit  but it is still very busy, especially since the tour buses haven’t shown up yet.  From what we’ve heard, around 10am tour buses start to arrive and everything gets even more busy.  

What to bring to Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is hot!! For the most part you are directly in the beaming sun. We were there in the morning and it was already scorching.  I’d suggest to bring/wear the following:

  • Sunscreen
  • A hat
  • Good walking shoes
  • Lightweight/cool clothing
  • Water
  • Camera

If you’re looking for some ideas on what to pack for your trip to Mexico, this packing list has lots of great ideas.

After this amazing road trip to Chichen Itza, we headed straight to Isla Mujeres to begin our Mexican island adventure.  Think white sand, turquoise waters and palm trees and you’ll quickly realize why Isla Mujeres is a great next stop after taking on some Mayan history and cenote hopping.

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