What to Expect when Visiting Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most visited tourist destinations and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has recently been named as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World; a wonderfully ironic title if you consider it has been around for over 1000 years. Whilst you may not have heard of ancient Chichen Itza, you would most probably recognise its iconic central pyramid, El Castillo.

I had the pleasure of visiting Chichen Itza on a one-day tour from Cancun during my recent trip to Mexico. The tour was provided through the Moon Palace Golf Resort and Spa and included everything from transfers and admission to lunch and a guide. Everything was taken care of, meaning I could look forward to a stress-free adventure.


If you’re thinking of visiting Chichen Itza, here’s a run down of what to expect before you get there…

Be prepared for a drive  

If you’re travelling from coastal towns such as Cancun, Tulum or Playa del Carmen, be prepared for quite a drive. To get to Chichen Itza you will need to take a drive in-land into the bordering state of Yucatan, which is in a completely different time zone (1 hour behind). It took 3 hours for us to drive from Cancun, which was a hefty trip to say we had to return on the same day, but in the end it was totally worth it!

Tulum – 2 hours
Playa del Carmen – 2.5 hours
Cancun – 3 hours


There’s much more to Chichen Itza than just one pyramid 

Chichen Itza’s most famous site is the El Castillo pyramid, but there’s so much more to see than just this iconic structure. Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city, so there are lots of different ruins around the site, which all served a different purpose in the community. The ruins are spread out on a site of 5 square kilometers, so allow yourself at least a few hours there to wander round without rushing. And ladies, make sure you’re wearing flat shoes!




There will be crowds

Being one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole of Mexico, it comes as no surprise that you should expect crowds. Everyone who turns up to Chichen Itza is after the ‘money shot’; a photo of them in front of El Castillo, but it’s near enough impossible to get one without a stray tourist or 2 in the background. Coach tours arrive from around 11am, so if you’re travelling there independently be sure to arrive nice and early to beat the crowds. If you’re coming as part of a coach tour like I did, you’re best off waiting til later in the afternoon to get your all-important photo.


You’re better off with a guide

You could equip yourself with 10 guide books and do tonnes of research, but having a guide brings Chichen Itza to life. They’re full of fascinating stories and facts that really help you imagine how Chichen Itza would have been all those years ago. They also know the best order to visit things, making sure you don’t miss anything. Our guide was called Eric and he was with us throughout the whole day, even from pick up at The Moon Palace. He spoke with so much knowledge and passion about the ancient Mayan history that you couldn’t help be enchanted by the sights and surroundings.

Bring cash for shopping opportunities

The pathways connecting the various different ruins in Chichen Itza are all lined with stalls and vendors selling crafts, art, pottery, carvings, clothing, rugs and much more. Whether you see it as tourist tat or hand-made treasures, most of the objects on sale are locally made, so it’s a great opportunity to pick up some genuine Mexican souvenirs.

You can feel like you’re being a bit hassled at times by the vendors, but if you’re not interested a firm ‘no thank you’ should do it. If you are interested, just be sure to never accept the first price you’re given, the vendors are expecting to barter!



What else to bring: camera, sunglasses, sun cream, flat shoes, cash for any shopping (Mexican pesos and American dollars are both accepted)

So is it worth visiting Chichen Itza despite all the hype and crowds of tourists? I would say yes. The sight of the El Castillo is absolutely spectacular, and discovering all of the other sites is a mini adventure in itself. Visiting Chichen Itza is something I will never forget, and is one huge tick off my ever-growing travel bucket list!

What did you think of my Chichen Itza blog post? If you’ve visited Chichen Itza, are planning to go or simply enjoyed this post, please leave me a comment in the box below! x


This tour was provided by Moon Palace Golf Resort & Spa as part of a content campaign with lowcostholidays



Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.


  • This place looks stunning Jess! Although it does look like a bit of a tourist trap, it’s obviously very popular for a reason – just look at those buildings! I think I could probably put up with a 3 hour drive to visit this place…

    • Hey Emma! Thanks for your comment 🙂 You’re right, it does feel like a bit of a tourist trap, but I suppose all the most amazing places in the world now are! It’s worth it though for sure 🙂 x

  • Great blog. Chichen Itza is definitely wortha visit, and some of the other Mayan sites if you have time. Photos are beautiful Were the skies really that blue?

    • Thanks Graham! The photos have been enhanced slightly, but the skies were still amazingly blue!

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