Travel to Chichén Itzá (One of the 7 Wonders of the World)
What we learned from our trip to Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.
We visited the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. We stayed in Valladolid, figured out how to safely navigate through the city and even get our laundry done. Then we figured out a way to visit Chichen Itza when it was not too busy in order to have this amazing ancient city almost completely to ourselves before the large crowds came in.
Chichen Itza was the the highlight of our trip to Valladolid and was the reason we stayed there. There are tours to Chichen Itza from Cancun or Tulum as well. We wanted to explore authentic Mexico so we decided to stay in Valladolid about 45 minutes away from the ruins. This allowed us to get to these incredible Maya ruins early in the morning before it got too crowded with all the tours. This ancient Maya city occupies an area of 4 square miles.
We spent about 3 hours walking around Chichen Itza admiring all the ancient ruins and history of one of the seven wonders of the world.
What is Chichén Itzá?
In 2007, more than 100 million people voted to declare the New Seven Wonders of the World. The new list is: Great Wall of China (China), Christ the Redeemer Statue (Rio de Janeiro), Machu Picchu (Peru), The Roman Colosseum (Rome), Taj Mahal (Agra, India), Petra (Jordan), and Chichen Itza (Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico).
The ruins of Chichén Itzá demonstrate that this ancient city had everything necessary to center the Maya empire in Central America. The Maya name "Chichen Itza" means "At the mouth of the well of the Itza." This derives from chi', meaning "mouth" or "edge", and chʼen or chʼeʼen, meaning "well".
It was one of the largest Maya cities and also had the most diverse population in any Maya population and covered five square kilometers. Many of the Maya people that lived in Chichen Itza were very skilled craftsmen, including sculptors, weavers, jewelers and potters.
By the ninth century, the rulers of the city had control over many areas in the central and northern Yucatan peninsula. It was an important commercial center for trading gold and other treasures throughout the Americas. It is said that at its peak, it had almost 50,000 inhabitants.
Getting to Chichén Itzá
We left our hotel in Valladolid around 6:30 a.m. We walked to the bus terminal area. There is an alternative bus and taxi company called Transporte Colectivo that we heard was a bit cheaper than transportation from the proper station. In addition to Chichen Itza they also advertised that they can take you to Cenote Ikkil, Xcalacoop, and Piste.
We know that there is a pandemic going on and we were going on a Tuesday, but still, we wanted to have the place as empty as possible to properly enjoy. We got to the Transporte Colectivo a few minutes before the operating hours of 7am but they also claimed to have a 24 hour attendant. When we strolled up, there was a gate covering the entrance; so that was not the case.
Across the street we got some warm fresh bread to of course dip into coffee! We wanted to give Colectivo some time to open but after about 10 minutes we threw in the towel. We walked a block over to the bus terminal and got our ticket for a 7:30 am departure.
2 one-way tickets to Chichén Itzá were 74 pesos. They did not have an option to buy a round trip ticket but told us that there were buses that come back every hour. We have visited other attractions where the return transportation was an issue but there was someone at the ADO kiosk for us to purchase our tickets when we were ready to head back.
When you get your ticket (or even better before your pay) look at the line (linea) that you are taking. ADO has ADO Conecta which is usually a smaller 16 person van. We unfortunately took that for the 2 hour journey from Playa Del Carmen to Valladolid. We didn't even have anywhere to put our backpacks so they had to stay in the aisle next to us.
There are also proper full-sized buses. The red ADO bus (which we took from Cancun International Airport to Playa Del Carmen) and the white and orange Oriente bus. For the ride to Chichén Itzá we were fortunate enough to get on the large Oriente bus.
The outside of the bus had a LED sign that said Mérida. This was the full route of this bus. This Yucatan peninsula route from Valladolid to Mérida should be about 2 hours but we got off right at Chichén Itzá which only took about 45 minutes.
Entering Chichén Itzá
We arrived safely in Chichén Itzá around 8:30 am. They got us through the parking gate and dropped us off right outside of the Marketplace where local merchants were setting up their shops for the day. Besides the birds and the shuffling of the merchants situating their merchandise, it was dead silent.
The entrance fee is 497 MXN Pesos or 25 USD per person, which covered both the state and federal fees. They had to run them as two separate transactions. When we travel we always try to use our Amex, but they only took Mastercard or Visa as credit cards.
Before they scan your tickets to enter the ruins there is an open lobby area. We were able to get our Jaguar Mexico patch at one of the shops and we stopped at one of the cafes for delicious muffins and hot coffee. There are also restrooms (at no additional charge) and lockers. To properly take in this ancient city we recommend giving yourself 3 hours. We also advise putting on bug spray and sunscreen.
Once you get pass the ticket check you’ve entered the city. Well, almost. You then have to go though a miles worth of local vendors selling souvenirs, clothing, Mayan calendars and a whole lot more. Walking past vendors at the entrance was not a big deal, but we were surprised at how many vendors were scattered around what is supposed to be a sacred space. The constant jaguar whistles were cool, but having these vendors EVERYWHERE did take away from its historical aura.
Kukulcán (El Castillo)
At the center of the city you will find the Temple of Kukulcán. This giant pyramid is also known as El Castillo (“the castle”). It is spans 75 ft high with a temple chamber at the top, where a Chacmool statute and a throne in the shape of a Jaguar rests. As you walk straight into the ruins (after a long walk past merchants) this is the first part that you see. Boy, do pictures not do this justice. It was absolutely incredible to see with our own eyes!
Serpents appear in several locations around the Chichen Itza ruins. El Castillo, the largest temple, was actually named after the serpent-like Mayan deity (Kukulkan). A feathered serpent sculpture rests at the base of one of its stairway. A demonstration by artificial light can be seen along the edge of the staircase leading up to the top and can also be seen on the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, at the rising and setting of the sun along the west side of the north staircase. On these two annual occasions, the shadows from the corner tiers slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun's movement to the serpent's head at the base.
A clap in front of the Kukulkan Pyramid creates an echo resembling the serpent’s chirp.
Gran Juego de Pelota, or the Grand Ball Court, is the largest of several impressive playing fields at Chichén Itzá that prove how much the ancient Mayans loved ball games.
This Gran Juego de Pelota (Great Ball Game) was not just a friendly competition. When you walk the length of this extraordinary structure you can imagine the crowds of thousands who looked on when games were played here as much as 1,000 years ago. The Mayans are believed to have played a game here that used a rubber ball roughly the size of a soccer ball. For some, the stakes where high. Losers faced brutal consequences and even death.
If you clap once from one end of the Ball Court, it produces nine echoes in the middle of the court.
Temple of the Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors which had carvings that depict epic battle scenes. Templo de los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors) was not built by the Mayans, it was built by the Toltec when they concored the city in 950 A.D.. The temple has four platforms and 200 round and square columns. The columns have carvings of Toltec Warriors around them. The carvings were once painted with bright colors and the inside of the temple once had brightly color murals painted of the Feathered Serpent, warriors and people in daily life. Along the south wall of the Temple of Warriors are a series of what are today exposed columns, although when the city was inhabited these would have supported an extensive roof system.
To the north of the city is the Sacred Cenote, a natural water whole which is 200 ft in diameter and was special to the Maya people for its social and religious significance. Chichen Itza may have been built where it was because of the location of two large natural sink holes nearby that would have provided water year-round. One of these sink holes was thought to have been used as a place of human sacrifice. These sacrifices were made in times of drought, and men, women and children would be thrown in the well as a sacrifice to the Chac God. The Chac God is the Maya God of rain and lightning and these sacrifices were done to end drought.
Check out our Chichen Itza Travel Vlog on YouTube:
Chichen Itza (Chichén Itzá). Check out our Travel Vlog to one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
We visited the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. We stayed in Valladolid and figured out how to safely navigate through the city. We were even able to get our laundry done! Then we made our way to visit Chichen Itza. We followed the advice of others in order to arrive early in the day. This ensured that we beat the large crowds to the ruins and we basically had this amazing ancient city almost completely to ourselves.
Thanks for reading our blog on Chichen Itza!
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