Have you ever dreamed of travelling to Chichen Itza? I had the pleasure of visiting this incredible Mayan complex a few years ago and it did not disappoint! Let me tell you why this destination should be on your bucket list in this Chichen Itza guide. Before I do so, allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Nidia De Lara from the Instagram profile @hello_nidia. My passions in life revolve around travelling and languages. When I was a kid, I travelled with my mum to countries like Brazil, France and the UK. We also moved to Germany for six years. Since these experiences, I have discovered how resourceful I am when exposed to new places and cultures.
Learning is a big reason why I love to travel. I like to experience unfamiliar environments and leave with new skills or knowledge. You can’t really imagine what life is like in another place until you see it for yourself.
Travelling is the perfect opportunity for me to try something different and exciting – especially something I can’t do back home. The thrill starts the minute I land at the airport and find myself out of my comfort zone.
Mexico for my First Solo Trip
I planned to travel through Mexico for 14 days, road tripping along the coast of Quintana Roo. But first, all I wanted to do was to visit Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula. I started my trip in Valladolid and afterwards went to Holbox, Cozumel, Tulum, Bacalar and then back to Islas Mujeres/Cancun.
Chichen Itza – A Must-Visit on the Yucatan Peninsula
Visiting the Mayan citadel of Chichen Itza is a must-do if you plan on exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. It makes for the most authentic glimpse into Mexico’s history. I can’t really describe what it was like when I had almost 2,000 years of history and a UNESCO World Heritage Site right in front of me. I simply couldn’t keep my eyes off this monumental creation.
One of the first things I learnt about Chichen Itza is that the Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo) is actually a Mayan Calendar. Indeed, it’s the world’s biggest man-made calendar. If you add all the steps that make up the four faces of the temple, the result is 365 steps – one for each day of the year!
I found the architecture to be inexplicable. Did you know that when you clap your hands in front of the Chichen Itza stairs, the echo sound is like a Quetzal bird? I couldn’t believe it until I tried myself. How is something like this possible? No one knows how or why this bird echo effect was built into the temple. This only adds to the mystery of Chichen Itza.
Another intriguing aspect is that during the spring and autumn equinoxes the shadow of a snake appears on the northwest corner of Kukulcan before sunset. It’s formed by seven triangles of light that descend and join at the base of the stairway. Many believe this was intentional while others say it’s a coincidence. You will have to decide for yourself!
6 Best To Do in Chichen Itza & Valladolid
1. Tour Chichen Itza with an Experienced Guide
Exploring Chichen Itza with a guide is worth it! You can go by yourself but there is so much more to learn from a guide such as the architectural and astronomical significance of the temples and where to clap at El Castillo! Tours can be booked online or paid for at the entrance.
2. Clap your Hands at the Base of El Castillo
The base of El Castillo provides visitors with an extraordinary experience known as the “Chichen Itza Chirp”. If you clap your hands at the base of the pyramid, a bird chirping echo can be heard throughout the complex. It’s an incredibly unique thing to hear and something that boggles the mind.
3. Shop at the Small Markets around Chichen Itza
Surrounding the temples of Chichen Itza are several small markets. They sell handcrafted products. It’s nice to support local artisans and take some souvenirs and memories back home. For example, the dirt road between El Castillo and the cenote has some lovely little markets to shop at.
4. Visit Cenote Suytun and Ik Kil from Valladolid
Cenote Suytun is the most famous cenote on Instagram and for sure you would have seen photos of this place! The cenote is just a short 15-minute drive from Valladolid, so it’s a definite must-see while in the city. So too is Ik Kil – another mesmerising cenote famous for its open swimming area.
5. Wander around Valladolid and Eat Tamales
Valladolid is an authentic Mexican city full of Mayan culture and history. Wander around the streets, check out the architecture and stop off at the restaurants for a delicious tamale or two! Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made of corn based dough filled with meats, beans and cheese. They are normally wrapped and cooked in banana leaves for extra flavour.
6. Take a Day Trip to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes
Driving to the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula from Valladolid (less than two hours) will bring you to Las Coloradas. These pink lakes offer spectacular views of cotton-candy coloured lakes all filled with salt. They are a photographers dream destination and make for a fun day trip.
Where to Stay in Valladolid
For my visit to Valladolid and Chichen Itza, I chose to stay at Casa Hipil. I was looking for a central place where I could easily move around the town and be close to the bus and van stations. I had a great stay at Casa Hipil. It was super clean and very friendly to solo female travellers like myself.
Other places I didn’t stay at in Valladolid but which looked amazing were: Zenti’k Project, Colonte Hotel Origen, Coqui Coqui, Casita Jabin and one of the best hostel options for backpackers: Hostel La Candelaria.
How to Get to Chichen Itza
I arrived in Cancun Airport and took two buses to arrive at Valladolid. There are many bus options but I recommend going with a company called: ADO. They are the safest and you can buy the ticket in advance on the App.
From Valladolid to Chichen Itza, I took a colectivo (shared mini van) which cost 35 pesos (1.50€). If you prefer to take a taxi or join a private tour then make sure you organise this through your hotel. Don’t organise it with people on the street as you increase your chances of getting scammed.
Travel Tips for Chichen Itza
Before taking your tour of Chichen Itza, enjoy your free time because the complex opens at 8am. Enjoy the ancient ruins and take photos in peace, before the crowds arrive. This way you can also buy tickets with no queues.
Bring cash as no credit cards are accepted in Chichen Itza. Of course, it goes without saying, but wear comfortable shoes and a hat on those super hot days. I recommend taking your own food and snacks too. It’s expensive inside the complex and the food isn’t great quality. Mexican food is amazing but it’s better to try it in Valladolid or at a less touristy place.
I hope this guide will help you experience the amazing Chichen Itza with a bit more ease and knowledge. I’m sure you will love it just as much as I did!