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A Chichen Itza Day Trip: Only 200 km and 1400 Years From Cancun

©istockphoto/SerrNovik

©istockphoto/SerrNovik

Located about 190 km north of the world famous resort town of Cancun on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, Chichen Itza has become one of the most revered archaeological sites in the world. Considered one of the seven wonders of the Modern World, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site this is a must see day trip on any visit to the area.

Just a Little History
Visited by an estimated 1.2 million tourist a year, Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities in the Yucatan and thrived from approximately 600-1200AD. It was most likely one of the great cities referred to in Mesoamerican literature and became a major Mayan capital dominating culture, economic and ideological life in the region. Known by many for their human sacrifices at sites such as this, the Mayans also are marveled at for their ability to align their sites perfectly with the sun and moon’s movements. During the spring and fall equinox, which draws thousands of observers, the Kukulkan pyramid called El Castillo casts a series of shadows along its western balustrade, which shows a serpent wiggling down the staircases representing the feathered serpent god Kukulkan.

Getting There
There are three main options for a day trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun. You can book a tour group on a luxurious bus with a group of like-minded tourist, do a private tour with a local guide, or rent a car and drive yourself. A new toll road was recently opened which speeds the trip through the jungle to about 2 ½ hours each way.

Do it With a Group
While the tour bus option is the cheapest and most comfortable way to travel, it does take longer as you have multiple stops at resort hotels to pick everyone up, then to drop them all off at the end of the trip. Plus you run on set timetables as to how long you spend at the site and also where and how long the other stops are on the tour. The average time schedule for these group tours runs to about a 12 hour day.

Go It Alone
We used Cancun Adventure.com to book our trip and chose the private option. With the private option, which is really not that much more and well worth the price I might add, you have a van with a driver and a guide all to yourself. We left our hotel promptly at 7:30 and were on the grounds and beginning our tour of Chichen Itza by 10:15; way before the tour crowds arrived. We spent just as much time as we desired, then left as most folks were just beginning their tours. We had an expert private guide leading just the three of us and answering any questions we had. Including our stop at the Il Kil cenote for a dip and lunch we were back at our hotel by 5pm making for a 9 ½ hour day trip.

Options Abound
There are several options the tours offer for before or after your tour of the site. There are cenotes—the only rivers in the Yucatan are underground and cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes which access this underground water system—to swim and cool off in and lunches to be eaten. Several tours also stop in the nearby city of Valladolid for city tours or they stop in other spots for souvenir shopping. We chose to take a dip at the Il Kil Cenote and had lunch included in the tour price. We were able to enjoy lunch and a dip in the cold, refreshing and amazingly beautiful cenote on our own time schedule and, once again were there and gone before the crowds showed.

A Must See Visit
Whether you choose to drive yourself, join a tour bus group or do the private option, this is a fantastic day trip. Visiting the Pyramid, along with the Ball Court, where heads were literally at stake and the other structures of Chichen Itza are wonders to behold and should not be missed. Besides, it’s always good to get out of your comfort zone and see a little of the area you are visiting. Good luck and happy day-tripping.

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