It's Jason from Carltonaut's Travel Tips. My wife and I took a trip to Cancun, Mexico, a few months ago. It was her first time out of the country. We were able to use travel points to cover most of our airfare and a Marriott hotel. Since our travel budget was tight, we were just going to hang out at the beach and enjoy time away from the busy life back home.
Knowing we would likely never re-visit Cancun – mainly because we like to explore new places when we travel – we decided to find some affordable day trips. Marriott referred us to Viator, where we chose from numerous day trips from Cancun. We had fun exploring all of the options – including prices, interests, and of course, customer reviews – and finally settled on a day trip that made our vacation fun and memorable, with a little taste of Mexican adventure.
Here's what to expect on a Chichen Itza tour.
Chichen Itza: A Wonder of the Modern World
It would be a mistake to travel to Cancun and not visit one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. There are a few ways you can explore Chichen Itza: Rent a car and drive there yourself, or join up with a tour group and let them do the driving and planning. We decided on the second option and it was well worth it.
We were picked up from our hotel and joined up with a larger group at the tour bus. The two-hour trek west to Chichen Itza from Cancun had a few stops along the way.
The City of Valladolid
Our stop in Valladolid was only about 20 minutes. But that gave us enough time to explore the city park and sit in a lover's bench. The bench is two chairs facing opposite directions that join together side-by-side. The legend is that it allowed couples to meet and get to know each other before kissing. That's good advice for just about anyone, and it shouldn't require a uniquely designed park bench.
Valladolid also had an old cathedral across the street from the park. It was neat to walk through that and see religious buildings in different cultures. We had just a moment to visit one clothing store, but with the limited time, we just headed back to the bus.
Tienda de Artesanias Chac Mool
The bus ride from Valladolid took a slightly different turn. The guide spent the next hour explaining tidbits of Mayan culture, while explaining some of the crafts of the Mayan people. Those crafts were available at the next stop – the Tienda de Artesanias Chac Mool. We decided not to purchase anything there, mainly because of sticker shock. But we later learned EVERYTHING for sale in Mexico is negotiable. You can talk down the price, sometimes by as much as half. It's fun to see what you can negotiate, but it is annoying at the same time.
The shop included colorful ceramic dishes, Mayan statues, chess boards, jewelry and so much more. While it wasn't anything that we didn't find in other locations, it was stuff made authentically by the Mayan people.
The tour also included lunch at Restaurante Tio Manolo. We enjoyed some authentic Mexican beverages and tortillas, in addition to the buffet provided.
A Tour of Chichen Itza
Our guided tour of Chichen Itza was great. Since we were part of a tour group, the company took care of buying the tickets so all we had to do was walk into the park. On the tour, we were able to learn about some of the architectural achievements of the Mayan people. From a sporting arena to large temples built to coincide with the position of the sun. Near the end of the guided tour, we stood at the base of El Castillo (the largest Mayan temple in Chichen Itza) and clapped. The sound echoing back from the opening at the top sounded like a bird chirping.
Once the guided tour ended, we had about 45 minutes to explore the area on our own. While we enjoyed exploring (and photographing) parts of the ruins throughout the area, we were only able to see a fraction of what was there. We did spend a little time visiting some of the street vendors that lined almost every walkway. They can be a little pushy, using lines like “Deals so good they're almost free.”
Swimming in IK KIL Cenote
As our day trip wrapped up, we headed to a cenote to do some swimming. The experience was like stepping into an adventure. We opted to rent life jackets, since the sink hole swimming pool was 180 feet deep. So if you sink, it's right to the bottom of that really deep pool. Adults might no need a life jacket, but if your kids are with you, rent them for sure.
If you're brave enough, stand in line and jump off the 20-foot ledge to the water below. Otherwise, you can float on your back and enjoy the fact that you're swimming in a giant sinkhole in the middle of Mexico.
After rinsing off, we headed back into the bus for the two hour ride back into Cancun. It was a great opportunity to sit back, take a nap, or just rest from a day full of adventure. The tour company dropped us back off at our hotel around 7 p.m. We were able to grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant and then head to bed in preparation for another full day or exploring Mexico.
Good to Know
Where: Chichen Itza is located about two hours west of Cancun, Mexico.
When: Tours are available year-round.
How Much: Prices range from $65 to $500 per person. The tour typically includes transportation from hotels in Cancun and surrounding cities, along with a meal and admission to Chichen Itza.
How Long: One full day (as early as 7 a.m. to about 7 p.m.)