Visit the Mayan site of Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. We take you there so you know what to see, how much it cost and the best times to visit.
The site from Mexico that is part of the new seven wonders of the world, at last we could visit it: Chichen Itza. One of the most important place for the Mayan civilization. In this post we will tell you all the details of the visit to Chichen Itza that we made.
Getting to Chichen Itza
We took the bus from Mérida, you can read about how to get from Mérida to Chichen Itza by yourself in this other post. Of course, you’ll have to get up really early, but it’s worth it.
Buying the tickets
The tickets can be bought at the box office, right at the entrance of the site. In this area, you’ll find also toilets, shops and lockers to store luggage. For very large luggage, we recommend though asking the hotel beforehand if you can leave them in the lockers there.
Opening hours: From Monday till Sunday, 8 AM – 5 PM, every day of the year.
Price: 75 pesos. Furthermore, the State Government charges a general admission fee of $406.00 and for the Mexicans who can prove nationality through official identification, the admission fee will be only $127.00.
So in total the price will be: Foreigners = 481 and Mexicans = 202
Entering the site
Before entering, we highly recommend to use the restrooms here, since we don’t remember seeing any once inside the site 🙂 the line was short, we got in quickly. We entered the site and we didn’t have to walk much to see the famous pyramid 🙂
Our visit to Chichen Itza
A little bit of history
Chichen Itza was founded around 300 AD. The capital of the Itzáes was the most powerful site in Yucatan peninsula. It is located in the center of the northern plain of the Yucatan Peninsula and has access to few but safe water sources. In addition, towards the south it had extensive agricultural soils, necessary to keep the population fed.
This city controlled the commercial ports, also dominated the maritime traffic, from Tabasco to Central America. Military might was the basis for maintaining that extensive control. Likewise, its Sacred Cenote was considered one of the entrances to the world of the gods, an idea that was exploited to subdue the city, its inhabitants and any belligerent enemies.
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During our tour of Mérida, the guide told us about the fact that the Mayan higher classes used the scientific and religious knowledge to subdue the other classes.
Its rise and flowering is relatively late in the history of Mesoamerica and is achieved after the fall of Teotihuacan.
The decline of Chichen Itza is related to the emergence of Mayapan as a new center of power in the 13th century. Even so, even in the 16th century the temple of Kukulkán and the Sacred Cenote still functioned, while the other buildings were already abandoned.
Chichen Itza retained its reputation as a sacred site at the time of the Spanish invasion, and Mayan pilgrims were still going to the ancient capital of the Itza to perform rituals in the Sacred Cenote and in the temple of Kukulkán. Due to the importance of Chichen Itza, Francisco de Montejo came to consider that the capital of the Yucatan province would be established there, although the idea did not prosper. Fortunately it did not prosper, otherwise the pyramid would have been destroyed or would have been buried under a cathedral.
The origin of the name Chichen Itza
Etymologically, Chi-ch’en Itza means “the city on the edge of the well of the Itzáes”.
In 1988 it’s been recognized World Heritage by the UNESCO.
Pyramid of Kukulkán
It was the representative place of the religious power of the ancient inhabitants of the city. Its objective was to worship the Mayan god Kukulkán (in Mayan language: Feathered Serpent), which is why you can see the snakes in the decoration of the pyramid.
The pyramid is the first thing we see when entering the site and oh how beautiful! (for many people this is the main reason to visit Chichen Itza) once again we were grateful to have arrived early. There were very few people and no vendor stalls around. So we were able to contemplate it very comfortably.
After going around the pyramid, observing its snakes and regretting that it was no longer possible to climb upon it, we started the tour of the site, which was quite large. Along the way, we begin to meet the beautiful iguanas, which are everywhere.
Platform of Venus and round platform
The Venus platform is very similar to that of the same name in the Kukulkan Pyramid Plaza. In its reliefs is a bird-snake man. On the other hand, the round platform is one of the few in Chichen Itza. These places had the function of being platforms for ceremonies, rites or dances.
When we got to this part, we already started to see that the vendor stalls were getting up. We kept walking. Sweat did not wait.
Platform of the Tombs
This structure had a funerary use, probably used to store human bones unearthed from other tombs. Again the snake figures are seen in the construction.
The Ossuary or Tomb of the great Priest
Despite having a name that suggests that it was used, like the platform of the tombs, to store human remains, this place was originally built for worship. This building is the central element of a ceremony possibly linked to a lineage of “the lords of Chichén Itzá”.
And while we were observing this structure we found another pretty iguana ^^
The structure as we see it now is incomplete. One of the corners of the structure, missing at the top, is located at the archaeological site. These pieces are called masks and there were four in each corner. They represent gods or patrons of lineages.
House of the Metates
There was little left of this structure, you had to use your imagination. It was a complex of rooms with wide porticos, probably used as a residence for people related to the maintenance of the Ossuary. Ceramic materials and fragments of metates have been found. With this was made the deduction of the domestic function of this place.
Metate or grinding stone, is a utensil used in Mesoamerica by different cultures since pre-Hispanic times. It is still being used nowaday.
And the vendor stalls kept getting more and more, the landscape was starting to transform and in some corridors it was unpleasant to see stalls and more stalls. They took away the magic from the site.
Also known as “the observatory” due to its shape and its astral functions. This is one of the monuments that I remember from my history classes and stamps albums. The name “caracol” (snail) is due to spiral staircases that lead to the top of the building.
Temple of the Sculpted Boards
A structure in which we find a buzzard observing from above. Its name comes from the reliefs carved on the walls, showing scenes of characters, animals and plants dominated by two warriors. Evidence indicates that fire-related rites were performed in this temple.
The church and the house of the nuns
The structure called the church is small and has only one room. It has been named like this, probably due to the fact it is next to the building called the house of the nuns (which in turn was named like this because it looks like a convent). It has a rich and lush decoration. These names, obviously, are just names made by the Spanish when they first saw the site, trying to find an equivalence with European monuments.
When we got here we made a kind of half-turn and returned towards the Kukulkan pyramid.
The Red House and the Square of a Thousand Columns
The name of the red house, or chichanchoob, is due to the fragments of red paint found inside. Chichanchoob means “little holes”.
On the other hand, the square with a thousand columns had a probably civic-religious function.
And the iguanas 😀 are there to beautify the site. Hard to know if in the days when Chichen Itza was at its peak, they were just as calm.
At this point we returned to the pyramid, the atmosphere that we had initially seen had already changed. Now there were more people and sometimes it seemed like a tide of umbrellas, this was because the groups came and gave them umbrellas and they were all the same color for the group. All vendor stalls were ready. You can see in the fourth photo of this gallery how the landscape with the stalls now looked.
The water in this cenote looks quite murky :D, it is not to go to bathe like the cenotes of Santa Barbara, this cenote was considered as the “door to the underworld”. This naturally made circular figure is 60 meters in diameter.
Among the offerings that were made to this cenote were: objects of gold, copper, obsidian, shell, textiles as well as bone remains.
Next to the sacred cenote is a cafeteria, we stayed awhile having a soda and eating some snacks. We recharged the battery, as we were already quite tired, and squeezed after sweating so much. Make a visit to Chichen Itza can be challenging, because is very hot and humid. I even started talking to some ladies who came from Baja California, what a coincidence!
The Great Ball Game
This is the largest ball court in Mesoamerica. The explanation of the game we had during our visit to Mérida.
Anecdote with the vendors of Chichen Itza
Although I didn’t love that vendor stalls were everywhere, I wasn’t going to despise buying souvenirs on-site, either. There were many options for magnets and other souvenirs. What we began to observe is that souvenirs from other places were also sold, for example a type of mask that we had seen in Teotihuacan. But when asked if they were Mayan, the vendors said yes, when they clearly were not. For example, they also had figures of the sun stone, which is obviously Mexican, and they sold it as Mayan.
Vicente decided to use the fact that many times he was mistaken for a tourist from the USA and pretending to speak Spanish with an English accent (which is not true, he speaks it perfectly) he went to speak to a vendor. Here is his anecdote:
In Chichen Itza, I went to a souvenir stand, and showing a jade mask, I used my best English accent to ask the seller:
“¿Estow es unah mascawa mayah?” (Is this a Mayan mask?) and the man answered me “yes it is, which one do you like?” so I insist on asking if that was Mayan? … And after he confirmed to me several times that he was, I returned to my normal accent, the one I am known for, and I said to him: “How can this mask be Mayan, if it is a replica of the Aztec jade mask found in Teotihuacan? ” and the gentleman saying to me that yes, that it is Mayan, like the others (and there he does teach me Mayan-style masks) and I replied that no, it is not the same, it is not the same style or the same civilization, nor the same era, why do you sell it as Mayan…
In the end he got fed up, he said “it just makes me waste my time” and ignored me 😁
Bottom line: sellers, don’t try to fool people! if you want to sell Aztec items in a Mayan monument there is nothing wrong. But you shouldn’t have to sell them as Mayans, people are not stupid.
Leaving the archaeological site
Upon leaving once more I was glad that I had arrived early: now there was a horrendous line to enter. So the PRO TIP to visit Chichen Itza in peace is to ARRIVE EARLY
If you are going to take the bus back to Mérida (or in the direction of Cancun), they pick you up in the parking lot of the site. In the area where tickets are sold there is a bookstore, in it there will be a small ADO stand, there you can see the schedules and buy tickets if the girl is not already selling them in the parking lot.
Our visit lasted about 3-4 hours in total, taking into account that we stopped in several places for quite some time, especially in the cafeteria.
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