Why You Should Add a Chichen Itza Tour to Your Bucket List
Chichen Itza Mexico is easily one of the most famous Maya ruins sites in the Yucatán state.
The ancient Mayan ruins inside Chichen Itza was:
- Voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 (by a global survey)
- Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988
With all the hype, you might be wondering if the Chichen Itza Mexico tour is really worth it.
A visit to Mexico just might check all the boxes if you love sunny beaches, lush jungles, and marveling at ancient Mayan ruins. Be sure to plan a trip to the Yucatán peninsula.
In this post, our Caravan tour experts will tell you why you should add ancient Chichen Itza Mayan ruins to your bucket list. Find out everything you need to know to get the most out of your visit!
Visit the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza on our Caravan Mexico Ancient Civilizations Tour!
Chichen Itza History
The history of Chichen Itza Mexico is fascinating. Located in the southern-central Yucatán state in Mexico this ancient Mayan city boasts the ruins of one of the greatest Mayan centres on the peninsula.
The settlement was established during the Classic period, likely chosen because of its proximity to two freshwater cavities, known as Cenotes.
The actual dates of the settlement are a little unclear, with some accounts dating between 415-35 C.E., while others mention 455 C.E.
This ancient Mayan city has a rich history that spans nearly one thousand years. At its peak, it occupied an area of 4 square miles (10.3 square km). Its architectural marvels showcase the fusion of the Mayan and Toltec civilizations that occurred after the Toltec conquest of the Yucatán peninsula sometime in the 900s.
The religious, military, political, and commercial centre may have been home to anywhere from 35,000 to 50,000 people at its peak and still houses many structures that have survived the ravages of time.
The most famous and most often pictured building is El Castillo, also known as the Temple Kukulcan. Castillo was erected after the Toltec civilization took over the city of Chichen Itza between 967 C.E. and 987 C.E.
However, by the 13th-century construction on major monuments ground to a halt, and the ancient city of Chichen Itza began its decline around 1440 C.E. The excavation of the ancient ruins did not begin until 400 years later in 1841 C.E.
The Cultural History of Chichen Itza Mexico
The ancient city was a centre of Mayan civilization and a sacred site known for the legendary tradition of the Cult of the Cenote.
It infamously involved human sacrifices to the rain god Chaac. People were thrown into the Cenote at the northernmost region of the city along with gold, jade, and other precious valuables.
This legend was confirmed in 1904 when the Sacred Cenote was dragged to discover human skeletons and precious relics.
What To Expect on Your Chichen Itza Tour
Now that you have a little background on these Chichen Itza Mayan ruins, here’s what to expect when you visit.
Dress For the Weather
Most times of the year it may be hot, humid, and sunny. An important thing to note is that there is very little shade as you’re walking inside Chichen Itza Mexico.
Make sure you pack your SPF sunscreen and lots of water and wear appropriate clothing to protect yourself from dehydration and heatstroke.
While there may be credit and debit machines on-site, do you really want to risk it if they’re not working that day? Avoid the hassle and the expensive ATM fees if you want to buy souvenirs by bringing cash with you on your visit.
Time Your Visit
The best time to enjoy a Chichen Itza tour is bright and early when the gates open, or a few hours before the gates close.
It can take around 3 hours to fully explore the city. Depending on when you arrive, you can use the extra time to visit some of the Cenotes around the area. Tours often include this experience if you’re booking a full-day trip.
As far as planning your visit to Mexico, December and January are peak tourist seasons, which means all the local attractions can be quite busy. If you’re looking for a little more breathing room, consider planning your trip during the off-season.
What To See in Chichen Itza Mexico
There is a lot to see on our Chichen Itza tour, which is why it’s a great place to spend the day. Caravan tours include a knowledgeable local tour guide, which is the best way to experience this ancient historical site.
Not only will you benefit from the rich knowledge and history, but it can help to contextualize what you’re looking at.
Excited yet? No matter how much time you have, make sure you see these top 6 attractions during your visit!
1. El Castillo (The Temple of Kukulkan)
El Castillo is the famous Chichen Itza pyramid also known as the Temple of Kukulcan. El Castillo is probably the structure most people think of when you mention these Chichen Itza Mayan ruins.
This enormous temple is famous for a reason, being the most iconic sight to see in the city. The Temple of Kukulkan is dedicated to the Mayan deity Kukulcan who is represented by a plumed serpent, which can be seen in a carving at the top of the pyramid.
The pyramid stands an impressive 100 feet high and has been wonderfully restored to its former glory. Make sure you clap your hands at the bottom of this step pyramid and listen for the unique echo!
2. The Great Ball Court
The ancient Mayans were famous for their ball games. This sport was known for being both sacred and bloody. Some sources indicate that the leader of the losing team – or perhaps the whole team – would be sacrificed to the gods at the end of the game.
The Great Ball Court, which is part of the ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza Mexico, is one of the largest in the Mayan world. Pay careful attention to the ruins and notice the hoops and sacrificial inscriptions still visible on the walls!
3. The Skull Wall (Tzompantli)
For those who enjoy the macabre, don’t miss out on viewing the Skull Wall. This platform is thought to have been the site for ritual sacrifices where the skulls of the decapitated were displayed.
While you won’t see any real skulls now, Mayan carvings along the side of the platform depict this gruesome display.
4. The Temple of Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors is connected to the Thousand Columns, which line the entrance and side of the temple. As you might guess, this temple was dedicated to Mayan warriors.
This temple is one of the largest in Chichen Itza Mexico and displays countless statues and stone reliefs. The temple and the surrounding pillars are an impressive sight to see, so take your time when walking around to fully appreciate the view.
5. The Observatory
The Observatory is one of the more fascinating ruins at Chichen Itza Mexico. Quite possibly, it is because the idea of an ancient observatory inspires endless curiosity as to how this civilization might have conceived of its place in the universe.
While partially collapsed, it is thought that the Mayans used this building to keep their calendars up to date.
6. The Cenotes
Cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with fresh water that can be found across the Yucatan peninsula. There are two cenotes in Chichen Itza Mexico, only one of which was used for human sacrifices.
The Sacred Cenote is located at the northernmost tip of this ancient Mayan city and is the believed location of ancient rituals and sacrificial offerings.
Cenote Ik Kil is a short drive down the main road and the only cenote at Chichen Itza that allows swimming. Cool off after a day exploring in the heat. Don’t worry, you won’t find any skeletons swimming with you!
Enjoy A Chichen Itza Tour with Caravan Tours!
For more than 70 years (since 1952) Caravan Tours has made every effort to ensure excellent value for our fully guided tours in the United States, Canada, and Central America.
Our Chichen Itza Mayan ruins tour is the highlight of our Mexico Ancient Civilizations tour, which also includes visits to the Tulum ruins of Mexico and the Teotihuacan archeological site near Mexico City.
Caravan’s Copper Canyon train tour (includes a 2-night stay in El Fuerte) and our Mexico Ancient tour, are hugely popular and generally do sell out early. Make sure you book early to secure your preferred dates.
To learn more about any of our all-inclusive tours in Mexico…
- Call Caravan toll-free at1-800-Caravan (227-2826)
- Book a Mexico Ancient Tour
- Request a Free Caravan Tours Brochure
Chichen Itza FAQs
Where is Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza is located close to the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula near the Gulf of Mexico.
How far is Chichen Itza from Merida?
Chichen Itza Mexico is 74 miles (119km) from Merida.
How far is Chichen Itza from Cancun?
The distance from Cancun to Chichen Itza Mexico is 122 miles (197km).
How far is Chichen Itza from Tulum?
Chichen Itza is 94.5 miles (152km) from the resort town of Tulum on the Caribbean Coast of Mexico.
How far is Chichen Itza from Playa del Carman?
Chichen Itza is 112 miles (180.5km) from Playa del Carman Mexico.
How far is Chichen Itza from Mexico City?
Chichen Itza is 892 miles (1435.5 km) from Mexico City.
When was Chichen Itza discovered?
Chichen Itza was discovered on the Yucatan peninsula in 1841.
What does Chichen Itza mean?
In English, Chichen Itza translates to “At the mouth of the well of the Itza,” which was a large sacred Cenote near the ancient Mayan ruins.
When was Chichen Itza built?
It is believed that the origins of Chichen Itza date back to as early as 400 A.D.
Can you climb Chichen Itza?
No. Beginning in 2006, climbing El Castillo, the Chichen Itza pyramid has been prohibited.
What does El Castillo mean?
El Castillo, the Chichen Itza pyramid translates to “The Castle” in English.