On the road… Chichen Itza

Palm Tree with blue sky
Chichen Itza would be the first of the great and grand archaeological sites we would visit in Mexico. Leaving from Merida and still recovering from our first installment of food poisoning, we walked the baking grid like streets to find the correct bus terminal. There was something so off putting about booking an overpriced tour to Chichen Itza, if Lonely Planet told us we could get there on our own we would. And that is how Chichen Itza became our first big archaeological stop.





What is Chichen Itza? Chichen Itza is an extremely popular and world famous archaeological site in Mexico. The site of Chichen Itza is one of the largest known Mayan Cities in the world and it can be found in the Yucatan area of Mexico. What is Chichen Itza made up of? Well, the site itself is a large open area made up like any city of avenues and large structures you can explore. The main attraction and most photographed structure at Chichen Itza is the large El Castillo pyramid structure. The site first rose to popularity in the mid 1800’s and has been a key Mexican tourist site ever since.


Many people choose to take a Chichen Itza Tour and there are many tours available. It is definitely not necessary to take a Chichen Itza tour when the site is easily accessed by public transport. Here’s how to get there.

We visited Chichen Itza from Merida. We arrived in Merida by 5 hour first class bus from Cancun. Cancun was still buzzing around our brains and we had a adventure-filled four days remaining in the South East of Mexico to enjoy before our flight North to Mexico City. The number one item on our bucket list for the Yucatan was Chichen Itza and not even the food poisoning I had gotten would stop me from getting to see Chichen Itza.

From Merida you can take the public bus to Piste, it’s a little further than you’d expect and on the lead up to Chichen Itza you start to wonder whether you even got on the right bus. Small villages and pristine catholic churches pass you every few minutes. Locals get on and locals get off and there’s only a small number of people with the actual intent of going the whole way to the ruins. The town of Chichen Itza is rarely mentioned in Chichen Itza literature but the public transport from Merida will be heading to Piste and not the site itself. Although it does stop at the site.

Chichen Itza – No tour required


Chichen Itza, Mexico
Exploring  the whole of the area


We chose to take public transport to the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza from Merida for a number of reasons. First of all, we hadn’t quite figured out the right balance of budgeting and we were still depriving ourselves. Second of all, because it was the third week of a trip and we were backpacking we were far too stubborn to join the other tourists on an organised bus. There are a number of reasons most tourists take the organised tours to Chichen Itza but the biggest is most definitely the painstaking experience of a long-ish distance public transport but in 30 degree heat on Mexican roads (with the side effects of food poisoning).

The bus costs around $4 and there are 3 that leave throughout the day all week. We jumped on the earliest hoping to arrive before the crowds but our journey to Piste took us significantly longer than advertised. There was a long moment when I thought we were never going to make it to the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, but we did.

Chichen Itza, Mexico
Exploring Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins


Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Pretty standard Chichen Itza snap feat me posing of course
We rode the bus to Piste for what felt like forever, and reached the entrance to Chichen Itza around mid day, just as the sun was getting into full force. We were equipped with hats, sunglasses, enough water to keep us going and our trusty Mexico Lonely Planet. We set foot to the ticket office like two determined explorers discovering the Americas and hoping to be culturally enlightened.

Unfortunately  the explorers were joined by many other explorers. In fact, we were joined by several hundred other explorers each seeking their own cultural enlightenment from the Mayan civilisation history.


The entrance fee varies and student discount is available. Entrance prices fluctuate for Chichen Itza during peak season and off season so do your research before hand on the best times to visit The Yucatán and Chichen Itza. There are savings to be had if you plan wisely and visit off peak.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
El Castillo The Kukulkan Pyramid – The main attraction
Chichen Itza, Mexico


We were able to explore Chichen Itza on foot, the site is reasonably small and everything is within walking distance. We used the maps provided in the Central America on a shoestring Lonely Planet and found them useful enough to get around and plan a little route within the Mayan site.

Chichen Itza, Mexico


Chichen Itza, Mexico


Click here to catch up on the rest of the On the road… series

Upon entering the site you are instantly greeted by El Castillo The Kukulkan Pyramid. For several minutes we stood in awe at our first ancient structure of Latin America picturing scenes from Apocalypto. I couldn’t possibly think of one thing in Europe that reminded me of The Kukulkan Pyramid and I began to quickly realise why there were so many others eagerly queuing to enter Chichen Itza on this hot October day.
Chichen Itza, Mexico


Chichen Itza, Mexico


Chichen Itza, Mexico
Windswept but happy to be exploring Chichen Itza



The sun is hot and there is little to no shade on site. Bring your sun cream and a cover up for when the penetrating heat gets too much. Almost all the guide books will tell you to bring some water. Regardless of the heat we spent hours wandering the ruins and exploring our surroundings. We managed to find a shaded bench in a quieter area of the site just as some of the large busses were leaving. We sat for a while and it almost felt silent, there’s an air of great importance around Chichen Itza and you can feel it whilst your immersed in the Mayan history on the sacred site.
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins


Chichen Itza, Mexico
Down behind one of the smaller structures is a pathway lined with sellers touting goods to the masses of tourists that embark upon Chichen Itza every day. Down at the bottom of the path is a large hole but not just any large hole. A cenote, one of thousands dotted around the Yucatan, Southern Mexico and Belize. We’d passed a lot of road signs already in our short time in Mexico pointing to various Cenotes in random and unsuspecting locations.
Chichen Itza, Mexico


Chichen Itza, Mexico


Chichen Itza, Mexico

A trip to Chichen Itza is highly recommended. Whether you’re enjoying a getaway to Cancun or Playa del Carmen or you’re exploring The Yucatan for several weeks make sure Chichen Itza is at the top of your to do list. Arrive early and trust that you can successfully and cheaply get here on public transport and still have the same experience as those on a prearranged overpriced tour.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Merida before your trip to Chichen Itza try the popular Nomads Hostel – dorms and privates are available at a reasonable price and there’s also a great big pool. The vibe and location of Nomads Hostel is just right, highly recommend for budget backpackers just beware of the mosquitos located in the bushes beside that great pool.

Nomadas Hostel, Merida, Mexico

On the road... Chichen Itza, Mexico - travelsandmore

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  1. Mexico is a very safe country for tourists. Like anywhere else you are very unlikely to find trouble if you follow a few steps and remain cautious. I hope your boyfriend changes his mind about Mexico. He would really enjoy visiting such a diverse and culture rich country! Thanks for reading.

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