Chichen Itza, Mexico, North America, On the road

On the road… How to get to Chichen Itza

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Bryony Clapperton

Chichen Itza would be the first of the great and grand archaeological sites we would visit in Mexico. It is one of the most popular and accessible in a key tourist area of Mexico. 

Many people choose to visit as part of a tour, but we chose not to. Here’s how to get to Chichen Itza from Merida on public transport. 

Visit Chichen Itza, Mexico

Merida, Meixco

Merida is a popular tourist town in the Yucatan are of Mexico. It is popular with both backers and domestic Mexican tourists.

The colonial feel of the town and the main square are very tourist friendly and it’s easy to see why so many people this city. We arrived in Merida from Cancun an easy bus journey can get you here.

Busses leave Cancun airport and bus station regularly the journey from Cancun to Merida will take around 4 hours.

This is a popular route for people travelling North and on to Mexico city as opposed to travelling round to Central America.

El Castillo, Chichen Itza

Where to stay in Merida?

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Merida before you visit Chichen Itza try the popular Nomadas 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.

If you are wanting some advice on how to get to Chichen Itza the reception is very helpful. The staff at the hostel can support you with questions on public transport.

Nomadas Hostel Merida

What is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is an extremely popular and world famous archaeological site in Mexico.

The site is one of the largest known Mayan Cities in the world and it can be found in the Yucatan area of Mexico.

The site itself is a large open area made up like any city of avenues and large structures you can explore. It’s a very enjoyable site to explore if you do choose to visit Chichen Itza.

The main attraction and most photographed structure 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.

Chichen Itza pyramid

How to get to Chichen Itza from Merida?

Merida to Chichen Itza by bus

Leaving from Merida and still recovering from food poisoning, we walked the baking grid like streets to find the correct bus terminal to brave the public transport to Chichen Itza.

When we were figuring out how to get to Chichen Itza our philosophy was if Lonely Planet told us we could get there on our own we would.

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.

Chichen Itza ruins in Mexico
Chichen Itza ruins

How to get to Chichen Itza by bus

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 the site 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 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, Mexico

How much is the bus to Chichen Itza

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 beware of this when organising.

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.

Mayan ruins

Public transport to Chichen Itza

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 to visit Chichen Itza.

There are a number of reasons most tourists take the organised tours to 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).

Chichen Itza ruins
Chichen Itza, Mexico

Entrance fees

The entrance fee varies and student discount is available.

Entrance prices fluctuate 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

Exploring the archaeological site

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.

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.

Down behind one of the smaller structures is a pathway lined with sellers touting goods to the masses of tourists that embark upon the site 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

Visit Chichen Itza tips

  • 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 so definitely do.
  • Bring some spare cash to buy souvenirs on site.
  • Note that there are little amenities on site but you can get snacks and there are bathrooms.
  • There are a lot of sellers on site and a lot of people so it may seem hectic but it’s perfectly safe.

A trip to Chichen Itza is highly recommended. Whether you’re enjoying a getaway to Cancun or Playa del Carmen add this to your bucket 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.

Mayan ruins
Chichen Itza, Mexico

2 thoughts on “On the road… How to get to Chichen Itza

  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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