The Best Chichen Itza Tours

Best Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun, Tulum & Playa [2021]

Looking for the best Chichen Itza tour from Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Merida? With so many Chichen Itza tours on the market today, finding the best one can feel like a chore.

I’m here to help! After my recent visit, I’ve done all the research for you so you can spend less time on your computer and more time exploring Mexico.

What This Post Covers (click to navigate)

I recently visited the ruins on a 5.5-week trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, and the site absolutely blew me away. I can’t wait to share with you all I learned about ancient Mayan culture, the significance of the ruins, and practical tips for visiting.

IMPORTANT TIP FOR USA TRAVELERS TO MEXICO IN 2021
Covid tests are now mandatory to fly back to the USA. Even vaccinated travelers can test positive, and if you do you’ll put into expensive mandated quarantine instead of flying home (just read the horror stories in this USA Today article). My top Mexico travel tip is to always make a backup plan for quarantine and consider travel insurance. While not legally required yet, I feel like I’d be tempting fate without it during a pandemic. Plus, it’s actually pretty cheap! World Nomads is my personal go-to during covid times. But do your own research and stay safe out there!

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support my work by purchasing through the affiliate links on this page, which may earn a commission for this site. Thank you!

Best Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun

#1 – Chichén Itzá Deluxe Day Trip from Cancun

Chichén Itzá Temple and ball court outside Valladolid Mexico
Gotta get the ‘gram at Chichen Itza

If you’re looking to see the best that Chichen Itza and the surrounding area have to offer – and do it in style – then this deluxe day tour from Cancun is for you.

The tour includes round trip transportation from your hotel in Cancun city on a luxury bus, a continental onboard breakfast, a buffet lunch, and a professional guide to lead the way. They’ll also take you to the nearby and to the idyllic Ik Kil Cenote.

Oh, and did I mention they’ll give you some beer after a long day of exploring? Because they will. 🍺

This is one of the most popular, highly-rated tours from Cancun on the market today, with many travelers giving it a 5-star review. Stacking all the available tours up against one another, this is the overall best Chichen Itza tour from Cancun.

#2 – Private Tour – Chichén Itzá Day Trip from Cancun

The Temple of Thousand Warriors - Best Chichen Itza Tours
The Temple of Thousand Warriors in Chichén Itzá , Mexico

While usually a little more pricey, a private tour is a great way to explore at your own pace (plus offers obvious benefits during times of social distancing!). So, if privacy and space are important, then I recommend taking this private day trip to Chichén Itzá from Cancun.

Over the course of 8 hours, this tour will take you from your hotel in Cancun to the site in a private vehicle and let you do it on your own time – you can choose when exactly you want your tour to start and end.

My suggestion is to ask the tour company to plan your trip around the nighttime light and sound show, when a colorful light show is projected onto the main ruins. This is something most other tours on this list leave too early to see, unfortunately, but is definitely something you don’t want to miss!

One note: this tour does not include a guide at the site or lunch, but you can upgrade your tour to include either. Admission into into the site itself IS included in the cost.

#3 – Chichén Itzá Day Trip from Cancun

Ancient pyramid of Chichen Itza at osunset
Temple of Kukulkan, pyramid in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

Another awesome group tour to Chichen Itza from Cancun, this 12-hour tour includes hotel pickup in Cancun, a bilingual guide to lead you through the site, plenty of water, a walking tour of nearby colonial city of Valladolid, and a stop at the Ik Kil Cenote.

Speaking of which, what makes this tour unique is that they’ll take you to Ik Kil Cenote before you get to Chichen Itza, meaning you can visit the cenote with almost no crowds, and feel refreshed during your time at the archaeological site. The tour also includes a full buffet-style lunch that serves salads, soups, veggies, fish, chicken, rice, and regional delights.

Best Chichen Itza Tours from Tulum

#1 – Private Chichén Itzá, Cenote & Valladolid tour

Ik Kil Cenote, a popular stop on tours to Chichen Itza from Tulum

An 8 – 10 hour Mayan ruins and cenote tour from Tulum, this private Tulum excursion includes a guided tour, all entrance fees, and lunch.

The expert guide takes you through the Mayan ruins and then to Ik Kil Cenote where you can refresh and cool off. Then, you’ll get to wander around the colonial town of Valladolid for an hour while you do a bit of shopping and take in the vibe. 

What makes this particular tour special is the people involved. Every single review lists the guides as being absolutely exceptional, so you can rest easy knowing you’re going to get a top-notch, personable, experience.  The ratings are in – this is the best bang for your buck guided tour from Tulum!

#2 – Chichén Itzá Private Tour, Snorkeling Cenote and Valladolid

Valladolid, Mexico - colorful buildings line a street with old volkswagen beetles parked outsside

Private and 9-10 hours long, this tour is the perfect option if you want to learn the most you can about Chichen Itza and avoid the crowds at the same time.

The tour includes a full guided experience with a certified archaeologist and includes private air conditioned transportation, snorkeling equipment, drinks, lunch in Valladolid, and admission to Chichen Itza and Ik Kil cenote.

This is a little bit of a pricier considering it’s just a Tulum day trip, but it’s perfect for travelers who want to travel on their own schedule or who find crowded group tours uncomfortable. Especially if you’re an older traveler or have mobility issues – this tour will give you the flexibility you need to fully enjoy your visit and the surrounding area on your own time.

👉 Staying in Tulum? Check out our guides to the Where to Stay in Tulum and the Best Hotels in Tulum. Oh, and don’t miss our our Tulum Ruins guide (visiting those ruins is highly recommended)!

Best Chichen Itza Tours from Playa Del Carmen

#1 – Chichén Itzá Premiere From Playa Del Carmen

Cenote Suytun in Valladolid Mexico
Travel Lemming’s founder Nate getting the iconic Insta shot at Cenote Suytun

A highly-rated Chichen Itza and cenote tour from Playa, this Chichen Itza tour takes around 10 – 12 hours and includes hotel pick up, a quick stop in Valladolid, lunch (with vegetarian options), unlimited drinks (and beer! 🍻), plus admission into the Mayan ruins and Suytun Cenote.

Which brings me to my next point – this is the tour to take if you want to prioritize going to the Insta-famous Suytun Cenote (pictured above), as most other tours from Playa del Carmen will take you to Ik Kil. It’s not so much that one cenote is better than the other, but certainly Suytun’s platform makes for a unique photograph.

Based on reviews and ratings, this is the single best overall tour from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza.

#2 – Chichén Itzá Deluxe Day Trip from Playa del Carmen

Pyramid with stone steps at Chichen Itza, Mexico

To be honest, this second Chichen Itza tour is much like the other Playa tour above, except that this one goes to Ik Kil Cenote instead of Suytun. It really just comes down to personal preference (Suytun is better for photos, while Ik Kil is better for swimming).

Other than that, this tour is around 11 hours and includes breakfast, lunch, beverages, round-trip transportation, a guided tour through the archaeological zone, and your entrance fees to both the ancient ruins and the cenote.

👉 Based in Playa del Carmen? Check out my list of all the best day trips and excursions from Playa del Carmen (Chichen Itza made the list, obviously!)

Best Chichen Itza Tours from Merida

#1 – Open The Gate To Chichén Itzá

Temple of the Jaguars at Chichen Itza -- dozens of stone pillars

If you’re looking beat the crowds, arrive in style, and have an incredibly unique Chichen Itza experience at the same time, then this is the tour for you!

Leaving Merida around 6 AM, this tour will get you to the site before the crowds, and you’ll even have private access to avoid any lines. The tour also gives you access to a Mayan Planetarium, use of a nearby hotel suite, the experience a spiritual Mayan ceremony and a blessing by a high priest, and you’ll get to do it all with a bilingual tour guide.

Not to mention, the tour includes round trip transportation from many Merida hotels (in a Mercedes Benz, no less) and your food for the day. What it doesn’t include, however, is entrance fees.

All in all, this is the overall best tour from Merida.

#2 – Chichén Itzá Small Group, Buffet Lunch & Cenote from Merida

Papazules, a traditional mayan food dish in Valladolid, Mexico
Papadzules, a traditional local dish

If you’re looking for a small group tour with some unique perks, then check out this highly-rated Chichen Itza tour from Merida.

An 8-hour tour, this one will get you into Chichen Itza with a private entrance and includes a bilingual guide, buffet lunch, a dance performance, Mayan Planetarium access, and entrance to the Mayaland Hotel and their amenities (they have a swimming pool!) That said, the tour doesn’t include hotel pick-up (you’ll have to meet at a designated meeting spot), beverages, or the entrance fee.

#3 – Chichén Itzá Day Trip + Cenote From Merida

Taylor in front of the main pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza mexico

A more basic Chichen Itza and cenote tour from Merida than the other options, this tour will give you early access to the site. 10-hours long, this tour includes a bilingual tour guide, round-trip transportation, hotel pick-up and drop off lunch, entrance fees, and a cenote.

How to Visit Chichen Itza Independently

A stone carving inside the main pyramid at Chichen Itza Mexico

You can absolutely visit Chichen Itza on your own, it just takes a little planning. To visit independent of a tour, I recommend trying to get to the site as early in the day as possible.

To do this, you can take an ADO bus (the gold standard Mexican bus line) from any nearby major city or town to the site. ADO buses are very affordable, usually pretty new and comfortable, and in my experience, always clean.

Personally, when I visited Chichen Itza, I stayed in Valladolid the night before and then got up at the crack of dawn to catch the bus. If you go with this option, be sure to check out our guide to the best hotels and hostels in Valladolid, Mexico. A day trip from Valladolid meant that I got to the site before the crowds and tours and beat the midday heat.

You can also hire a personal tour guide when you get to the site, or get an audio guide onto your phone via the “Chichen Itza Tour Guide Cancun” app.

6 Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza

Chichén Itzá Tips

Tip #1 – Bring a Lot of Water

Sure, your tour guide will probably offer up water for your visit, but given Mexico’s recent endeavors to reduce their single-use plastic waste, do the environment a favor and bring a big reusable water bottle with you.

I love this one from Nalgene.

Tip #2 – Time Your Trip Well

Crowds of tourists visit the Kukulkan pyramid at the archeological site Chichén Itzá

No matter what day you visit Chichen Itza, you can expect it to get very busy at around 11 AM and for the rush to last until 5 or 6 PM.

For these reasons, if you have any flexibility in your day, I recommend arriving at as early as possible. I arrived at 9 AM and had plenty of time to walk around and take photos before the hordes arrived.

READ NEXT: 18 Mexico Travel Tips

Tip #3 – Make Good Clothing Choices

Nate Hake sitting in front of Mayan ruins

In case you missed the memo, Mexico gets HOT.

So, to ward off the heat, I recommend planning your clothing appropriately. You are check out my Mexico packing list for a full checklist of what to pack for your trip.

Shorts and t-shirts are pretty standard attire for Mexico, but you’re going to want to keep them breezy and light-colored for maximum airflow.

And, if you’re going to a cenote on your tour, then I especially recommend wearing a bathing suit under your clothes and packing extra undies. Don’t forget a quick-dry towel!

Tip #4 – Prepare for the Mexican Sun

Stone Carvings of animals and snakes at Chichen Itza, Mexico

Speaking of beating the heat, it’s important to note that there isn’t a whole lot of shade around the major points of interest at Chichen Itza.

In fact, you can expect to be out in direct sunlight for most of the day.

To prepare, do yourself a favor and bring sunscreen (the reef-safe kind is necessary for swimming in cenotes and the ocean), a sun hat or ball cap, a travel umbrella, and a good pair of sunglasses.

Pro Tip: Make sure to sort your before your trip too. Here’s a good site for cross-comparing insurance policies.

Tip #5 – Plan Your Photography Ahead of Time

Stone carvings of skulls at Chichen Itza, Mexico

Here’s a tidbit of information I had no idea about when I first visited the site, so heed my warning:

There are extra charges for professional photography of the ancient ruins. Specifically, you’ll have to get a permit if you plan to film or use a tripod at the site. Both of these permits cost extra, so look up the details in advance.

In fact, a guy tried to swindle me out of $400 USD when he saw my tripod, so either be sure to secure a permit beforehand or stash your tripod away.

Learn from my mistakes!

Tip #6 – Don’t Forget About the OTHER Mayan Ruins

Many tourists don’t realize that Chichen Itza is only one of several major Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula. And, arguably, it’s not even the most impressive. We at Travel Lemming are particular fans of the ruins at Uxmal, which are more easily accessible from Merida, and get a tiny fraction of the crowds.

If you’re coming from Tulum or Cancun, you likely won’t be able to visit Uxmal, but you could overnight in Valladolid and make a visit to the nearby ruins at Ek Balam!

FAQs About Visiting Chichen Itza

How long does it take from Cancun to Chichen Itza?

The drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza is 2.5 hours. You can visit as a day trip by taking a Chichen Itza tour. Or you can do it independently by renting a car or taking the ADO bus and overnighting in Valladolid.

What is Chichén Itzá?

Chichen Itza is a Mayan cultural site, most famous for the large El Castillo Pyramid (Kukulkan). This UNESCO world heritage site is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is situated 125km west of Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

When’s the best time to visit Chichen Itza?

November through April offer the best weather to visit Chichen Itza. In the summer it can get hot and humid, but is still worth visiting if you are in the Yucatan.

How much does it cost to enter Chichen Itza?

The entrance fee to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza is 480 pesos (27 USD). The price was doubled in 2019, which drew some eyebrows. You can get into Chichen Itza for free if you’re a Mexican citizen (on Sundays), under 13 years old, a student, a teacher, or a senior with valid ID.

Can you climb to the top of Chichen Itza?

Climbing to the top of Chichen Itza is prohibited to protect the Mayan ruins from the huge number of visitors. The nearby Mayan ruins at Coba used to be popular for climbing, but since March 2020 climbing has been prohibited there as well. The nearest Mayan ruins that allow climbing as of this time are at Ek Balam.

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That’s it this guide!

Visiting Chichen Itza, Mexico is an absolute must on your trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, and you won’t regret learning all about the ancient Mayan culture.

If you have any questions about these tours, fire away in the comments, or check out these related articles:

Have fun at Chichen Itza!

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