The new wonder of the modern world
The pre-Hispanic city of Chichen Itza was once the most important capital of the Mayan area by the end of the Classic and beginning of the Post Classic periods. When the Spaniards arrived, it was the most revered place of worship and pilgrimage in the Yucatan Peninsula. Nowadays, it’s a sacred place for the Mayans and the single-most-visited archeological site in Mexico.
This city, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, is located in eastern Yucatan, 120 km from Merida. It was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, and is without a doubt the most important tourist spot in the Yucatan Peninsula. At the Chichen Itza archeological site, the inestimable legacy of the Itzá people lives on through the Great North Platform, the Temple of the Thousand Columns, the Cenote Sagrado or Sacred Well, the Great Ball Court, and of course, the Pyramid of Kukulcan, better known as the Chichen Itza Castle. It’s precisely at this pyramid where twice a year, during the spring and autumn equinoxes on March 21 and between September 21 and 23, respectively a spectacular light and shadow phenomenon occurs: the light from the sun creates the shape of a snake descending the sacred temple’s staircase, until the iconic silhouette of the feathered snake is complete. The opposite happens during the summer and winter solstices. Chichen Itza is a definite must on your tour of the Yucatan peninsula.
Foreigners 182 pesos
Mexican national 128 pesos (includes the light and sound show). Entrance to the light and sound show only is 75 and 48 pesos, respectively.
On Sundays, Mexican nationals enter for free.
How to get there
From Merida: By car on the Merida-Cancun toll road. Exit the highway at the Piste village toll booth; the site is a few minutes away from there. It’s 115 km in total. From Cancun, take the Cancun-Merida toll road until the Piste toll booth. You can also take the highway from Tulum and Riviera Maya, through the city of Valladolid. Chichen Itza is 42 km away from Valladolid. There are buses that stop at Piste, 1.5 km (about a mile) from the site. Tours are offered from both cities, and now there are even flights available from Cancun.
Open every day from 8 am to 5 pm. The nightly light and sound show has been temporaly suspended. It is expected to open again, with a new spectacle and night tours on april 2014.
Suggestions and Information
There are unofficial tourist guides by the entrace of Chichen Itza, and you can hire them individually. We recommend wearing comfortable shoes so you’ll be able to walk and tour the site without any problems. Check the weather in advance so your visit won’t be ruined by rain. Climbing the pyramids is not allowed. You have to pay a 45-peso permit to use a tourist video camera; a permit for professional video equipment costs 8,616 pesos. Remember, it’s important to respect the area you’re visiting and keep it clean.
The services offered in Chichen Itza include restaurants, hotels, guides, transportation, souvenir shops, restrooms, ATMs, light and sound show, tourist restaurants, gas stations, payphones.
Near Chichen Itza there are ceveral cenotes, or underground rivers, that you can visit and even swim in. Some tours include this type of activity, with the advantage of including a guide, and especially, meals. You can also visit the colonial village of Valladolid, where there are also several cenotes.