A mandatory day trip
It´s a couple of hours by car from Cancun, but I think that it’s impossible to skip its visit. Chichen-Itza it’s popular worldwide, and it would be silly not to visit it, being so close.
In the jungles of Yucatan lies one of the largest and best-preserved archeological sites in Mexico, Chichen Itza. The ruins are a strange combination of Mayan and Toltec influences, spanning hundreds of years of intermittent inhabitation. Founded around the middle of the fifth century by the Mayans, Chichen Itza was taken over at some point by the Toltecs, probably around the year 900. It flourished until a point around the year 1200, at which time it was abandoned.
Once we arrived at Chichen Itza, it was very hot and humid; you need to bring suntan lotion (no brainer) and strongly recommend buying some water there. Thankfully, there were a number of shaded areas (groups of trees) wherein the tour guide delivered his speeches. The total time listening to the expert tour guide was about 1.5 hours, and afterward, there were an additional 1.5 hours left to visit the site on your own and take pictures and video. Chichen Itza is an awesome sight to see, but you cannot climb anything. The site is large, so bring comfortable clothes and shoes. One of the highlights is El Castillo, the pyramid-like structure with its steep stone stairs. Twice a year, during the equinox, a shadow on the north staircase of the pyramid takes the shape of a descending serpent–huge crowds gather to witness the event.
Other highlights include the ball court (the largest ever discovered), the astronomical observatory, a deep, circular cenote (sacred well), the Temple of the Warriors, and the group of the thousand columns.
There are a lot of locals selling souvenirs throughout the site, and in retrospect, they offered the best value/price than anywhere else I saw throughout our trip to Cancun – but you do have to haggle/negotiate as I mentioned earlier. After the tour of the site was over, we boarded the ‘luxury bus’ to head back to Cancun. On the way back, we stopped off to have lunch at a cool/traditional/ local Mexican restaurant. It was buffet-style and we were entertained by a group wearing traditional Mexican costumes – who danced like crazy while balancing open bottles of beer and trays (with open bottles of beer) on their heads. Nothing was dropped, and not one drop was spilled. After lunch, we reboarded the bus and a short while later had a stop at a ‘sinkhole’ where we put on our swimming clothes and jumped in. It was extremely refreshing to cool off – the temperature was a bit chilly, but not cold – actually perfect to cool off after a hot afternoon spent experiencing Chichen Itza.
Finally, we reboarded the bus one last time and headed back to our hotel. By the time we arrived at the hotel (about 7:20 pm), the tour in total lasted about 12 hours. It was a great experience, and strongly recommend purchasing the ‘luxury tour’ which includes unlimited ‘free’ drinks (water, juice, beer, tequila) on the way to and from Chichen Itza.