Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Visiting Chichen Itza in 2023: Everything You Need to Know

There are few archaeological sites in the Americas as well known as Chichén Itzá. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the most popular attractions in Mexico with over two million visitors each year. Not surprisingly then, you would normally expect to see the site along with many other people. Given the low number of tourists, however, now is the perfect opportunity to visit this iconic Mayan site for a quieter experience. Here we set out essential information for visiting Chichen Itza, such as admission price, buying tickets online, guided tours and where to stay, as well as a number of tips to allow you to be better prepared and enjoy this amazing archaeological site.

Chichén Itzá Entry Tickets & Guided Tours

Skip-the-Line Entry Ticket

Guided Group Walking Tour

Day Trip from Cancun/Riviera

For some (not all) of the products recommended on this page,
Archaeology Travel may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you decide to purchase them.

What is Chichén Itzá?

Chichen Itza is a ruined, pre-Columbian city. It was built and inhabited by historical Mayan people, descendants of whom still live in this part of Mexico. The city developed in the Late Classic period of Mesoamerican archaeology, around the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Over time, the city became a major economic powerhouse in the region, with much fabulous architecture built here to demonstrate the power and influence of its elite. Chichen Itza reached its apogee in the subsequent Terminal Classic and Postclassical periods although by the 13th century had entered a decline, with many of its elite buildings falling into disuse. The exact reasons for this fall are still the subject of archaeological debate and enquiry.

Although Spanish invaders tried to establish their own base at Chichen Itza in the 16th century, their plans were scuppered by violent opposition from the local Maya population. By the 19th century, jungle had overgrown much of the ancient city, creating a romantic ruin that helped fire the imagination of explorers and antiquarians alike. Archaeological excavation helped reveal more of the site in the 19th and early 20th centuries, after which several of the buildings were partly reconstructed to help capture their former splendour.

Although climbing the steps of el Castillo pyramid, or the temple of Kukulcán – one of the site’s most monumental stone structures, a walk around Chichén Itzá remains a treat for anyone with the slightest interest in Mesoamerica’s past. It really is little surprise that when a major international poll was undertaken in the early 21st century, Chichén Itzá was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, having already been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Two temples at Chichen Itza, Temple of the Warriors and Temple of Kukulcán.
There is more to Chichen Itza than the Temple of Kukulcán, also called called ‘El Castillo’. To the left of the iconic temple, in this photograph, is the Temple of the Warriors.

Where is Chichén Itzá?

The archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, officially the Zona Arqueológica de Chichén Itzá, is on the Yucatán peninsular, in the Mexican state of Yucatán. Pisté, the nearest town, is just 2.5 km away. The site is just off the main highway that runs between the city of Mérida (115 km away) and the seaside resort of Cancun (200 km away).

Overgrown Chichen Itza as seen in a photograph from around 1895.
Temple of Jaguars and Temple of Kukulkan (El Castillo) at Chichén Itzá in their overgrown state. The photo, now in the A. D. White Architectural Photographs Collection at Cornell University Library, USA, was taken around the turn of the 19th century.

Buying Tickets for Chichén Itzá

There are two sums that make up the entry fee for Chichen Itza: one to the Institute of History and Anthropology of Mexico (the custodians of the site) and the other to the Ministry of Culture of Yucatán, the local government tax. When visiting Chichen Itza, if you have not bought tickets online in advance, you will be required to queue twice to pay these two parts at two different ticket booths. Both are located near the main entrance.

It is advisable to bring sufficient cash (with Mexican pesos) as the card machines can be unreliable.

The cost of entry varies depending on who you are. As of early 2022, the price for non-citizens is 533 Pesos (80 to the site custodians and 453 Pesos in taxes to the state), which is approximately US$26 for an adult. Mexican citizens are charged 157 Pesos on top of the 80 Pesos general entry fee, but not on Sundays.

Chichen Itza is currently operating with certain restrictions. Only 3000 visitors are allowed entry per day to prevent excessive crowding inside the site. This makes it a good time to see the site without having to compete with the sheer number of visitors one usually finds here.

Buying a Ticket Online, in Advance

When is the Best Time to Visit Chichén Itzá?

The earlier you get to Chichen Itza, the better. The doors open at 8am, by which point a small queue has often already formed. Things get busier from around 10am onward, at which point the site can usually get quite crowded, although current restrictions mean that it will not be as congested as in previous years. Going early in the morning also means you can get a good look around the site before the heat of the midday sun hits.

As locals get free entry on Sundays, this is often a day when crowds grow larger and should be avoided if possible.

Plan to spend at least two to three hours inside the site. Keen archaeological explorers could conceivably spend far longer, especially if you stay for a meal at the on-site restaurant.

What Should I Take?

Chichen Itza is an outdoor experience and you can expect to be exposed to the elements – whether that be baking sun or pelting rain. For this reason, it is important to come prepared. Although slightly cooler between November and January, the weather in this area is fairly constant throughout the year, meaning that there are plenty of hot, sunny days. A sun hat, sun cream, and plenty of drinking water is a must. If rain is forecast, an umbrella or poncho will be very handy.

As you will be on your feet most of the time, wear appropriate footwear. Under the heat of the Mexican sun, some visitors decide to wear flip-flops, but these probably won’t give your feet the needed support for the day. You are better off with comfortable trainers.

If it is great photo opportunities you are after, you are advised to arrive early to avoid the crowds. Those with camera tripods or video recorders may be charged for an extra permit so it is best to check ahead of time if you are planning on bringing professional-level photographic equipment.

On-site explanations are comparatively limited, so keen archaeological explorers might want to bring along a specialist book purchased beforehand. Alternatively, there are many professional guides available for hire at the entrance to the site itself. Those visiting as part of a pre-arranged guided tour can sometimes rely on their guide to provide them with an overview of the site and its history.

What Can I Expect to Find at the Site?

There is an air-conditioned restaurant, Oxtun, located inside the archaeological site. The menu is based largely on traditional Mexican cuisine, although has been adapted to international tourist tastes. Vegetarian options are available. There are other cafes and restaurants within a short drive of the Chichen Itza site itself.

Those wanting a souvenir of their visit will find sellers competing to provide you with a range of standard tourist memorabilia. Many of these sellers blow whistles and cause quite an annoying racket, much to the chagrin of visitors. Be prepared for some sellers to behave in a particularly pushy manner; it is not unknown for sellers to hand you one of their wares unrequested and then demand payment.

Although Chichen Itza is a largely safe place for tourists, like many popular attractions it can attract pickpockets so visitors should be careful with their belongings. Lockers for suitcases and bags are available near the entrance.

How to Get to Chichén Itzá?

Many visitors choose to visit Chichen Itza as a daytrip from Cancun, the coastal city popular with tourists. With about 120 miles between them, the archaeological site is roughly two hours away from the city by car. One option, particularly suited for visitors who like their independence, is to rent a car in Cancun and drive to Chichen Itza themselves. A car park is available near the archaeological site.

An alternative option is to join an organised tour from Cancun. These will usually mean less hassle but also less freedom to plan your visit as you please. These groups usually arrive at Chichen Itza in the middle of the day, when the crowds peak, and often include a scheduled lunch stop on the itinerary.

From Cancun there are a number of different options for day-trips to Chichen Itza. One has an early start that allows you to miss the midday crowds.

It is also possible to take a day-trip to Chichen Itza from Mérida, the capital of the Yucatan state which is located 76 miles away.

For those not wanting to visit Chichen Itza on a daytrip, there is the option of staying overnight at one of the hotels close to the archaeological site itself. Staying at one of these locations will make it easier to get to the ruined city early in the morning, before the crowds.

Mayan glyphs at Chichen Itza.
A warrior with a feathered headdress carrying spears and a human head, surrounded by rattlesnakes. This image can be seen at the Platform of the Skulls on the wall of the stage.

Where to Stay When Visiting Chichén Itzá

Most visitors to Chichén Itzá stay on what is called the Riviera Maya; that coastline on the northeastern edge of the peninsular that runs from Cancun through Playa del Carmen to Tulum. As a very popular tourist destination there are hundreds of hotels to choose from.

Hotels Near Chichén Itzá

There are also a number of very good hotels closer to Chichén Itzá. Nearby Piste itself has a good choice; one that gets repeatedly mentioned and is very favourably reviewed is La Casa de las Lunas. And even closer to the archaeological site there are more highly rated hotels, two 5 star hotels (The Lodge at Chichén Itzá and Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows) and one 3 star hotel (Villas Arqueologicas Chichen Itza).

Chichén Itzá Virtual Tour

Looking for a virtual tour of the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, click through to our Interactive Map of Mexico. If you are unfamiliar with how to view archaeology sites on Google maps, follow these steps (more details on using Google maps for virtually touring archaeology sites and museums). First locate Chichen Itza on the map, and zoom in to the site using the + button in the lower right corner. In the top left hand corner of the map switch to Satellite view. Drag the yellow pegman from its original position in the lower right corner on to the map – light blue lines and dots will appear (as in the image below). Drop pegman on to a dot to see a 360-degree photograph, and onto a line to move about the site.

What is There to Do Near Chichén Itzá?

Ik-Kil Cenote, Chichen Itza, Mexico
Not far from Chichen Itza is a sacred site of Ik Kil – a cenote that was used by the Mayans to make human sacrifices to their rain god. Ik Kil is a popular stop on day trips to Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza is located a short drive away from Ik Kil, a cenote or natural sinkhole filled with water. Like many other cenotes in the Yucatan area, Ik Kil was used as a religious site by Maya people in centuries past, when various offerings were deposited here. Although the water is notoriously cold, for a fee it is possible to dive and swim in the cenote so bring your swimming clothes! Like Chichen Itza itself, Ik Kil can prove very popular with tourists and is best visited early in the day before the crowds arrive.

Ik Kil is a frequent addition to itineraries to Chichen Itza from hotels on the Mayan Riviera. For those with a particular interest in seeing Mayan ruins, a day trip to both Chichen Itza and Coba include Ik Kil. Another day trip to Chichen Itza that includes Ik Kil also stops at the colonial city of Valladolid.

The Convent of San Bernardino de Siena in Valladolid, Yucatan peninsular in Mexico.
Less than an hour from Chichen Itza is the town of Valladolid, a popular tourist destination for visitors to Yucatan. The town is particularly known for its colonial era churches and architecture, in particular the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena that was built by Franciscan missionaries between 1552 and 1560.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Ethan Doyle White

When not exploring archaeology and history sites at home and abroad, and then writing about these for Archaeology Travel, I research religion in early medieval England and contemporary uses of heritage. In 2019 I completed a PhD in medieval history and archaeology from University College, London. Read More

Community Comments

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments