Doing a day trip to Chichen Itza with the kids turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip to Cancun. Even though Chichen Itza is located in the state of Yucatan and Cancun is part of Quintana Roo, it’s only two hours away from Playa del Carmen/Tulum or two hours and fifteen minutes from Cancun downtown.
It’s an easy drive, and the highway that connects them is in good shape. Click here to see the google map/route. You can either take your family to Chichen Itza by taking a tour and skip the driving, or rent a car. The advantage of driving yourself is that you have the flexibility of visiting few other places after seeing Chichen. If you take a tour you are stuck with the tour’s plan which may include more crowed places.
Morning in Chichen Itza
You should target to arrive early in Chichen Itza, epecially if you are driving. Parking is limited; so arriving early will guarantee you get a good spot. You can also avoid the crowd at the main entrance. Chichen Itza opens at 9am; so try to be there close to that time. If you start early, you will also avoid the hottest hours of the day. Take into consideration that most of Chichen is an open field, no shade, only a few trees.
Walking around Chichen
My daughter was three years old when we visited Chichen. I let her walk and didn’t carry a stroller. It worked out well for me. If you have a little toddler, you can consider bringing a carrier. I’m not sure about strollers inside Chichen Itza. It is doable, but since the whole area is an open field with grass and soil, it’s not ideal to roll a stroller.
Things your toddler will need
A day trip to Chichen can be difficult if you are not prepared for it. You must bring with you water, enough water especially if you are going during a very hot day. Bring a hat, recommended for everyone, since shade is hard to find.
You will be glad you brought a hat and water with you.
Oh, also bring some snacks. Once you enter the archeologic zone there are no places to buy food if your toddler needs to have a snack.
What to expect
As soon as you buy your tickets and enter, you will be approached by guides offering a tour. There are guides fluent in English. All of them have the same rate as far as we could tell. We paired with another family and split the cost. The guide was OK with that. He was very friendly and definitely taught us a lot about the Mayans and Chichen Itza.
Locals are very friendly and helpful people. You will have a good time.
While you are walking in Chichen, you will find many local people selling stuff. Clothing, Mayan sculptures, souvenirs, etc. Prices are not bad, and you are buying directly from locals.
On your way out you will find a nice restaurant right next to the main entrance of Chichen-Itza. It is a nice place and convenient. Try out ‘sopa de lima’ or another traditional local dish such as ‘cochinita pibil’, my favorite.
Activities after Chichen Itza
If you are visiting Chichen Itza for the day, it’s a good idea to go to a Cenote or visit Valladolid on your way back to Riviera Maya.
I was told by a friend who is from Yucatan, not to visit the ‘cenote sagrado’ that is right next to Chichen Itza. Seems like it is just too popular, and gets extremely crowded.
There are other cenotes that look amazing but require certain skills to get to them. I mean walking, or taking a bike. Having a toddler, I couldn’t risk going for a long walk right after a long morning at Chichen.
Ek Balam is the name of the cenote and ruins that were recommended to me by a friend. If you can do it, go for it. I didn’t make it there, but it looks like a magical place in pictures, both the ruins and the cenote. I hope I can go back and visit it one day.
We decided for X-Keken. It has two cenotes in one site. You have the option to pay for one cenote or for both of them. We tried just one. It had stairs to go all the way down, and was OK even with our toddler.
Visiting the cenote was great experience. It is quite amazing to find how such clear and fresh water is in a underground cave. When you reach the bottom and look up, you can see a small opening on the very top of the cenote that is actual ground level. We got to see somebody jumping from there into the cenote.
The amosphere is unique. The way the light comes through the small hole in the top, and hits the water is beautiful. I also remember getting in the water and feeling little fishes nibbling my toes as well as seeing a few bats flying around at the top of the cenote.
Don’t forget to take a look at my post about a toddler in Xel-Ha.
Please comment bellow with any questions or suggestions you may have.