The iconic El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza during sunset, with the sun casting a warm glow over the ancient Mayan ruins and lush greenery in the foreground.

How To Get To Chichen Itza From Playa Del Carmen In 2024

Imagine stepping into the ancient realm of the Maya, where majestic pyramids and intricate stone carvings await your exploration.

If you’re staying in the lively beach towns of Playa del Carmen or Cancun, you’ll want to plan your adventure to the iconic Chichen Itza carefully.

With multiple transportation options at your disposal, including rental cars, private tours, economical buses, and direct taxis, you can customize your experience to suit your preferences.

But the real question lies in how to make the most of your visit to this legendary site.

Stay tuned as we explore the details, revealing insider tips and must-see attractions to enhance your Chichen Itza adventure.

Woman jumping in front of the ancient Mayan pyramid of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico on a sunny day with blue skies and scattered clouds.
Embracing the history and grandeur of the iconic Kukulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza, a visitor strikes a playful pose on a sunny day amidst the ancient Mayan ruins.

How to Get to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen: 4 Ways

You’re exploring the breathtaking Riviera Maya, and Chichen Itza is on your bucket list.

From Playa del Carmen, you have several options to reach this iconic Mayan wonder:

  • Renting a car for a distinctive self-guided adventure can offer flexibility and the freedom to explore at your own pace.
  • Booking a private tour provides convenience and expertise, ensuring a guided experience with insights into the history and significance of Chichen Itza.
  • Hopping on an economical bus is a budget-friendly option that allows you to sit back and enjoy the scenic views along the way.
  • Splurging on a taxi for door-to-door service offers comfort and convenience, with the added benefit of a direct journey to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Visitors standing in front of the iconic El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza under a cloudy blue sky in Yucatan, Mexico.
Tourists marvel at the towering grandeur of El Castillo, the famous Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza, against the backdrop of an expansive Yucatecan sky.

1. From Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza By Car

Taking a rental car provides a convenient and flexible way to explore Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen.

You’ll have an approximately 185 km (115 miles) drive ahead of you, which can take around 2.5 hours via toll roads (305D and 180D) or 3.5 hours via free roads like Highway 307 to Tulum, then in the direction of Valladolid on Highway 180.

While toll roads are faster and better maintained, they’ll cost around 350 MXN (20 USD) each way.

Rent from reputable companies like Hertz, Avis, Budget, EasyWay, or America Car Rental.

Use Google Maps or Waze for GPS navigation, and expect to pay 80 MXN (4.50 USD) for parking at Chichen Itza.

Before setting off, fill up your gas tank, as there are few petrol stations en route. Watch out for topes (speed bumps) and drive defensively.

Bring enough Mexican pesos for tolls, as credit cards and U.S. dollars aren’t accepted.

With proper planning and precautions, driving from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza by car provides a hassle-free and flexible experience.

Visitors exploring the grounds near the El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza on a sunny day with blue skies.
Tourists marvel at the majestic El Castillo, the iconic step pyramid at Chichen Itza, under the bright Yucatan sun.

2. From Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza by Private Tour

A customized tour to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen provides a convenient and personalized option for exploring the iconic Mayan ruins.

With a private tour, you’ll enjoy round-trip transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza, along with the services of an English-speaking guide.

Many tour companies, like My Adventure Concierge Tour, offer private tours that include entrance fees and sometimes extras like a cenote visit or lunch.

The major advantage of a private tour is the ability to personalize your itinerary based on your interests. You won’t have to wait for others or follow a rigid schedule.

Instead, you can spend as much time as you’d like at Chichen Itza, ask your guide questions, and potentially add stops along the way.

With personalized attention from your guide, you’ll gain a comprehensive knowledge of the history and significance of this UNESCO Heritage Site.

While private tours are more expensive, at around $180 USD per person, they offer a hassle-free and individualized experience for those looking for convenience and flexibility.

Ancient Mayan pyramid of Kukulcán, also known as El Castillo, in the background with ruins and carvings at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, with a clear blue sky.
The majestic El Castillo pyramid towering over the historical ruins of Chichen Itza, a testament to the Mayan civilization’s architectural prowess, under the serene Yucatan sky.

3. From Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza by Bus

While private tours offer convenience, budget globetrotters can experience Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen via ADO’s affordable bus service.

ADO is the main bus company offering direct service from Playa del Carmen to the archaeological site.

The bus departs once a day at 8:17 AM from the ADO Terminal Turistica on 5th Avenue and Juarez Avenue in Playa del Carmen.

Be sure to check ADO’s website for the most up-to-date schedule and frequency.

Tickets cost around $340 MXN (roughly $20 USD) for a return trip. The bus ride to Chichen Itza takes approximately 3.5-4 hours, as it may make stops in other cities along the way.

Once you arrive at the Chichen Itza bus station, you can take a short walk or taxi ride to the entrance of the ruins.

Traveling by ADO bus is an economical way to visit Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen. Just be prepared for the lengthy travel time and plan your day accordingly.

With some advance planning, you can experience this iconic Maya archaeological site without breaking the bank.

Ancient stone columns of the Temple of a Thousand Warriors at Chichen Itza under a blue sky with scattered clouds.
The majestic Temple of a Thousand Warriors, featuring the iconic “Mil Columnas” at Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico—a testament to the architectural prowess of the Maya civilization.

4. From Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza by Taxi

For those in search of a private and direct route, taxis offer door-to-door transportation from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza.

Companies like Taxis Playenses and Taxis Mayab provide this service.

Before hopping in, you’ll want to negotiate and agree on the price upfront.

A one-way trip can cost anywhere from 2200-2700 MXN (around $131-$161 USD), not including tolls.

The main advantage of taking a taxi is the convenience of door-to-door service and flexibility in your schedule. You won’t need to worry about maneuvering public transportation or sticking to fixed timetables.

However, it’s the priciest option for getting to Chichen Itza from Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

If cost is a concern, you may want to ponder other modes of private transportation or public transit.

View from inside a car showing a highway in Yucatan, Mexico, with cars and a street sign indicating directions to Cancun, Avenida C.T.M, and Avenida 34 Norte.
On the road from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza, the highway bustles with life under the expansive blue sky, guiding travelers towards Cancun and other local destinations marked by clear green signs.

How to Visit Chichen Itza: Planning Your Trip

It’s no question that visitors to the Yucatan Peninsula should take the time to go and see Chichen Itza.

You’ll need to plan for the costs of visiting Chichen Itza, including the entrance fee, transportation, and any additional expenses like tour guides or food.

The site is open daily with varying hours, so check in advance to make sure you arrive during operating times.

Consider adding nearby attractions like Ik Kil Cenote or Valladolid to your itinerary for a well-rounded day trip experience.

A large stone carving at the base of a partially collapsed ancient pyramid structure in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, with green vegetation growing between the stones under a clear blue sky.
Majestic ruins of Chichen Itza: A weathered stone sculpture stands guard at the foot of a grand Mayan pyramid, bearing witness to the glory of a civilization past amidst the lush Yucatecan landscape.

Costs & Hours of Operation

Visiting the majestic Chichen Itza requires careful planning for costs and operating hours.

The Chichen Itza entrance fees and ticket prices vary based on the day of your visit. You can buy tickets online or at the entrance to the ruins.

For foreign visitors, the regular Chichen Itza admission fee is $614 MXN ($37 USD), with an additional $45 MXN ($3 USD) charge for using video cameras.

However, on Fridays and Saturdays, the Chichen Itza entry fee increases to $708 MXN ($42 USD), which includes access to the night show.

Sundays offer a discounted rate of $450 MXN ($27 USD).

Regarding the Chichen Itza visiting hours and schedule, the archaeological site is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with the last entry permitted at 4:30 PM.

It’s important to plan your visit accordingly to make the most of your time at this ancient wonder.

A man pushing a stroller walks past a large stone structure with intricate carvings in Chichén-Itzá, Mexico.
A tourist pushes a stroller past the Temple of Kukulkan at the Chichen Itza archaeological site in Yucatan, Mexico.

What to See in Chichen Itza

You should know that the area is massive, and it is more than just the one pyramid that is typically pictured in postcards or on social media.

Depending on how interested you may be in the details and how much time you will want to dedicate to roaming around, we suggest giving it at least 2 hours to make it a worthwhile visit.

If you’re short on time, we recommend focusing on these three sites:

  • El Castillo (Pyramid of Kukulcan): This iconic pyramid, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, is the centerpiece of Chichen Itza. It’s a marvel of Mayan engineering, with 365 steps representing the days of the solar year. During the spring and fall equinoxes, the setting sun creates a shadow that resembles a serpent slithering down the pyramid’s northern staircase. While climbing El Castillo was once permitted, it is now prohibited to protect the structure and visitor safety.
  • The Great Ballcourt: This massive court is the largest in Mesoamerica, measuring 168 meters long and 70 meters wide. It was the site of the ancient Mayan ballgame, a ritualistic sport with religious and political significance. The game involved two teams trying to get a rubber ball through a stone hoop high on the court’s walls. Our guide mentioned that there is a theory that either the winning team or the loosing team may have been sacrificed, so that part is not cool!
  • El Caracol (Observatory): This round building with a spiral staircase is believed to have been an astronomical observatory. Its windows align with celestial events, demonstrating the Mayans’ advanced knowledge of astronomy. Also, the Observatory provides an unparalleled view of the surrounding area – you really can’t beat this perspective!

In the same vicinity of the main pyramid are the Temple of the Warriors and Venus Platform so you can easily explore those without having to venture too far out.

If you have a little extra time, you should also check out Sacred Cenote which is about a 15 minute walk, round-trip. 

We didn’t get a chance to see it because we had to start heading back to Playa Del Carmen but hopefully will go back and check it our next time as it is one of the top things to see at Chichen Itza.

Other notable attractions in Chichen Itza:

  • The Ossuary (Tumba de Chac Mool): A platform with a tomb containing skeletal remains.
  • The Group of a Thousand Columns: A vast plaza surrounded by columns.
  • Kukulkan Nights: On Friday and Saturday evenings, Chichen Itza transforms with a mesmerizing light and sound show projected onto El Castillo. The show narrates the history and legends of the Mayan civilization, accompanied by music and visual effects. It’s a truly unforgettable experience.

While it was difficult for us to tour Chichen Itza fully with a small child, it was, nevertheless, very interesting and fun to go!

A man smiling while pushing a child in a stroller at the ancient ball court in Chichen Itza, with other tourists and clear blue sky in the background.
Exploring history at the Great Ball Court of Chichen Itza, where ancient games once unfolded under the Yucatan sun.

Should You Go With a Tour or On Your Own?

The short answer would be to go with a tour guide.

Unless you are purely there to see the structures and just take photos simply because they look “cool” you may want to actually learn about what you are seeing.

Some might argue that they can just learn about it online and that may work.

However, it’s just not the same as getting the information and connecting it to the site while actually being in it.

A woman in a hat admires the ancient Mayan ruins of the Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, with stone columns and carved figures visible under a partly cloudy sky.
The Temple of Warriors at the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico. The impressive stone structure features multiple levels with columns and carvings typical of Mayan architecture.

If you get a good tour guide, they will probably fill you in on some bonus information that may not be available easily elsewhere.

For instance, our tour guide went into detail about the four cenotes (one on each side) that surround the main temple (some are at a distance and may not appear on site maps) and how the waterways from those “wells” connect to one cenote or underground lake) right under the pyramid.

This is, perhaps, why the name “Chichen Itza” refers to “at the mouth of the well of the Itza.” The Itza part is derived from Itza people, a Mayan tribe that occupied the city.

By the way, this was our fourth World Wonder. We have been fortunate to have see the Great Wall of China, Petra, and the Colosseum in Rome!

Visitors swimming and enjoying the natural beauty of the Cenote Zaci, a large sinkhole with lush greenery and cascading water in Valladolid, near Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
Explorers bask in the serene oasis of Cenote Zaci, surrounded by verdant foliage and the tranquil waters of this natural wonder in Valladolid, a stone’s throw from the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

Places to Add to Your Chichen Itza Day Trip Itinerary

While planning your Chichen Itza adventure, you’ll find several captivating sites nearby that make excellent additions to your day-trip itinerary.

After exploring the iconic Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, consider venturing to the region’s pristine cenotes – mesmerizing sinkholes with clear waters perfect for an invigorating swim.

These marvels of nature are a remarkable part of any Chichen Itza day tour or Cancun to Chichen Itza day trip.

It may take a few days to visit all of Chichen Itza’s sites, so if you want to spend at least 2 weeks in Mexico (which we recommend!), there are several nearby towns where you could stay or do day trips from.

The “Pueblo Magico” of Valladolid, Yucatan is probably our favorite option because it has so much charm and character!

This town makes for a great base while visiting Chichen Itza because it allows easy access without any major crowds.

If you crave more ancient Mayan wonders, Ek Balam is an incredible archaeological site less crowded than Chichen Itza.

Its well-preserved structures provide a glimpse into the region’s fascinating past.

A photo of the facade of the San Gervasio Cathedral in Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico. The cathedral is made of white stone and has two bell towers. There are palm trees in front of the cathedral and a blue sky with white clouds in the background.
The San Gervasio Cathedral is a beautiful example of colonial architecture in Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico. The church was built in the 16th century and is dedicated to Saint Gervasius. The cathedral is located in the city’s main square and is a popular tourist destination.

Where to Stay Near Chichen Itza

If you plan to spend more than just a day at Chichen Itza, consider staying in one of the nearby towns or cities.

Valladolid, located about 40 kilometers away, is a popular choice, offering a range of accommodation options, including:

Alternatively, you could also stay in Merida, the vibrant capital of Yucatan, which is approximately an hour’s drive from Chichen Itza.

Ancient carved stone skulls on the Tzompantli (Wall of Skulls) at Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico, with blue sky and greenery in the background.
The iconic Tzompantli, or Wall of Skulls, stands as a testament to the rich and complex Mayan civilization at the historical site of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico, under a tranquil sky.

Our Chichen Itza Private Tour Review

We were coming from our visit in Playa Del Carmen, but this itinerary can also be utilized by those leaving from Cancun to Chichen Itza.

We ate breakfast and packed Petra’s breakfast to go in order to get out and on the road around 8:15ish am.

We wanted to get there early so that temperatures would be a bit cooler and to deal with less crowds.

Visitors at the Chichen Itza archaeological site with the El Castillo pyramid in the background under a clear blue sky in Yucatan, Mexico.
Tourists exploring the grandeur of El Castillo, the iconic pyramid at the heart of Chichen Itza, a testament to the Mayan civilization’s architectural prowess in Yucatan, Mexico.

Our goal was to stay at least 2 hours and explore whatever that time would allow us so that we could be back by 4pm.

Our tour cost $180USD per person. We used My Quest Concierge Tour for our private tour and transportation.

The cost included the tolls along the highway that our driver had to pay along the way.

A young girl standing in the middle of a large, ancient ball court in Chichen Itza, smiling and holding a toy. The ball court is surrounded by tall stone walls and there are people walking around in the background.
Joyful moments captured at the historic Great Ballcourt of Chichen Itza, where ancient sports once echoed through the stone walls, now a place of wonder for visitors of all ages.

We brought Petra’s car seat to Mexico with us so that came in handy.

For our on-the-go lunch we packed sandwiches and chips and we also packed food and water for Petra.

Be aware that there is no food option on the drive to Chichen Itza until you are about 20 minutes out in Piste area where you will have some local food options as well as a Subway and convenience store for snacks.

Also, there are no bathroom stops either!

The drive to Chichen Itza is pretty easy and flat with little scenery so we were ready with toys for Petra to keep her entertained a bit.

The key thing that helped us is that we time the drive to overlap with her nap time, so she was asleep a good portion of the 2 hour drive.

A scenic view of El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulcan, at Chichen Itza with a bright blue sky and tourists exploring the grounds, framed by lush green foliage in the foreground.
Visitors wander the ancient grounds of Chichen Itza with El Castillo standing majestically under a vibrant blue sky, showcasing the grandeur of Mayan architecture amidst verdant vegetation.

Things to Know Before Visiting Chichen Itza

While visiting Chichen Itza, be sure to learn about these fascinating facts:

  • There are four cenotes (natural sinkholes), one on each side of El Castillo, with rivers connecting to a large underground lake beneath the main temple.
  • Girls around the age of 14 or 15 were sacrificed in the cenotes during ceremonies, and valuable items from as far as Costa Rica have been discovered in these sacred wells.
  • The main pyramid, El Castillo, was originally painted red, and visitors were given hallucinogenic drinks to enhance the magnificence of the site.
  • Sound carries remarkably well from the top of the pyramid and the Ball Court, likely used for speeches and ceremonial purposes.
  • If you clap at the base of El Castillo’s stairs, the sound will echo and resemble the call of the quetzal bird, an important symbol in Mayan culture.
  • During the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow of a serpent appears to slither down the side of El Castillo due to the precise alignment of the structure.
  • The Temple of Kukulkan and nearby monuments were built by slaves.

Current time in Chichen Itza, Yucatan:

Weather conditions in Chichen Itza:

Top 10 Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza:

  1. Start Early or Arrive Late: Beat the crowds and the midday heat by visiting Chichen Itza either early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
  2. Consider a Guided Tour: Enhance your experience with a knowledgeable guide who can explain the history and significance of the site.
  3. Dress for the Weather: Wear light, breathable clothing, a hat, and comfortable walking shoes. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses.
  4. Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water, especially during the hotter months. Dehydration can quickly set in while exploring the ruins.
  5. Pack Snacks and a Picnic: While there are restaurants on-site, bringing your own snacks and a picnic lunch can be a cost-effective and enjoyable option.
  6. Bring Cash: Many vendors at Chichen Itza only accept cash, so be sure to have enough pesos on hand for souvenirs and tips.
  7. Respect the Site: Stay on designated paths and avoid climbing on the ruins. Help preserve this UNESCO World Heritage site for future generations.
  8. Capture the Moment: Don’t forget your camera or smartphone to take photos and videos of the impressive structures.
  9. Combine with Other Activities: Make the most of your day by visiting nearby cenotes for a refreshing swim or exploring the charming town of Valladolid.
  10. Bring a carrier for small babies: While Chichen Itza is stroller-friendly, a carrier may be more suitable for exploring the site with a small baby.

With these tips under your belt, you should be ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime.

Have any other questions? Let us know in the comments below so we can help out as much as possible before you embark on one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions.

A woman standing with her arms outstretched in front of the Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico. The pyramid is made of stone and has a steep incline. The sky is blue and there are some clouds in the background.
I’m so excited to finally be here at Chichen Itza! This place is amazing. The Kukulkan Pyramid is even more impressive in person than I imagined. I can’t wait to explore the rest of the ruins.

Chichen Itza FAQ

What is better, Tulum or Chichen Itza?

Both sites offer unique experiences. Picturesque Tulum coastal ruins are known for their scenic location. Meanwhile, Chichen Itza is a larger complex with more structures and archaeological significance. The choice between Tulum and Chichen Itza depends on your personal preference.

What is the closest big city to Chichen Itza?

The closest major cities are Valladolid and Merida. Valladolid is a charming colonial town located approximately 40 minutes away. Merida is the capital of Yucatan state, situated around 1.5 hours away. Staying overnight in Valladolid vs. Merida is definitely worth it for having a full day at Chichen Itza.

Is Merida or Cancun better?

Both cities offer distinct experiences. Merida boasts rich cultural heritage, colonial architecture, and traditional cuisine. There are many things to do in Merida, Yucatan for an authentic Mexican vacation! In contrast, Cancun is a modern resort city with beaches, nightlife, and activities. Choose between Merida vs. Cancun based on your interests.

Is it safe to drive from Merida to Chichen Itza?

Yes, the route between Merida and Chichen Itza is well-maintained and generally safe for driving. Make sure to get a Mexican driver’s license if yours is not valid abroad.

Is Chichen Itza closer to Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

Chichen Itza is slightly closer to Cancun than Playa del Carmen. However, we like the selection of great places to stay in Playa del Carmen and prefer this town to Cancun in general.

How long is it from Cancun to Chichen Itza?

The drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza takes approximately 2.5 hours depending on traffic and the chosen route.

Can you swim in the cenote at Chichen Itza?

While there is a cenote on the Chichen Itza grounds, swimming is generally not permitted due to preservation efforts. However, these are other great cenotes near Chichen Itza where you can enjoy a refreshing dip.

Does Chichen Itza accept USD?

While the official currency is the Mexican Peso, some vendors may accept USD, but expect less favorable exchange rates. It’s recommended to use local currency for purchases.

How safe is it to travel to Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza is generally safe for tourists. Exercise standard precautions as you would in any travel destination.

Chichen Itza Travel Guide - Best Way To Visit

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Rob and Taiss

Hi! We’re Rob and Taiss. We set off to live a life in as many places as possible. To actually live in locations around the world long enough to get to know the locals, the culture, and the food, not just a taste of it.