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Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula

Things To Do In Chichen Itza

Things to do in Chichen Itza day & night is a post that we had to write as we believe there are 3 ways to visit one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions.

(Editor update December 2019)

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases (if applicable).

There is a right way and a wrong way to visit Chichen Itza in Mexico during the day and night we believe now that we have done it. We certainly could have planned our visit better if we had thought about the distance that we had to travel from Merida each time.  Our things to do in Chichen Itza will benefit the reader as we have learned from our mistakes and we would like to share with you our preferred way to visit next time. For those who do not have the luxury of a few days we will share with you what we believe is the best way to visit Chichen Itza.

Contents

Pro-Tip

Don’t visit on a Sunday as it is free for Mexican Nationals and it can be very overcrowded.

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Before you travel to Chichen Itza you may want to learn about Chichen Itza history and the Mayan People in the Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza: The History and Mystery of the Mayas Most Famous City by Jesse Harasta is Amazon’s Best Selling Book on Chichen Itza. This informative book not only includes photos of Chichen Itza but delves into the reasons why the site was chosen and also why it was abandoned. The book also includes a detailed layout of the site.  If you do not want to hire a guide for your visit it would be worth considering taking this book along with you.

Maya Civilization: A Captivating Guide to Maya History and Maya Mythology by Captivating History will guide you through the history of the Mayan people and why the West has such a fascination for these people.  You could rename this book All You Ever Need To Know about the Maya Civilisation.

Chichen Itza Facts

What is Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is an archaeological site of Mayan Ruins located in the Yucatan State of Mexico. Chichen Itza sits on 740 acres and was built around 800AD. They are considered to be the best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan.

The Temple of Kukulkan is the main drawcard to the site, with its impressive height and history of being two pyramids one built over the top of the other.

How Old is Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza which is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the New World proudly sits up there with Petra, Machu Picchu, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal and Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.

The Temple of Kukulcan, also known as El Castillo Chichen Itza is believed to have been built in 800AD.

Recent research shows that El Castillo was built over a Chichen Itza cenote which is 20m deep and could put the structure at risk in the future.

Other sites in Chichen Itza are:

  • Temple of the Warriors (also known as the Temple of the 1000 Columns)
  • Caracol
  • Chichen Itza Ball Court
  • Temple of the Jaguars
  • The Platform of the Skulls
  • plus a lot of other smaller temples

Chichen Itza Cenote

The Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza lies to the north of the site.  A cenote is similar to a natural ‘sinkhole’. The Chichen Itza Cenote was used as a place of pilgrimage for the Mayan people.  It is believed that during their rituals they would throw live men into the cenote as a sacrifice to their gods.  Apart from men being thrown into the cenote they also threw precious stones and other items of value that they owned.

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Where is Chichen Itza

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night
Chichen Itza Map

Chichen Itza lies in the centre of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, that is why you need to plan your visit well in advance.

Distances from local towns to Chichen Itza for your planning purposes

  • From Cozumel to Chichen Itza 230km
  • Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza 181km
  • Merida to Chichen Itza 120km
  • Coba to Chichen Itza 108km
  • Akumal to Chichen Itza 177km
  • Celestun to Chichen Itza 215km
  • Valladolid to Chichen Itza 45km

 

As you can see Chichen Itza requires some travelling to get to whether you are coming from Cancun, Cozumel, Valladolid, Tulum, Mayan Riviera or Merida. The distances will determine how you can make the best use of your time when visiting the Mayan Ruins.  This is one tourist attraction that some advanced travel planning is needed.

If you want to stay near Chichen Itza here are some hotel options for you to consider.

We stayed 120 km away in Merida at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida. It was perfect for visiting Merida, Progreso, Uxmal, Chichen Itza and Izamal. We did have to travel long distances every day.  At the end of the day it was nice to come home to the swimming pool to relax and refresh. The accommodation is perfect for families as well.

 

 

Where to stay near Chichen Itza

For hotels near Chichen Itza click our link below:

 


Things to do in Chichen Itza day and night

There are three ways to visit the Chichen Itza Ruins:

  1. Day only
  2. Daytime visit and return in the evening to enjoy the Chichen Itza Light Show Tour
  3. Night only to enjoy the Chichen Itza Light Show Tour

If you only have time to visit the Chichen Itza Light Show Tour there are time restrictions as well as site restrictions, you won’t have access to view all that the site has to offer.

Let us share with you how we visited Chichen Itza over 2 days and what lessons we learned and how we would do it differently next time.

How we experienced Chichen Itza over 2 days

Day Only

We based ourselves at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida for 4 days and travelled to Chichen Itza on the morning of the 3rd day.

It was February, winter season, the busiest time in Mexico to visit Mayan Ruins.

Although we had an early start of 8.00 am the drive from Merida to Chichen Itza took about 1.5 hours getting us there at around 9.30 am.  The excursion buses parked in the car park should have given us a sign of what was to come.  There was a long snaking queue past all the souvenir shops at the front of the ticket booths, it took us over an hour to get inside Chichen Itza.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula
El Castillo – the most beautiful temple in the Yucatan

A local guide approached us, explained how he would tour Chichen Itza, giving us all his Chichen Itza facts, tips and his theories as we wandered around for the next 2 hours. It was winter, it was hot and dusty, the height of the season and very busy with thousands of tourists. Sometimes it was hard to hear what he was saying with all the microphones blaring out beside us from the large tour groups.  We enjoyed our tour and learned a lot about Chichen Itza history from him, this is one reason why we now suggest hiring a guide for a Mayan site.  Our guide spoke many languages such as French, German, Italian, English and even Mayan.  He is descended from the Mayans and was very proud of his heritage.  We were not sure how old he was and did not dare ask but we guessed he was close to 70.

Unfortunately, when we visited the Mayan site of Tulum we didn’t hire a guide and we missed out on a whole lot of good information on this major ‘tourist attraction’. We learned our lesson there. These days we always hire a guide.

You can read about our full adventures on our morning visit to Chichen Itza in our Chichen Itza post.

We headed off for lunch near Izamal at the Zamna Restaurant prior to visiting the ‘yellow city’ as Izamal is known as.  It was a full day and we were exhausted by the time we returned back to the Wyndham Hotel in Merida.

Things to do in Chichen Itza day and night

Night Only

The morning of Day 4 we headed to Celestun to visit the Celestun Biosphere Reserve and its pink flamingos.  After a lot of driving to get there and back we returned back to the hotel at 2.30pm knowing that at 5.00pm we were due to head out to Chichen Itza for the Sound and Light Show.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula
El Castillo in one of its many colours during the Chichen Light Show Tour

Arriving at the entrance we noticed a lack of excursion buses,  a small queue and a very pleasant night time temperature with a slight breeze under a moonlit starry sky. It was a different experience to the morning tour, a memorable one for different reasons.  By the time the show finished and we left the site we did not make it back to the Wyndham Hotel till after 10.00pm making it a long day of sightseeing.

Check out our video on the Chichen Itza Light Show 2017

 

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night

Our Suggestions Depending On How Much Time You Have

Itinerary #1 – Chichen Itza Ruins Day and Chichen Itza Light Show Tour

Base yourself in Merida which gives you access to other tourist attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula such as Uxmal, Izamal, Celestun and Progresso.  Leave Merida at 12.00 pm on one of the days and travel to Chichen Itza – the drive will take approximately 1.5 hours from Merida to Chichen Itza.

Spend the afternoon there and take advantage of using a local guide to learn all about the Chichen Itza ruins, you will have a good 3 hours available.

After the archaeological site closes at 4.30 pm enjoy a meal at a local Chichen Itza restaurant till the park re-opens again at 6.30 pm.  Enjoy the (Chichen Itza Light & Sound Show) known as Noches de Kukulkan and return back to Merida.

Daytime Chichen Itza Hours:

From 08.00 to 16.30 all year round

Nighttime hours – Chichen Itza Light Show Schedule

(note there are different times for Summer and Winter.  If in doubt, when you book online, it explains the hours for that night.)

Summer

Entrance to the archaeological site from 20.00 to 20.30 hours

The Light Show is from 20.45 to 21.00 hours

Winter

Entrance to the archaeological site from 19.00 to 19.30 hours

The Light Show is from 19.45 to 20.00 hours.

N.B. The Show is conducted in Spanish.  There are audio guides handed out in different languages when you check in, expect to queue for at least 20 minutes.  A photo ID is required to be handed over prior to receiving the audio guides.  There will also be a queue to hand them back after the show has finished. It took us a good 20 minutes to hand back the audio guide and received our photo ID back. 

Chichen Itza Afternoon Tour and Light Show in the Evening

A great way to visit Chichen Itza in the afternoon and then enjoy the fantastic light show in the evening. Click here for more information and prices.

Itinerary #2 Chichen Itza Ruins Day, Chichen Itza Light Show Tour with Overnight Stay at one of the Chichen Itza Hotels

In our 2nd option, we would recommend staying the night in one of the  Chichen Itza Hotels. You can enjoy a leisurely visit to the site as well as the cenote near Chichen Itza.  Back at the hotel, you can have a swim or a nap and then head back to enjoy the Chichen Itza Light & Sound Show.  If we were to visit again this is the option that we would take.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day and Night

Daytime Chichen Itza Hours:

From 08.00 to 16.30 all year round

Nighttime hours – Chichen Itza Light Show Schedule

(note there are different times for Summer and Winter.  If in doubt, when you book online, it explains the hours for that night.)

Summer

Entrance to the archaeological site from 20.00 to 20.30 hours

The Chichen Itza Light Show Tour is from 20.45 to 21.00 hours

Winter

Entrance to the archaeological site from 19.00 to 19.30 hours

The Chichen Itza Light Show Tour is from 19.45 to 20.00 hours.

N.B. The Show is conducted in Spanish.  There are audio guides handed out in different languages when you check in, expect to queue for at least 20 minutes.  A photo ID is required to be handed over prior to receiving the audio guides.  There will also be a queue to hand them back after the show has finished. It took us a good 20 minutes to hand back the audio guide and received our photo ID back. 

Itinerary #3 – Chichen Itza Light Show Tour

If you have limited time and want to visit the Chichen Itza Light Show take note of the following entrance times, plan to arrive 30 minutes before the site opens in the evening.

Nighttime hours – Chichen Itza Light Show Schedule

(note there are different times for Summer and Winter.  If in doubt, when you book online, it explains the hours for that night.)

Summer

Entrance to the archaeological site from 20.00 to 20.30 hours

The Light Show is from 20.45 to 21.00 hours

Winter

Entrance to the archaeological site from 19.00 to 19.30 hours

The Light Show is from 19.45 to 20.00 hours.

N.B. The Show is conducted in Spanish.  There are audio guides handed out in different languages when you check in, expect to queue for at least 20 minutes.  A photo ID is required to be handed over prior to receiving the audio guides.  There will also be a queue to hand them back after the show has finished. It took us a good 20 minutes to hand back the audio guide and received our photo ID back. 

Chichen Itza Map

Chichen Itza

During the day you can wander around every pyramid at Chichen Itza and spend as long as you like admiring each one.

Chichen Itza At Night

Chichen Itza Map – Night-Time

Chichen Itza Map
At night the path is lit up as per the above map.
Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula
Temple of the Jaguar Throne
Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula
The Jaguar Throne

There is one path to travel in one direction to walk around at night which is lit up.  They advise not to wander from the lit path for safety reasons. There are guards ensuring that you stay on the path and 15 minutes before the light show starts you are requested to head towards the seating area and claim your seats.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula
El Castillo

There is not enough time or light at night to enjoy the whole site so it is advisable to visit during the day as well.

Chichen Itza Weather

Chichen Itza is the major tourist attraction on the Yucatan Peninsula.  During the cooler months between October and April, it is the busiest time to visit and you can expect hundreds of excursion buses a day to the site.  During this time the days are warm and you can expect lots of sunshine.

The rainy season is between May and September, it can be hot and humid and you can expect between 1-3 hours of rain a day.

Chichen Itza Entrance Fee – Day

As of 2019 day time ticket prices are:

MXN250 (ticket and tax)

There is a fee for video filming MXN45.

Mexican Government Officials control and administrate Chichen Itza archaeological site.

Chichen Itza Night Show Tickets

As of 2019 night time ticket prices are:

MXN468

Tickets are to be purchased prior to the day from the official website.

To Travel Too Tip

Book as far in advance as possible, the best seats are in the front row.

Chichen Itza Tours

There are many tours available to Chichen Itza.

Chichen Itza Visit, Cenote Swim and Lunch Buffet

This is a full day tour from either Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Duration is 12 hours. Click here for prices and more information.

Privileged Early Sunrise Access to Chichen Itza from Merida

Enter Chichen Itza at sunrise therefore avoiding the crowds and enjoy a breakfast buffet at Mayaland Resort. Travel from Merida, duration 10 hours. Click here for more information and pricing.

Chichen Itza Skip The Line Entrance Ticket

No more queues when you purchase this ‘skip the line entrance ticket’ for a full day visit to Chichen Itza. Click here for more information and pricing.

Other Mayan Sites to Visit Around Chichen Itza

 

Where to Stay in Chichen Itza

To assist you in your planning we have included some options for hotel accommodation for you from various locations around the Yucatan Peninsula.

Cancun Hotels

Things to do in Chichen Itza day and night

Chichen Itza Hotels

Things to do in Chichen Itza day and night

Merida Hotels

Things to do in Chichen Itza day and night

Playa del Carmen Hotels

Things to do in Chichen Itza day and night

 

Valladolid Hotels

Things to do in Chichen Itza day and night

 

Airbnb in the Yucatan

 

 

How To Get To Chichen Itza

The closest airport to Chichen Itza is Merida and then Cancun for international flights.

Flight Deals

For the latest flight deals compare prices on Skyscanner here:

Travelling from the USA – click here

Travelling from the UK – click here

Travelling from Australia – click here

Travelling from the rest of the world – click here

ADO Buses Mexico has a range of transport options for travelling to Chichen Itza. Click here for more information, schedules, routes and prices.

We also recommend doing some pre-planning research to make the most of your visit to the tourist attractions of the Yucatan. The following books from Amazon may assist you.


A recommended packing list for your visit to Chichen Itza.


 

Travel Insurance

We recommend taking out travel insurance as soon as you book your flights and pay deposits on any cruises, tours or hotels.

If you are located in Australia or New Zealand click here for the latest quotes.

If you are located in the rest of the world click below for the latest quotes.

Do you need a visa for Mexico?

To Travel To Tips

  • Plan your visit to Chichen Itza well in advance
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Use sunscreen
  • Wear a hat
  • Don’t rush visiting this amazing archaeological site of Mexico

Our thanks go to Visit Mexico and Yucatan Turismo for providing the transport to visit Chichen Itza.  Our stay at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida was complimentary from Wyndham Hotels.

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totraveltoo

Thanks for stopping by and welcome to To Travel Too – Australia’s top Baby Boomer lifestyle and travel blog, with an international worldwide audience in mind, run by the married couple, freelance writers and full-time travellers Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith. Come with us as we explore the world. Our two mantras that we live by are 'chase time not money' and 'age is no barrier when it comes to travel'.

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