This is a guest blog written by the talented Amanda Cosenza from Where’s Amanda.
Chichen Itza is a must see if you are traveling anywhere in Southeast Mexico. It is considered one of the New 7 Wonders of the world. There are a few lists that The complex of Mayan ruins is located on the Yucatan Peninsula about two and a half hours from Playa del Carmen.
Tour vs. Self Guided
While I rented a car, I chose to go on a tour that offered transportation for a couple of reason. Once I calculated the cost of driving myself from Playa del Carmen to that of the tour I decided it was a much better deal not to drive. I found this awesome website that calculated all the prices out for me. In the end it was going to cost me 50 pesos for the car for the day (I can decline insurance), 30 pesos for parking, 480 pesos in gas (if I took the long way and avoided the toll roads that cost $20 USD each way), and 232 pesos for admission for a total of 792 pesos or about $41 USD. I found a tour online from Wonderous World for that price (after a discount code, tour is usually $48.95).
This tour included transportation to Chichen Itza as well as two cenotes, a brief stop in Valladolid, a buffet lunch, transportation, and a tour guide. The only additional cost were 30 pesos for a locker at one of the cenotes, 70-150 pesos for tipping, and any beverages at lunch (I brought my own water bottle).
If you are staying in the Playacar area then you can get picked up directly from your hotel. If you are like me and staying a little bit away from the beach then they will coordinate a pick up spot with you. It may require a little walking or taxi (~40 pesos) but it’s nice that they make an effort to accomodate you. I was the first to be picked up at 7:10am. Once grabbing others at their hotels we transferred from a small van to a bus.
Cenotes and the Church
Cenotes are natural swimming holes that are formed by the collapsing of limestone bedrock. They are a subterranean connection of groundwater pools. No two tend to look the same but all are known for their clear water and natural wonder. The first cenote we went to is a complete mystery to me. I admittedly was not fully awake, we only had 20 minutes there, and most of the place was one giant shopping village. We did not have time to go all the way in the cenote but I was able to snag some nice pictures of the outside.
As we were on our way to our next destination, the air conditioning on our bus broke. After many complaints the driver pulled over and we were all separated into smaller vans. Things were a little tight but we were on the road in cooled vehicle again. We stopped in Valladolid briefly to take some pictures of the Church and park in the center of town. The Cathedral of San Gervasio was built in 1545 by Priest Francisco Hernandez.
Next, we went to Cenote Ik’kil. Here we were given an hour to explore. The facilities at the cenote were top notch. There were changing rooms, showers, and even lockers to securely store your belongings. While there were quite a lot of people there, the space is large enough so it did not feel cramped. It was fun to take in the views and refreshing to jump in the cool, clear water.
Food and the Main Event
Once we worked up an appetite swimming in the cenote we were taking to a resort for a buffet lunch. The food was plentiful and enjoyable. Food included a variety of salads, rice, beans, spaghetti, chicken, fried fish, fruit, and flan for dessert. There was even a dance performance following the meals. The food was included but drinks were available for purchase.
After eating, it was finally time for the main event. I was a little apprehensive about arriving so late. I was afraid the heat would be unbearable and the place to be packed with people. However, since we arrived closer to the end of the day (about 2:15pm), most of the tours had come and gone. This also meant that the sun was beginning its descent, making it fairly cool. We were given an official tour guide who walked us around the complex for about 45 minutes stopping to tell us stories about human sacrifice, Mayan traditions, and the architecture of the structures (also how it relates to astronomy and science). We were then given about an hour to walk around ourselves (and take pictures of course). Be prepared to tip the tour guide at the end.
Overall, the tour was great for the price point. At the first few stops I wish there was someone there to explain where we were or give a little bit more information beside what time to return. However, that would have required a guide all day which would have driven up the cost. While it made for a long day, I was thankful for the extra stops because it gave me a chance to see places I might have otherwise skipped on my own. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the ruins and taking in the history. If you are in the Yucatan Peninsula area then Chichen Itza is a must see.
Visiting One of the 7 Wonders of the World
By: Amanda Cosenza