With traveling to Mexico, there was absolutely no way that we were going to miss out on visiting Chichen Itza. NONE. It's a modern wonder of the world for goodness sake. It's also a UNESCO world heritage site. So if that's not a clue to how spectacular this place is, then maybe you're just not paying enough attention. But, with this being such a popular site to visit, I thought I'd share a few of our tips for managing everything, especially since we visited on our own.
Ticketing & Timing
I'm always one to plan ahead (like months in advance), but this seems to be one of those rare occasions where you don't need to buy tickets in advance. In this case, it's better to buy your tickets upon arrival and keep your schedule flexible.
Also, consider going first thing in the morning of just before closing. We found arriving early gave us full run of the complex without having to fight off hoards of tourists. This was ideal for allowing us to enjoy our experience fully, also we didn't have to contend with a bunch of random people photobombing our pictures ha!
Pro Tip: the tour busses from Cancun start showing up around 11AM and leave at 3PM
Another benefit of coming late or early is avoiding the heat of the day. We visited during Mexico's winter, but found that we needed to be in the shade or on the water everyday by noon.
Consider a Guide
The complex that makes up Chiczen Itza is massive, it is an ancient city that supported an entire civilization after all. And while there are a few educational plaques here and there, it would be easy to miss out on the cultural significance of many of the sites here.
You can hire a private guide to tour you around the complex, and it's much more affordable than you would guess. Plus, bartering on the price is an option.
We visited several sets of Maya Ruins over the course of just a few days and found that the visits where we had personal guides were the most culturally enriching.
While it's simple enough to purchase your tickets with a credit card (though cash is easier), you will find that cash is king everywhere else in the Chiczen Itza Complex.
This is especially the case where the market booths are concerned. I assumed that these stands wouldn't offer much outside of cheap trinkets. And while that is the case for some, we found a few gorgeous gems here for ourselves and gifts for family as well.
We were able to get some great items at amazing prices thanks to bartering (never except the first offer, or the second or third lol), but were definitely kicking ourselves for not having more cash with us.
And on that note, Mexican currency is best. Some shop stand owners will except American or European currency, but you're likely to pay more for your goods if you go this route.
Respect the Wildlife
You have to remember that Chiczen Itza is surrounded by a jungle, so there is a lot of natural wildlife here. Most common are iguanas (that can easily take your finger off if you insist of touching them) and coatis. It broke my heart to see some of the other tourists antagonizing the wildlife. While Chiczen Itza may be a fun attraction for us humans, for these animals, it's their home, so please be respectful.
Can you spot the two iguanas sunning themselves below?
And finally my last tip, and the one we took most to heart for ourselves is to really enjoy the beauty of this place. Bask in the cultural aspects and awe at the architecture and functionality of this city. Because Chiczen Itza is a unique little corner of the world and it has truly earned it's place in history as one of the modern wonders of the world.
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