Chichen Itza Visitor Guide

Things to See and Do

Important advice

By now you're in the archaeological zone, soaking up the culture of the ancient Maya. Here is some important advice: Bring a lot of water, drink a lot of water. Even if you're not thirsty. It's hotter than you think. Wear a broad-brimmed hat and plenty of sun screen.

Things to do

Take a guided tour. At both entrances there are usually several guides. They usually charge around $600 Mexican. Ask first. Dicker if you're up for it. The tours last about 90 minutes.

Evening light show. This really isn't my cup of tea, but a lot of people really like this. At 7 p.m. during the winter and 8 p.m. during the summer, you can sit on a chair and watch as a light show is projected on El Castillo and the Temple of Warriors. Be sure to get a headset if you don't speak Spanish.

OUTSIDE CHICHEN

Cave at Balancanche. Southeast from Chichen Itza is the Cave at Balancanche. In 1959, a guide from Chichen Itza discovered a false wall that hid a series of caves with Maya jars and other offerings. These have been left in situ. There are several tours offered throughout the day, each in a different language.

Ik Kil Cenote. Past Balancanche is the Ik Kil cenote. Unlike the Sacred Cenote, this is a sinkhole where you can swim and, more importantly, climb back out. It's another thing I've never done, but others have told me it was the refreshing highlight of their visit to Chichen, especially after a hot day roaming the ruins.

Accommodations

I highly recommend the Hacienda Chichen. It is wonderfully appointed and environmentally friendly. Also, it reeks of history.

When the Hacienda Chichen has been full, I have stayed at the Mayaland next door. Like the Hacienda, it is in the archaeological zone, and is, in fact, the first hotel at Chichen Itza. The Mayaland has its own entrance to Chichen Itza.

Next to the Hacienda Chichen and the Mayaland is the Villas Arqueologias. I've never stayed there, and know nothing about it except that is where John Lloyd Stephens and Frederic Catherwood stayed when they visited Chichen Itza in 1843. Needless to say, it wasn't a hotel then.

Right down the road from the Mayaland and Hacienda Chichen toward Tulum is the Hotel Delores Alba. It's clean and reasonably priced. I recommend it as a budget alternative.

Food

The restaurant in the visitor center at Chichen is, I'm told, pretty good.

There are also several gifts shops in the archaeological zone that sell snack foods and drinks.

I'm very fond of dinner at the Hacienda Chichen. I take most of my meals there when I'm in the area.

I've also enjoyed dinner at the Mayaland. There is no better experience than enjoying a drink at the end of the day in the lobby of the hotel and watch the sun set behind the Caracol.

There are other restaurants in the area. Head into Piste, the small town next to Chichen Itza for a taco. Try Fabiola, a small taco stand across the street from the old church in the town square.