Chichén Itzá is a Pre-Columbian city near Cancun, containing Mayan Ruins and historic archaeological sites. Located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, this site draws millions of visitors annually from around the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site appeals to all ages, with visitors typically spending around two hours exploring this fascinating glimpse into the past.

There are multiple ways to experience Chichén Itzá near Cancun, with a diverse range of tour options. Tours of Chichén Itzá typically depart from Cancun by bus for group tours, or by car service for private tours. On a guided Chichén Itzá tour, you’ll learn about the city’s colorful history and may also have the opportunity to try local cuisine or visit additional historical sites nearby. During evening light shows, the Great Pyramid of El Castillo is lit up in a vibrant display of lights and sound, during a 30-minute show under the stars.

Chichén Itzá near Cancun - one of the highlights of 10 Great UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico and 10 Best Mayan Ruins Near Tulum (Read all about Cancun here)

What are the highlights of Chichén Itzá?

Visitors to Chichén Itzá during the spring equinox are treated to a famed light-and-shadow show across the face of the Temple of Kukulcán. On the day of the equinox, passing light and shadows give the appearance of a feathered serpent crawling down the side of the pyramid. Unique acoustical features, intricate carvings, and elaborate mosaics can also be found across the city.

Popular sites within the city of Chichén Itzá, near Cancun, include the El Caracol observatory, the Platform of Venus, the Kukulcán Pyramid, and the massive Temple of the Warriors. 13 ballcourts have been identified at Chichén Itzá, used for the Mesoamerican ballgame. Of these game courts, the Great Ball Court is one of the most visited, a massive arena with surrounding buildings, sculptures, art, and temples.

Chichén Itzá History

Chichén Itzá, located near modern-day Cancun, was one of the largest Maya cities in the region during the Late Classic to Early Postclassic periods. Its unique mix of architectural styles is thought to reflect the cultural diversity of the city during this time period. Underground rivers in this part of Mexico likely provided plentiful water sources year-round via cenotes or natural sinkholes.

Modern excavation began in the 19th century after Chichén Itzá captured the public’s attention via books and early photographs. Excavations have uncovered an extensive network of buildings, temples, and graves among the many unique finds within this historic archaeological site. Dredging the Cenote Sagrado, or Sacred Cenote, revealed artifacts and human remains, believed to be sacrifices as part of worship to the Maya rain god Chaac.

Good to know when visiting Chichén Itzá near Cancun

Chichén Itzá is still considered a sacred city and Mayan pilgrimage site, so remember to be respectful when visiting. Traveling to Chichén Itzá from Cancun is typically a 2.5-hour trip, with many bus tours offering refreshments during your ride to the city. For the best views of the ancient city, it’s recommended to arrive at the site as early as possible, to avoid the larger crowds and heat later in the day.

Locals recommend visiting Chichén Itzá on a guided tour, to get the full experience of the city’s history and culture. Bring cash for shopping and dining at the vibrant local market, and to tip your local tour guide. Be sure to pack sunscreen and water, bring a hat or shade umbrella, and wear comfortable walking shoes.

Chichén Itzá near Cancun

Location: Yucatan, Mexico

Open: Daily from 8 am to 4.30 pm

Phone: +52 985-851-0137