Chichen Itza: Stepping Into Ancient Maya

Growing up, it felt as if the Mayan Ruins and the likes of Chichen Itza are too otherworldly - things you’ll only see on National Geographic or locations Mel Gibson would choose to film a $30 million blockbuster. Gladly on our honeymoon in Cancun, we made sure to include Chichen Itza in our itinerary. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get up close and personal with a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New7Wonders of the World, right?

Chichen Itza is located on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features impressive architecture from the ancient Mayan civilization.

We booked our tour package called Chichen Clasico via Cancun Adventure online. The package included a visit to Chichen Itza, Valladolid, and Ik Kil Cenote. We were picked up from the hotel around 7 in the morning. Although the drive was long and exhausting, it was convenient that we were picked up and dropped off right at our hotel lobby. But yesss, it was totally worth the long drive having to see such marvelous locations!


Valladolid

Our first stop was Valladolid, a small colonial Mexican town where its famous Catedral de San Gervasio is located by the square plaza. We stopped here for a good half hour for pictures and to take in the 16th century old feel of the town. Valladolid reminded me strongly of Vigan, Philippines - narrow streets, cobblestone roads, and smiling, friendly locals.


Lunch buffet

Included in our tour package was a lunch buffet, too. The restaurant was massive and had a very traditional and local feel to it. Food was not particularly exceptional, but good enough to get us going for the remaining hours on the road. We had a Mexican buffet with different dishes to choose from. Drinks were not included in the package. Next to the restaurant was also a souvenir shop for gifts and goodies.


Chichen Itza

We arrived at Chichen Itza around 1 in the afternoon. The sun was scorching hot and we had to follow a small queue while our coach lead, who is also our tour guide, gave us our tickets to enter the premises.

Our tour guide joined us for an hour explaining the history and culture of the ancient Mayan ruins. It was fascinating to learn how the Mayans sophisticatedly built El Castillo, Chichen Itza’s step-pyramid and towering icon, in relation to seasons and our 365-day calendar. Yep, we learned a bit of genius stuff here!

Apart from the pyramid, there were various structures nearby worth seeing such as the Great Ball Court, different columns, temples, and platforms. We highly recommend joining your tour guide to further appreciate the small beginnings and great history behind Chichen Itza.


Ik Kil Cenote

Just 10 minutes away from Chichen Itza is Ik Kil Cenote (cenote meaning ‘sinkhole’). When we arrived, we parked at a regular parking lot of a regular resort. And I say this because I expected we would be walking through the jungle to get to the cenote! Okay, okay, so we didn’t. The place was packed and we made the mistake of not bringing swimsuits! Dumbest decision ever. But the sinkhole itself was divine, massive, and just awe-inspiring.

There are many other sinkholes in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, and they result in the collapse of a cave that then exposes the groundwater below. History shows that these were also used for human sacrifices and some believed it is the entrance to the otherworld. Cool, innit?


Our top tips and suggestions

  • The drive is long so it's best to bring a book with you or an iPad full of Netflix.

  • Bring food and water to stay hydrated on the road. There are stops for toilet breaks, don’t worry.

  • Pack sunscreen, insect repellent, sunglasses, and a hat. It can be very hot during the summer.

  • Bring cash. There are stops for souvenirs and gift shops. And if you forget that sunscreen, they will sell you some on the coach.

  • And yes you would really, really want to swim at Ik Kil Cenote, so don’t assume you wouldn’t! Pack extra clothes and a towel. There’s a large and decent shower area at the resort.

  • Bring your camera (with a waterproof container) and make sure you tag us when you post your pictures!