If you’re visiting Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, you probably have exploring Chichen Itza–North America’s only Wonder of the World–on your bucket list. But if you want to actually understand the historical significance of this incredible ancient city (and not worry about the logistical headache of figuring out transportation here), going with a tour is SO much easier. Here’s 14 of the best Chichen Itza tours (no matter where you’re coming from in the Yucatan!) to make your trip here as epic as possible.
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The ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza is located in the northern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula and is at least two or so hours away from the majority of the most popular destinations in Mexico.
So I’ve broken down the best Chichen Itza tours based on where you’re staying while you’re enjoying this incredible and colorful country. Feel free to click on your homebase while you’re in the Yucatan to skip right to the tour recommendations for you!
- Chichen Itza tours from Valladolid
- Chichen Itza tours from Mérida
- Chichen Itza tours from Tulum
- Chichen Itza tours from Playa del Carmen
- Chichen Itza tours from Cancun
Protip: Before booking, be sure to carefully read the exclusions of whatever tour you’re interested in. The majority of tours do not actually include the cost of your ticket into Chichen Itza ($613 MXN for an adult) and may not include extras, like bottles of water, during the tour.
Chichen Itza Tours from Valladolid
Many travelers come to the closest large-ish city to the ancient Mayan city, Valladolid, to stay overnight before visiting Chichen Itza the following morning. Located just 45 minutes east of Chichen Itza, Valladolid is a hidden gem, with colorful colonial architecture and plenty of cool sites, like Cenote Suytun and the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena, to explore.
Chichen Itza tours departing from Valladolid usually have the benefit of getting there the very first thing in the morning—so you’ll get to enjoy the sites without a bunch of other tour groups around!
You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Valladolid and whisked away to Chichen Itza. Here, you’ll get a certified guide, who will provide fascinating historical and cultural context behind this incredible city.
After you’re done, you’ll get to cool down in Cenote Yokdzonot, one of my absolute favorite cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as have lunch here (the panuchos are ON POINT!).
Finally, you’ll be taken to the beautiful city of Izamal, which is also known as the “Yellow City”, due to (you guessed it!) most of the buildings being painted yellow.
The guides on this tour are incredibly informative (ask them seemingly any question and it shall be answered!) and one of my favorite aspects is that the tour group is limited to just 10 travelers (i.e., you won’t be on one of those mega bus tours!).
Want something a bit more one-on–one than a group tour? On this private option, you’ll get transportation to Chichen Itza and a 90-minute guided tour of this incredible ancient city before most of the other tour buses arrive.
You’ll then head to Cenote Ik Kil, one of the closest cenotes to Chichen Itza and one of the most beautiful in the Yucatan.
While you’ll likely arrive at Cenote Ik Kil before a lot of the other tour groups, it’s historically one of the most popular cenotes near Chichen Itza—and thus, the most crowded. So, if you’re feeling like avoiding the crowds, your tour guide will happily take you to another nearby cenote of your choosing that’s a bit more under the radar, like Cenote Saamal or Cenote Oxman.
You’ll cap it off by getting a traditional Yucatanian buffet lunch in the small town of Tekom at a bee sanctuary. If dining amongst swarms of bees doesn’t sound exactly idyllic to you, not to worry- the type of bees here, Melipona, don’t have stingers!
Chichen Itza Tours from Mérida
Mérida is a cosmopolitan city in the northwestern portion of the Yucatan, renowned for its stunning colonial architecture, Mayan roots, and for being one of the safest cities in Mexico. Located just an hour and 45 minutes away from Chichen Itza, it’s the perfect springboard to visit this Wonder of the World and understand a bit more about the Mayan history and culture.
You’ll take an air-conditioned van from Mérida to Chichen Itza where you’ll be shown around this UNESCO World Heritage Site for approximately two hours by a licensed tour guide.
The second stop is one of the most unique offerings of any of the Chichen Itza tours- you’ll stop at a local’s house in the tiny town of Holca, for some traditional food. Even better than the delicious food is the private cenote in their backyard that you’ll get to enjoy after lunch!
Finally, you’ll end the tour in Izamal, a town that’s considered so special that it’s received the coveted designation of a pueblo magico (or Magic Town) by the Mexican Board of Tourism. What’s so magico about Izamal? Well, for some unclear reason, all of Izamal’s buildings are painted a sunny shade, causing the colonial architecture of the town to look even more charming. While the town is quite Instagrammable, it also offers a glimpse into a smaller Mexican town with lots of Mayan influences.
The guides on this tour are fantastic and I love that the tours are limited to 10 people—you’ll actually get to, like, hear and ask your guides questions. Amazing!
Psssst... if you can't tell from the two hour tour mentioned above, exploring Chichen Itza can entail quite a bit of walking- the complex is spread across almost two square miles! So be sure to include some comfy walking shoes on your Mexico packing list. My husband wore these Teva hiking sandals on our last Yucatan road trip and I have a cult-like love for these Tevas for women.
This tour from Mérida makes some similar stops to the tour above, but shakes things up a bit.
You’ll first stop in the Yellow City of Izamal, where you can stroll around and get some awesome photos of the town. Word to the wise- there are some killer taco stands in the town’s square if you’re feeling hungry!
Next up is Chichen Itza, where you’ll get to explore and learn all about this Mayan city from a knowledgeable guide. Afterwards, you’ll get to cool off in Cenote Yokdzonot (which we’ve already established I’m a HUGE fangirl of). And finally, on the way back to your hotel, you’ll stop for a tasty buffet lunch.
If you’re looking to hit a LOT of stops in a short period of time, this is an excellent option. Just be aware that 1) it can be a slightly larger tour (with up to 20 guests) and 2) because you stop at Chichen Itza second during the itinerary, it’s usually pretty crowded there by the time that you arrive.
So TLDR: If you’re not a fan of crowds, this may not be the best option for you.
Are you someone who wants to do ALL OF THE THINGS? Then this may just be the perfect tour for you!
You’ll need to meet your group at a few different places around Mérida and then be transported in an air-conditioned bus to Chichen Itza, where you’ll receive a guided tour of the ruins.
Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a cooking demonstration, with the unique plants and vegetables of the Yucatan Peninsula and a buffet lunch of traditional foods.
From here, you’ll have some free time on your own to explore the colonial town of Valladolid, with cobblestone streets and colorful houses.
The group will make a quick pit stop at the Chichikan Cenote, an off-the-beaten path swimming hole that’s perfect for cooling down in.
As your last stop of the day, you’ll have time to stroll around the town of Izamal to explore its sunny streets and charming stores and cafes.
If you can’t tell, you’ll have a looooong day on this tour, but you’ll get to see a TON in just a short period of time. I also really like that the group is pretty small (no more than 12 guests) and the tour guides are super professional and incredibly knowledgeable about Mayan culture.
Chichen Itza Tours from Tulum
Tulum was once a sleepy beach town and now is a booming tourist destination, with thriving beach clubs, upscale resorts, and lots of boho chic vibes. Located two hours and 15 minutes southeast of Chichen Itza, Tulum may not be my personal favorite place in the Yucatan Peninsula these days, but it’s got a little something for everyone- adventure, relaxation, and lots of luxury.
There’s plenty of options when picking from any of the awesome Chichen Itza tours from Tulum, like:
You’ll get transported from your hotel to Chichen Itza. The guides on this tour group are seriously impressive- friendly and so knowledgeable about the ruins and the people that once lived here.
After exploring Chichen Itza, you’ll be taken to the cobblestone streets of Valladolid, where you’ll enjoy a delicious lunch and have the opportunity to stroll around a bit.
Finally, you’ll get to spend the afternoon splashing around Cenote Xux Ha, which is a total hidden gem and an excellent example of nature at its finest.
This tour is consistently one of the highest rated Chichen Itza tours from Tulum and it’s clear why!
Want something a bit more personal? On this private tour, you and your party will have a totally dedicated guide, who will pick you up from your accommodations and take you directly to Chichen Itza. Here, you’ll be seamlessly passed off to a guide that’s specifically certified by the archaeological zone and has boundless knowledge about Chichen Itza and its inhabitants.
Afterwards, you’ll meet back up with your friendly guide and be taken to lunch at a small Mayan village. You’ll eat tortillas made by hand (which were probably made and cooked right in front of you!) and other delicious Yucatanian food.
After lunch, you’ll make a stop at Cenote Saamal, a stunningly beautiful open air cenote.
You’ll cap off the day by strolling around the streets of Valladolid, where you can get some shopping done or grab some food from the main town square.
This tour is definitely a tad on the pricier side, but if you want personalized attention, incredible service, and a good mix of popular tourist attractions and hidden gems, this tour is absolutely worth it!
More of a history buff than a cenote person? On this luxury tour, you’ll get a guided tour around not just Chichen Itza, but also the Coba Ruins. Located in the eastern Yucatan Peninsula, this archaeological site was once an important ancient Mayan city and has some tricks up its sleeve that Chichen Itza doesn’t.
You’ll kick off the tour by hitting Chichen Itza bright and early. One of the best things about this tour are the guides. Their passion for Mayan history and culture is instantly evident as they guide you around both of the ruins sites.
You’ll enjoy a delicious lunch at a tiny restaurant with incredible food (you’ll probably be one of the only tourists in it!).
The next stop is Cenote Chukum-ha, a unique underground cenote. Until very recently, it was used as a well, because they couldn’t figure out a way to engineer a safe way to climb down and access the water. A few years ago, they finally cracked the code and built a series of stairs and tunnels to reach the cavern floor, 130-feet below. Now, it’s one of the most dramatic cenotes in the region, with stalactites and a variety of diving platforms and ziplines to enjoy the 60 foot deep water.
The Coba Ruins will be your final stop, which has a few very cool things going for it. For one, it’s WAY less crowded than Chichen Itza. But what’s super cool about Coba is that you actually get to live out your best Indiana Jones life and climb on some of the pyramids!
Chichen Itza Tours from Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is a happy middle-ground between the hyper-touristy Cancun and the bougie boho vibes of Tulum and appeals to a wide range of visitors, from families to digital nomads. Located two and a half hours east of the ancient city, there’s plenty of incredible Chichen Itza tours from Playa del Carmen, allowing you to balance some good ol’ beach time with getting a deeper understanding of Mexico’s colorful history and culture.
I love that this tour has several unique stops that most tours don’t go on, which you know we’re all about on this blog!
The first stop of the tour is, of course, Chichen Itza. Here, a guide will show you around to some of the most important sites in the city, but you’ll still have plenty of time to wander around on your own time.
From here, you’ll stop at Cenote Hubiku, an under-the-radar cenote with beautiful light rays and tree roots dramatically dangling down from the top of the sinkhole. You’ll also get to eat at a tasty buffet onsite here and can even pop into the tequila museum, if that’s your thing (*raises hand*).
The final stop will be Ek Balam, another set of Mayan ruins that date all the way back to 300 B.C. Even though Ek Balam is quite impressive, with 45 structures on its grounds, hardly any tourists go there. And bonus—you can still climb up several of the pyramids here!
The friendly tour guides make you feel like questions are actually encouraged and are full of fascinating tidbits about the stops along the tour, the Mayans, and Mexico, in general.
This tour knows how to get down to it—you’ll be one of the very first people in the gates at Chichen Itza and can enjoy the incredible sites without all the crowds. The tour guides are flexible, patient, and happy to accommodate requests or answer questions that arise while you’re exploring the site.
Once you’re done here, you’ll make a quick pit stop in the nearby town of Piste, with all the souvenir shops and taco stands you could dream of.
Finally, you’ll head to Cenote Ik Kil, one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful cenotes in the Yucatan. While Cenote Ik Kil can get SUPER packed with tour buses, your early morning wake up call will pay off once again (you’ll likely get the cenote largely to yourself!). You’ll also grab a buffet lunch at the onsite restaurant (which, for an admittedly touristy cenote, is actually pretty decent!).
If you want flexibility and a bit more of a luxurious experience, consider this private tour.
You’ll be picked up and taken to Chichen Itza—and as an added bonus of going on a private tour, you won’t have to wake up quite as early to make up for all of those extra stops at hotels and Airbnbs to pick up other travelers! At Chichen Itza, your knowledgeable guide will share all kinds of fascinating facts about the Mayans and their culture with you.
From here, you’ll head to Cenote Oxman, a beautiful and generally uncrowded cenote. Few tour buses head here, so you’ll have a decent chance of getting it all to yourself!
You’ll stop in the town of Valladolid to get an a la carte lunch at a local restaurant (if you don’t know what to order, no worries- your handy guide will gladly assist!) and stroll around the cobblestone streets.
Because it’s a private tour, the tour guides can be a bit flexible. If you want to add on or substitute a stop, you likely can (for a reasonable fee!)- just ask!
Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun
Cancun is known for its vibrant nightlife, all inclusive resorts, and family-friendly attractions. While Cancun itself is not a great place to immerse yourself in authentic Mexican culture, it’s certainly a wonderful springboard to explore the rich history and culture of the surrounding Yucatan Peninsula—for example, given it’s location about two hours and 45 minutes east of Mexico’s Wonder of the World, there’s plenty of Chichen Itza tours from Cancun.
On this tour, you’ll get picked up from your hotel and taken to Chichen Itza bright and early, where you’ll learn all kinds of fascinating information from your knowledgeable tour guides.
After exploring the grounds, you’ll cool down in Cenote Saamal, a beautiful swimming hole that’s off the typical tourist path. You’ll also get a buffet lunch here, which is surprisingly delicious!
You’ll cap off your tour with moseying around the cobblestone streets of Valladolid, which is considered a pueblo mágico by the Mexico Board of Tourism.
The guides on this tour are incredible storytellers and they provide a perfect balance of time with your tour guide with time on your own to explore.
You’ll get picked up from your hotel and taken to Chichen Itza. Your informative guide will take you around to some of the most fascinating sites on the complex and you’ll also have some time to enjoy walking around by yourself.
Next up—Cenote Chichikan, a beautiful swimming hole that’s under the radar. You’ll be treated to lunch at the onsite restaurant and even get to enjoy a tequila tasting if you’re feeling extra spicy.
Finally, you’ll have a bit of time to explore the town square of Valladolid, including its historic church, Iglesia De San Servacio, which was originally built in 1545!
The tour guides’ enthusiasm for Mayan history and culture is absolutely infectious and you’ll learn so much on this trip.
If I had one gripe about this tour, though, it’s that the schedule is a bit wonky—the tour generally doesn’t arrive at Chichen Itza until about mid-day, meaning you won’t get lunch at the cenote until 4 PM or so (and sometimes, even, much later). If you’re a chill traveler who is flexible with timing, this is an excellent and reasonably priced option, but if your schedule is a bit more rigid (e.g., you’re traveling with young children), this may not be the tour for you.
If you value flexibility, consider booking this private tour.
You’ll be one of the first ones in the gates of Chichen Itza and spend two hours walking around this ancient city with your knowledgeable guide.
Afterward, you’ll head to Cenote Ik Kil. As mentioned above, this cenote is SUPER beautiful and, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular stops for tour buses around Chichen Itza. Nevertheless, because your tour group got an early start, you’ll beat the crowds and get to enjoy the cenote largely to yourself. The tour usually stops at the onsite restaurant here for a buffet lunch, but if you want something more authentic, ask ahead of time—the guides are usually more than happy to take you to a local family’s house for a traditional Mayan meal instead!
In fact, this tour is operated by “Make Your Own Tour”. If there’s anything you want to add or change about your day, just ask—the company is incredibly flexible and accommodating with your itinerary (with an additional fee, of course).
Frequently Asked Questions About Chichen Itza
What is Chichen Itza?
If you’ve made it this far into the article, I assume that you have a vague understanding of what Chichen Itza is, but just in case, Chichen Itza was an ancient Mayan city, built sometime between 400-600 AD. It was one of the most important Mayan cities for trade and commerce and, at its height, had somewhere around 50,000 inhabitants.
It’s speculated that Chichen Itza grew to such prominence thanks to its location near a massive cenote, which supplied the town with precious water for drinking, cleaning, agriculture, and religious purposes. In fact, it’s where the town likely got its name, which roughly translates to “at the mouth of the well of the enchanter of water.”
No one is really sure why Chichen Itza declined from one of the mightiest Mayan cities to the abandoned ruins of today. But it’s believed the city experienced a catastrophic drought, sometime in the 12th to 15th century, that forced them to move (although there’s certainly other theories swirling around).
The city sat largely forgotten about to the outside world until 1841, when two explorers stumbled upon it and published about their experiences. Before long, Chichen Itza had captured the imagination of travel enthusiasts and history nerds everywhere and grew into the beloved tourist destination it is today. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and one the Seven New Wonders of the World in 2007.
Where is Chichen Itza located?
Chichen Itza is located in the center of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, outside of the teeny town of Piste. As mentioned above, it’s less than two and a half hours from several of the most popular tourist destinations in the Yucatan, like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Merida.
Can you do Chichen Itza without a tour?
Absolutely! I’ve personally been to Chichen Itza in the past without a tour- so long as you have a means of getting to Chichen Itza on your own (like a rental car or public transit), you can absolutely explore it by yourself. In fact, we even wrote a whole article about visiting Chichen Itza.
There are a few downsides of not going on a Chichen Itza tour, though:
- You’ll need to figure out transportation yourself.
- You’ll be bugged by the unrelenting vendors of Chichen Itza a LOT more (be prepared for the sound of a thousand yowling cats all at once, sold by vendors as jaguar whistles. Yes, they’re as annoying as it sounds).
- Most importantly, it will be hard to appreciate the history and culture of this fascinating place.
The vast majority of guides have grown up in the region and are incredibly familiar with Mayan culture of the past and today, Chichen Itza, and Mexico, in general. While the architecture of Chichen Itza is nonetheless impressive, you’re not really going to get the context of this mighty city without a knowledgeable guide with you.
I hope you have a bit of a better idea of which Chichen Itza tour you want to book. Do you have any questions about going on a tour here? Let me know in the comments below!