Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, Petra in Jordan; all are places awarded the prestigious title of ‘New wonders of the world’, but let me ask, do these places really live up to their hype?
Well…the answer…YES absolutely…as if that was even a question.
Recently I visited the famous ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico, and my experience was as the title suggests, world-wonderful. When I arrived at Chichen Itza, I had some preconceived perceptions about what I was about to see. I figured it would be your typical ‘ruin tour’ experience, you know…a healthy sized park, ropes blocking off the archeology from many meters away, and a couple thousand too many tourists in the way coming from nearby Cancun or cultural capital Merida.
While Chichen Itza did own up to many of these qualities, the thousands of people thats for sure. The sheer size of these ruins made the experience seem open and relaxed. The people were spread throughout the park, and…well yes, there truly were that many people; with some spending time in the cenotes, some near the large main pyramid, and others exploring the many extensive sections of this ancient city, I never once felt overwhelmed or that my personal experience was compromised. In fact these ruins went on and on, so long that a second day would have been an absolute gift making Chichen Itza a must on any Mexico itinerary.
The ruins, while blocked off in many areas, were not so far out of reach to not feel a personal connection with them. I felt this issue when visiting the Tulum ruins where ropes had us so far from the archeology that binoculars would have helped when looking for the slightest bit of detail. The beautiful part of Chichen Itza was that, maybe due to its reputation, people seemed to be respectful of both the ruins, and others viewing them and so maybe this is why I did not feel so far away from everything.
There were options on options on options for ways in which to view these ruins. From a group tour for $25USD which could be picked up at the entrance gate, and which was provided in an unreasonable amount of languages, to a $50 private tour from a guide of your choice also available at the gate. There was also a mini-movie you could opt to watch to help teach the history of Chichen Itza if a guide was not for you.
The park itself was well manicured. There was freshly cut grass throughout the expanse of Chichen Itza with trees and bits of forest intertwined into the ruins and picnic tables strategically located if one needed a rest. It was this that really made if for me. The resting and relaxing, the ‘no-need to rush’ attitude which enveloped this area. The people eating lunch, playing in the field, and enjoying the warm air in the midst of this ancient civilization allowed for a calm and enjoyable feeling to cover this experience.
The ruins..ohhh, the ruins, how expansive were they? Not only were they well maintained, they were huge. I mean there was just so much more than the pyramids that we imagine when we think of Chichen Itza. There were the dwellings, the observatory, places for offerings, sacred cenotes, a special space for women, the plaza of 1000 columns, the temples of warriors, and the famed ball courts…should I keep going or do you get the picture? The most amazing part to me was the fact that there was even more archeology to be uncovered and maintained. This is just the start of Chichen itza.
To add some fun, every path between sacred spaces has its very own Mexican market. As you walk from one end to the other there are artisans and salesmen hollering at you to purchase cute little souvenirs, and they are 200% willing to haggle. So have some fun, it is in great spirit.
Finally to close out the Chichen Itza experience, there is an absolutely stunning resort on site (for the people who just may have more money than me) that offers rooms to stay in, gift shops, and a beautiful restaurant that depending on which ticket you picked upon entry, you can dine in. A delicious way to end a day.
It is hard to write about Chichen Itza in some ways, and easy in others. It truly is a destination to be explored if the opportunity exists. It is difficult to explain in words what there is to see at Chichen Itza as writing cannot describe the size of its reality. It is easy to describe the feeling and the moments created by this one of a kind wonder of the world. Chichen Itza is open. It is historical. It is religion. It is science. It is exploration. It is swimming in Cenote Ik-Kil. Its art, its culture, its a market, its a resort and its restaurants; all are worth the price of admission. Finally, it is the perfect day out, so is it really all its cracked up to be? Yes, yes it is.
ps. When you decide to visit…clap your hands at the bottom of the pyramid, you will find a little calculated surprise.
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Sandy N Vyjay says
I am really fascinated by the Mayan culture, heritage, and history. Chichen Itza is a living testimony to the richness of the Mayan culture. I can see you had a nice time and I would love to visit the place and get lost in the ruins someday.
I love your yoga pose! I found that Chichen Itza was very hot in august – so take hats and cover up, but i totally agree that it is worth visiting. We did the private tour and learned lots that I wasn’t expecting. Petra is also very much worth visiting!
Justine Alonzo | The Iridescent Wings says
At first I thought it said Chicken. LOL. My bad.
Great article. I’m glad it lives up to the hype. Thanks for including price and telling us how much you’re actually able to see. I hate when the ropes are way too far to actually see anything.
Wow! I haven’t heard of this place before but since I’m from the US, Mexico has grown high on my list when I arrive back from Australia! Cant believe I wasnt more interested in it before! Thanks for sharing!
I would love to visit and learn more about Mayan culture. I think this site looks amazing and I love that it’s big so that all the tourists are spread out and not right on top of one another. Definitely have to put this place on my bucket list. Thanks for the share!
Love your overview, and your vibe! I visited Teotihuacan earlier this year and had a similar feeling, though it was more crowded. They really let you get involved with the pyramids, run up them, and over them, though 1 full day there was plenty.
And of course… Great Handstand!
Wow. This looks like it was an amazing trip! The photos are beautiful! I need to visit!
I have seen photos of this so many times in my life but WOW your photos made me want to visit more than ever! It looks absolutely lovely and I love that there is sooooo much to learn and look at! Also, super lovely handstand pic! Namaste! =)
Ryan Biddulph says
Cool pose cool pics Kim ;) I too am awed by the scale of these places. I recall being shocked at the size of Angkor Wat; how did they build something so freaking big and huge and then the buildings and all that stuff without machinery? Inspired. Makes you think what we are really capable of when we get rid of the head trash and get down to work.
Looking at the photos, it doesn’t even feel that crowded (unlike, say, Stonehenge after 11 am)! Oh, now I’m curious about clapping at the end of the pyramid… I like that they have preserved it well and let tourists visit while protecting the heritage; it’s a balance that’s hard to keep.
We visited Chichen Itza years ago & had an amazing time exploring the ruins. Apparently only a decade or so ago, tourists were allowed to climb the main temple! Such a fascinating place. Awesome post & photos!
Yury Santos says
I love knowing that you didn’t feel too cramped or overwhelmed by the amount of people. I love visiting famous and important landmarks but I get turned off by the idea of so many tourists being…..well tourists lol
Thanks for the article! Mexico is next on my list :)
Katie Featherstone says
I’ve been dreaming of Mexico for a long time and Chichen Itza always factors into that. I didn’t realise it was so extensive though!
Carly Wayward Heyward says
I’m glad you wrote about this because sometimes I do wonder if places are over-hyped… but at the same time… I still wanna go? They definitely have a different feel to them than places you discover organically, but they’re famous for a reason! Great yoga poses too!
Tanj from A Travelogue says
When I went to Mexico, we visited Teotihuacan. Btw, love what your shirt says. Glad you enjoyed Mexico.
Jolene Ejmont says
So unique! We haven’t been yet, but would love to see it all one day! Love the photos!
Great post! I would love to visit Chichen Itza after reading your review. I also really need to find out what’s going to happen when I clap my hands at the bottom of the pyramid! Thanks for sharing!
Sara Granados @ SARA SEES says
My dad’s from Mexico, so he has told me about Chichen Itza many times, and he says it’s totally worth it, too! Sometimes, things are tourist attractions for a reason — sometimes those attractions are let downs and totally overhyped, but sometimes they’re totally worth it. And Chichen Itza looks SO worth it! I want to do a trip around Central America in the next couple of years, so this will definitely be a stop!
Albert Bond says
I’d say Chichen Itza lives up to its hype, although it seems to be overwhelmed with tourists. I visited Tikal years ago and liked how much of the ruins remained surrounded by the jungle leaving to feel more remote and certainly less crowded.
Joy Generoso says
This is one of the heritage sites I need to tick off my list. Thanks for the inspiration. :-)
very cool article. I like the way you described the atmosphere. It almost felt as I´ve been there while reading. Need to go there one day, soon, now…
Retreat Hannah says
I’m definitely going to go! Do you recommend my good cenotes in that area?
I’ve been to all 7 wonders of the world and Chichen Itza was one of the ones that I was most pleasantly surprised with! After reading so many negative recollections of there being hoards of crowds, it being ruined by tourism etc, I went in with low expectations. But I actually had a fantastic day! Even though we got caught right in the middle of one of the heaviest downpours ever. It was hilarious how all the souvenir stalls suddenly swapped their magnets and statues for ridiculously overpriced umbrellas within seconds.
I’m really glad you’ve written this with such a positive slant – there’s way too much negativity surrounding Chichen Itza online.
Ah the memories…
We lost the majority of our Chichen Itza snaps when we damaged our hard drive and had issues with online backups… *sigh*
It wasn’t my favourite ruin in Mexico, but without a doubt it is well worth the hype.
Given that so many tour groups don’t linger too long anywhere, if you’re not in a rush (as you hinted) you can find peace and beauty… even if that beauty is at the edge of a cenote from which they once tossed human sacrifices!
We got there at the crack of dawn, and found we had a good chunk of time before it got too busy
Omg this is crazy! I literaly wrote a post about exactly the same topic a couple of days ago! My opinion is completely different though. I found Chichen Itza a lot less interesting than the other ruins I’ve visited. Anyway, very nice to read a completely different opinion about this! And of course I’m happy that you did enjoy it. :)
What a lovely post! The ruins of Chichen Itza really remind me of some famous destinations in Cambodia. Hope I will have a chance to visit Mexico someday!:)
Lindz @ I've Been Bit! says
I had no idea the ruins were so expansive, and that there was so much around it! Chichen Itza has always been on my bucket list, but I think it just moved up a couple notches ;)
Siddharth and Shruti says
Glad to know that there is a ‘no-need to rush’ attitude. We hate when you barely get time to see a place and people are pushing you out. Chichen Itza is on our bucket list. Thanks for sharing.
Global Girl Travels says
I’ve always been fascinated with the Mayan Civiization and all of its ruins. The Chichen Itza is definitely high up on my list. Good to know it lived up to the hype!
This one is going to be an amazing place for me. The fact that it is so much more than just pyramids is good enough. I know I can spend a day here and keep discovering more. Thanks for sharing this
Ramiro Burton says
This is a very complete information on how to do day trip to Chichen Itza. And I believe this is the first time I read about Group of the Thousand Columns.
I can’t wait to visit Mexico one day and I will definitely keep your article in mind! Thank you! 😊