One of the top things we wanted to do during our time in Mexico was visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. We had decided not to rent a car while in Mexico, and since we were staying in Playa Del Carmen, it was too far to take a taxi. For that reason, we decided to book a guided tour and ended up going with Mayaland Tours. Find out everything you need to know in this Chichen Itza Deluxe Tour Review!
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- Chichen Itza Deluxe Tour: Package & Inclusions
- Would I Do it Again?
- How Can I Book this Tour?
- Things to Know
The Tour: Package & Inclusions
Mayaland Tours offers hotel pickup from a countless number of hotels in the Riviera Maya area. They’ll notify you in advance of your pickup time so you can be in the lobby ready. You’ll want to make sure you have your confirmation ticket or email handy, because they’ll check it when they arrive.
The nicest part is that they pick you up in a Mercedes Benz. At the end of the day, it’s still a van that you share with a handful of other people (unless you choose the private tour option). However, the seats are a bit nicer, and it’s a bit more spacious overall. It’s a small perk if nothing else.
Cenote Ik Kil
It’s about a 2 hour drive from the Playa Del Carmen area to Cenote Ik Kil, a cenote just outside of Chichen Itza. If you’ve never heard of a cenote, it’s basically a sinkhole that’s been filled with water. Some are like open pits, while others are complete cave systems.
Cenote Ik Kil is probably one of my favorite cenotes. Granted, there are more than 6,000 cenotes just in the Yucatan Peninsula alone, and I only visited a handful of them, but still. It’s pretty amazing. It’s actually even considered to be one of the best cenotes in Mexico!
The nice thing about Cenote Ik Kil in comparison to some other cenotes in the area is that is has a full service station. There are changing rooms, coin lockers, and even towels for rent. Just be prepared for the fact that most of the staff speak almost no English.
Unfortunately, we only had about 50 minutes here, which really isn’t much time. By the time you change, put your stuff in a coin locker and hit the shower (you’re required to wash off any sunscreen, bug spray, and other chemicals), you don’t have a whole lot of time to actually enjoy the cenote.
If you’re really brave, you can jump off the slight ledge on the inside of the cave wall… Otherwise you can climb down the ladder into the water. The water is 150ft deep, so if you’re not the best swimmer, I recommend grabbing one of the life vests. Once you’re in the water, you’ll find a rope and some floatation balls you can hold onto. There are also life guards on duty to ensure your safety.
After leaving Cenote Ik Kil, you’ll head a few minutes down the road to Chichen Itza, a compound full of Mayan ruins. After passing through the entrance, the tour guide will lead you around the compound, taking you to the various important structures that remain.
One of the structures the tour guide will lead you by is the observatory. This is where the Mayans studied the sky and learned about the sun and seasons, as well as the summer and winter solstice.
Another one of the structures includes one of the biggest ball yards in Mesoamerica (current day Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica). Here, the tour guide talked about a game called Pitz, where competitors use their hips, elbows, and such to get a rubber ball through the hoops.
The main structure within the compound, and definitely the one Chichen Itza is most known for, is the Temple of Kukulcan, dedicated to the feathered serpent god also called Kukulcan. The temple structure is based off time – 4 sides for the four seasons, 91 steps on each side and one at the top to represent 365 days of the year, and so on. The temple is also perfectly positioned so that on the summer and winter solstice, a thin ray of light shines down the corners of the temple.
Lunch Buffet at Mayaland Hotel
After walking around and seeing all the ruins, we made our way to Mayaland Hotel, a hotel located right within the Chichen Itza complex. They had a full buffet waiting for us, complete with Mexican food, American food, and all sorts of fruits and snacks.
Probably my favorite part of lunch was that they had performers during lunch. Several of the staff would balance open drinks, plates, and other items on their head, all while doing a Spanish dance. They would tap their feet and even spin in circles, and the items wouldn’t even wobble. It was pretty cool to watch.
Once lunch was over, we stopped in the planetarium, where they showed a video about the history of the Mayan people. It was narrated by a Mayan who shared a story that had been passed down from her grandmother, and her grandmother before that. It was the Mayan version of the creation of the world, and how people came to be, as well as the creation of the sun and moon.
Hotel Drop Off
After being in the sun all day, the drive back to Playa Del Carmen (or Cancún) feels like forever. The drop people off in the same order they picked them up, so if you were the first group picked up in the morning, you’ll also be the first dropped off. When you do finally arrive at your hotel, make sure you have all of your stuff. If you forget anything, it won’t be really easy to get it back, so make sure to do a good look over of your area before getting off.
Would I Do it Again?
There were definitely some pros and cons to this tour, but overall I’d probably give it a thumbs up.
The biggest con to this tour was simply just that it was too rushed. For Cenote Ik Kil in particular, I wish we’d had more time to just explore and relax. However, I believe we would have felt crunched for time no matter which tour company we used (not just the Mayaland Tour), simply because Chichen Itza is so far from the Playa Del Carmen and Cancún area. The two hour drive there and two hour drive back severely cuts into the amount of time you have to spend at each the attractions themselves.
The second con may not actually be a con to some other people. In my opinion, the tour guide just went a little bit too in depth about some of the history of the different spots within the complex. I’m not a big history buff, and while I found a lot of the facts interesting, I also would have preferred more time just to explore the rest of the complex.
One of the pros was that our tour guide was actually Mayan. He definitely had a passion for the culture and history of his people, and his enthusiasm made the whole tour more enjoyable overall.
The second pro was that the tour was slightly personalized. On a couple of occasions, the tour guide asked if we would rather do see X or Y, sort of giving us the option to cater the tour to our own interests.
How Can I Book this Tour?
The best way to book this tour is directly through the tour operators website. Mayaland Tours also has an office within the Reef Coco Beach Resort if you would prefer to wait until you arrived in Mexico and book your tour in person.
Things to Know
Make sure to bring plenty of pesos or small US bills (nothing over $10 USD). We found that many of the places selling souvenirs at Chichen Itza didn’t accept credit cards, and didn’t have enough change for us to use a $20 USD bill. You’ll also need cash if you plan to rent the coin lockers or a towel at Cenote Ik Kil.
Cenote Ik Kil is one of the more popular cenotes, and unlike some other cenotes, has full amenities (such as coin locker rental). However, despite its popularity, a majority of the people who work there speak little to no English. Plus, our tour guide just waited for us in the bus, so it wasn’t like there was even anybody around to help us translate. With enough patience and several hand gestures, we were eventually able to figure everything out, but it was definitely unexpected.