Things To Do In Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Penisula

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula

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Things to do in Chichen Itza day & night Yucatan Peninsula.

We had 4 days to explore the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Mexico is one of our favourite countries.

In conjunction with Visit Mexico and Yucatan Turismo we created a detailed 4-day itinerary which included visits to Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Izamal, Progresso and Celestun.

Chichen Itza requires some travelling to get to whether you are coming from Cancun, Cozumel, Valladolid, Tulum, Mayan Riviera or Merida. The distances will determine how you can make the best use of your time when visiting the Mayan Ruins.  This is one tourist attraction that some advanced travel planning is needed.

There are three ways to visit the Chichen Itza Ruins:

  1. Day only
  2. Daytime visit and return in the evening to enjoy the Chichen Itza Light Show Tour
  3. Night only to enjoy the Chichen Itza Light Show Tour

If you only have time to visit the Chichen Itza Light Show Tour there are time restrictions as well as site restrictions, you won’t have access to view all that the site has to offer.

Distances from other areas to Chichen Itza for planning purposes

  • From Cozumel to Chichen Itza 230km
  • Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza 181km
  • Merida to Chichen Itza 120km
  • Coba to Chichen Itza 108km
  • Akumal to Chichen Itza 177km
  • Celestun to Chichen Itza 215km
  • Valladolid to Chichen Itza 45km

Let us share with you how we visited Chichen Itza over 2 days and what lessons we learned and how we would do it differently next time.

How we experienced Chichen Itza over 2 days

Day Only

We based ourselves at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida for 4 days and travelled to Chichen Itza on the morning of the 3rd day.

It was February, winter season, the busiest time in Mexico to visit Mayan Ruins.

Although we had an early start of 8.00am the drive from Merida to Chichen Itza took about 1.5 hours getting us there at around 9.30am.  The excursion buses parked in the car park should have given us a sign of what was to come.  There was a long snaking queue past all the souvenir shops at the front into the ticket booths, it took us over an hour to get inside Chichen Itza.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula

El Castillo – the most beautiful temple in the Yucatan

A local guide approached us, explained how he would tour Chichen Itza, giving us all his Chichen Itza facts, tips and his theories as we wander around for the next 2 hours. It was winter, it was hot and dusty, the height of the season and very busy with thousands of tourists. Sometimes it was hard to hear what he was saying with all the microphones blaring out beside us from the large tour groups.  We enjoyed our tour and learned a lot about Chichen Itza history from him, this is one reason why we now suggest hiring a guide for a Mayan site.  Our guide spoke many languages such as French, German, Italian, English and even Mayan.  He is descended from the Mayans and was very proud of his heritage.  We were not sure how old he was and did not dare ask but we guessed at close to 70.

Unfortunately, when we visited the Mayan site of Tulum we didn’t hire a guide and we missed out on a whole lot of good information on this major ‘tourist attraction’.

You can read about our full adventures on our morning visit to Chichen Itza in our Chichen Itza post.

We headed off for lunch near Izamal at the Zamna Restaurant prior to visiting the ‘yellow city’ as Izamal is known as.  It was a full day and we were exhausted by the time we returned back to the Wyndham Hotel in Merida.

Merida in the Yucatan

Night Only

The morning of Day 4 we headed to Celestun to visit the Celestun Biosphere Reserve and its pink flamingos.  After a lot of driving to get there and back we returned back to the hotel at 2.30pm knowing that at 5.00pm we were due to head out to Chichen Itza for the Sound and Light Show.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula

El Castillo in one of its many colours during the Chichen Light Show Tour

Arriving at the entrance we noticed a lack of excursion buses,  a small queue and a very pleasant night time temperature with a slight breeze under a moonlit starry sky. It was a different experience to the morning tour, a memorable one for different reasons.  By the time the show finished and we left the site we did not make it back to the Wyndham Hotel till after 10.00pm making it a long day of sightseeing.

Check out our video on the Chichen Itza Light Show 2017

Our Suggestions Depending On How Much Time You Have

Itinerary #1 – Chichen Itza Ruins Day and Chichen Itza Light Show Tour

Base yourself in Merida which gives you access to other tourist attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula such as Uxmal, Izamal, Celestun and Progresso.  Leave Merida at 12.00pm  on one of the days and travel to Chichen Itza – the drive will take approximately 1.5 hours from Merida to Chichen Itza.

Spend the afternoon there and take advantage of using a local guide to learn all about the Chichen Itza ruins, you will have a good 3 hours available.

After the archaeological site closes at 4.30pm enjoy a meal at a local Chichen Itza restaurant till the park re-opens again at 6.30pm.  Enjoy the (Chichen Itza Light & Sound Show) known as Noches de Kukulkan and return back to Merida.

Daytime Chichen Itza Hours:

From 08.00 to 16.30 all year round

Night time hours – Chichen Itza Light Show Schedule

(note there are different times for Summer and Winter.  If in doubt, when you book online, it explains the hours for that night.)

Summer

Entrance to the archaeological site from 20.00 to 20.30 hours

The Light Show is from 20.45 to 21.00 hours

Winter

Entrance to the archaeological site from 19.00 to 19.30 hours

The Light Show is from 19.45 to 20.00 hours.

N.B. The Show is conducted in Spanish.  There are audio guides handed out in different languages when you check in, expect to queue for at least 20 minutes.  A photo ID is required to be handed over prior to receiving the audio guides.  There will also be a queue to hand them back after the show has finished. It took us a good 20 minutes to hand back the audio guide and received our photo ID back. 

Itinerary #2 Chichen Itza Ruins Day, Chichen Itza Light Show Tour with Overnight Stay at one of the Chichen Itza Hotels

In our 2nd option, we would recommend staying the night in one of the 5 Chichen Itza Hotels. You can enjoy a leisurely visit to the site as well as the cenote near Chichen Itza.  Back at the hotel, you can have a swim or a nap and then head back to enjoy the Chichen Itza Light & Sound Show.  If we were to visit again this is the option that we would take.

Daytime Chichen Itza Hours:

From 08.00 to 16.30 all year round

Night time hours – Chichen Itza Light Show Schedule

(note there are different times for Summer and Winter.  If in doubt, when you book online, it explains the hours for that night.)

Summer

Entrance to the archaeological site from 20.00 to 20.30 hours

The Chichen Itza Light Show Tour is from 20.45 to 21.00 hours

Winter

Entrance to the archaeological site from 19.00 to 19.30 hours

The Chichen Itza Light Show Tour is from 19.45 to 20.00 hours.

N.B. The Show is conducted in Spanish.  There are audio guides handed out in different languages when you check in, expect to queue for at least 20 minutes.  A photo ID is required to be handed over prior to receiving the audio guides.  There will also be a queue to hand them back after the show has finished. It took us a good 20 minutes to hand back the audio guide and received our photo ID back. 

Itinerary #3 – Chichen Itza Light Show Tour

If you have limited time and want to visit the Chichen Itza Light Show take note of the following entrance times, plan to arrive 30 minutes before the site opens in the evening.

Night time hours – Chichen Itza Light Show Schedule

(note there are different times for Summer and Winter.  If in doubt, when you book online, it explains the hours for that night.)

Summer

Entrance to the archaeological site from 20.00 to 20.30 hours

The Light Show is from 20.45 to 21.00 hours

Winter

Entrance to the archaeological site from 19.00 to 19.30 hours

The Light Show is from 19.45 to 20.00 hours.

N.B. The Show is conducted in Spanish.  There are audio guides handed out in different languages when you check in, expect to queue for at least 20 minutes.  A photo ID is required to be handed over prior to receiving the audio guides.  There will also be a queue to hand them back after the show has finished. It took us a good 20 minutes to hand back the audio guide and received our photo ID back. 

Chichen Itza Map

Chichen Itza

During the day you can wander around every pyramid at Chichen Itza and spend as long as you like admiring each one.

Chichen Itza At Night

Chichen Itza Map – Night Time

Chichen Itza Map

At night the path is lit up as per the above map.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula

Temple of the Jaguar Throne

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula

The Jaguar Throne

There is one path to travel in one direction to walk around at night which is lit up.  They advise not to wander from the lit path for safety reasons. There are guards ensuring that you stay on the path and 15 minutes before the light show starts you are requested to head towards the seating area and claim your seats.

Things to do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula

El Castillo

There is not enough time or light at night to enjoy the whole site so it is advisable to visit during the day as well.

Chichen Itza Facts

What is Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is an archaeological site of Mayan Ruins located in the Yucatan State of Mexico. Chichen Itza sits on 740 acres and was built around 800AD. The are considered to be the best Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan.

The Temple of Kukulkan is the main drawcard to the site, with its impressive height and history of being two pyramids one built over the top of the other.

How Old is Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza which is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the New World proudly sits up there with Petra, Machu Picchu, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal and Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.

The Temple of Kukulcan, also known as El Castillo Chichen Itza is believed to have been built in 800AD.

Recent research shows that El Castillo was built over a Chichen Itza cenote which is 20m deep and could put the structure at risk in the future.

Other sites in Chichen Itza are:

  • Temple of the Warriors (also known as the Temple of the 1000 Columns)
  • Caracol
  • Chichen Itza Ball Court
  • Temple of the Jaguars
  • Platform of the Skulls
  • plus a lot of other smaller temples

Chichen Itza Cenote

The Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza lies to the north of the site.  A cenote is similar to a natural ‘sink hole’. The Chichen Itza Cenote was used as a place of pilgrimage for the Mayan people.  It is believed that during their rituals they would throw live men into the cenote as a sacrifice to their gods.  Apart from men being thrown into the cenote they also threw precious stones and other items of value that they owned.

Chichen Itza Weather

Chichen Itza is the major tourist attraction on the Yucatan Peninsula.  During the cooler months between October and April, it is the busiest time to visit and you can expect hundreds of excursion buses a day to the site.  During this time the days are warm and you can expect lots of sunshine.

The rainy season is between May and September, it can be hot and humid and you can expect between 1-3 hours of rain a day.

Chichen Itza Entrance Fee – Day

As of 2017 day time ticket prices are:

MXN242 (MXN172 for the ticket and MXN70 for tax)

There is a fee for video filming MXN45.

Mexican Government Officials control and administrate Chichen Itza archaeological site.

Chichen Itza Night Show Tickets

As of 2017 night time ticket prices are:

MXN453

Tickets are to be purchased prior to the day from the official website.

To Travel Too Tip

Book as far in advance as possible, the best seats are in the front row.

Chichen Itza Tours

There are many tours available to Chichen Itza.  Tripadvisor has a list with reviews for your information.

Tours are available from:

  • Chichen Itza Tours from Playa del Carmen
  • Chichen Itza Tours from Cancun
  • Mayan Riviera Excursions
  • Tours from Tulum to Chichen Itza
  • Tours from Cozumel to Chichen Itza

Other Mayan Sites to Visit Around Chichen Itza

 

Cancun

Most travellers visit Chichen Itza as part of their Cancun Vacation. Cancun Chichen Itza is a distance of 200km and can be done in a day, but can be exhausting it would be recommended to use the services of the many available  Cancun Tours.

If you are considering staying in Cancun here are the 10 top hotels as recommended by Tripadvisor.

A recommendation whilst staying in Cancun would be a visit to Akumal where you can swim with the turtles.

We also recommend doing some pre-planning research to make the most of your visit to the tourist attractions of the Yucatan. The following books from Amazon may assist you.


We always recommend taking our travel insurance when you travel. Our recommended product is World Nomads.

To Travel To Tips

  • Plan your visit to Chichen Itza
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Use sunscreen
  • Wear a hat
  • Don’t rush visiting this amazing archaeological site of Mexico

Our thanks go to Visit Mexico and Yucatan Turismo for providing the transport to visit Chichen Itza.  Our stay at the Wyndham Hotel in Merida was complimentary from Wyndham Hotels.

We hope you enjoyed our article on Things To Do in Chichen Itza Day & Night Yucatan Peninsula.  Feel free to share our article.

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