How Do I Get to Chichen Itza Before the Tourists?

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While Tulum was glorious, I had suffered a harsh burn from my fun in the sun and I knew it would take a few days to recover, which meant it was time to move on.

According to Wikitravel, Valladolid is the less touristy option to stay in when visiting Chichen Itza so off I went.

As the largest of all archaeological cities of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, Chichen Itza is the grand daddy of all ruins in Mexico.

Postcards of the ruins grace every souvenir shop in the Yucatan province and it is a popular day trip for all travelers.

Quick History Lesson:

Chichen Itza was a center of pilgrimage for the ancient Maya for over 1,000 years. The Toltec people of central Mexico arrived and make it the most powerful city in Yucatan.

With this new arrival the buildings were created in a mix of Mayan and Toltec design.

The Mayans eventually revolted against the rulers. But the site remained a place of pilgrimage until the Spanish came in the 16th century.

In 1988 it was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site. Also it was recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The funny thing about independent travelers is that we hate tour buses.

We don’t want to be anywhere near them; we don’t want to be around tourists and we often talk about how to get away from them.

The irony is that we’re all tourists.

We’re all outsiders traveling to the same sites to take the same photos. Tour buses may have cliché tourists but we’re all clichés;  

I’m a cliché backpacker – although no dreads yet.

We were staying at Hostel Candelaria, which reassured me that if I took the 8:15am bus to the ruins, I would have a couple of hours before the fanny pack crew arrived.

Our hostel was right, we arrived at 9am and there were less than 20 people on site. We had time to walk around, take photos and enjoy the site.

The ruins were spectacular.

Sikil Pak

While you could not climb the main structure, you could walk through the smaller ruins to see the carvings and sculptures.

A few times we followed a tour group. But I was confused as to how the tour guides knew so much.

There were signs by each site that said not much was known about the Mayans and everything was a best guess.

Around 11am we had seen all of the ruins and taken all the obligatory photos.

We were starting to feel the intense heat from the mid-day Mexican sun.

It was time to go home.

As we made our way back to the entrance we were engulfed in a sea of tour bus passengers.

Most of their owners were indistinguishable as their faces were hiding behind video cameras.

Oddly enough under the pretense that someone from home would actually want to watch these videos.

Pin it For Later: Chichen Itza Mexico

Join the Conversation

  1. I love the video takers…there is no dynamic action here people!! Who is going to watch it? Good job on getting up early to beat the rush!! Cheers, G.

  2. Oh the hot Mexican sun…how I wish it would replace the damp, overcast Toronto skies!

  3. Christine says:

    So true about the tourist irony! I hate tour buses–particularly when they’re filled with fanny packs, video cameras and LOUD people–but in the end, we’re all there to see the exact same thing! Great photos 🙂

  4. You and dreads. Awesome image. Please see to that quickly.


  5. Sofia - As We Travel says:

    Haha so true, sometimes it seems like we forget that we’re just as much travelers as the fanny-packs, the only difference being that we tend to hide it under our shirts.. 😉

  6. Good call on getting there early. Two friends and I rented a car from Cancun and headed over. Probably arrived around the same time you did. Got our shots, explored the grounds and got the hell out. As we were leaving the tour buses started to arrive. So glad we did it early in the day.

    That sun is a beast too. No need to bake needlessly without a beach nearby…

  7. I’ll give you dreads when you come back to Toronto – the kind that doesn’t involve your shaving your head after! It’s pretty sweet…

  8. So cynical already! A sign of a true backpacker :p

  9. Raymond @ Man On The Lam says:

    I see a lot of resort wristbands on the folks in the photo above. Although I have to admit I love staying at a resort from time-to-time, the mob mentality that they get when they go to these sites in unreal…

  10. The Travel Chica says:

    I hate tourists too and refuse to admit that I am one 🙂

  11. dtravelsround says:

    I so feel you about the tour bus tourists. I LOVE getting to places before other people. Moments like you had are really special at these huge attractions! Glad you got in some good time before the masses.

  12. I wonder the same thing – like seriously, how long do you have to have a shot of a zoo animal, man?!

  13. Getting somewhere first thing is often the way to go… one thing I’ve learned traveling in France though is that everybody gets there (wherever it is) first thing, because that’s what everyone tells you that you must do… Going at Lunch time for places that are open for the whole day without closing always worked out the best. And that videoing everything business? A dissertation could be done.

  14. This will come in handy when I go to Mexico and never come home!

  15. I did the same thing as you, staying in Valladolid and going on the first bus. One thing I recall clearly that you didn’t mention are all the souvenir sellers. Unlike in other ruins I have visited, here they are allowed in to the actual park to sell (usually they are just outside the entrance). They were busy setting up while I walked around so they never bothered me. But by the time all the tour buses arrived they were raring to go and very aggressive/annoying.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You are right! They were just setting up as I was there but out in full force as I was leaving – everything was $1.

  16. Ah, the tour bus debate. I’ve FINALLY grown used to the idea that sometimes they are very helpful!

  17. I’ve found that it also helps if you are willing to go to popular places when the weather is less than perfect (or even bad). Keeps the crowds down, and sometimes you can get some unusual photos.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I completely agree. I once went to an amusement park on a rainy day and it had no lines and was a perfect day.

  18. My father was a pathological taker of vacation videos. When he died I ended up throwing away boxes of videos that meant nothing to anyone but him – film of solo vacations taken to places only he was interested in seeing. I suppose he re-watched them on cold winter nights to replay the experience of the trips but they certainly were not for other people.

    Tossing those videos made me change the way I photograph (and how much I photograph) my own trips. Fewer photos and more paying attention!

    Good to know that one can beat the hordes of video cameras by getting up early. I found the same thing on the coast of New Zealand. The town of Milford Sound is desolate, and beautiful at 8am. By 10am you can’t move for busloads of Asian tourists.

  19. You weren’t allowed to climb it? Many years ago I was at the top of that pyramid and we even descended into a very steam–hot catacomb right beneath the pyramid.

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