During our recent trip to Mexico, we stayed at the wonderful Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun and went on one of TUI’s flagship excursions to Chichen Itza. In this post we tell you why you should visit Chichen Itza, how to make the most of your visit plus what we thought of our excursion with TUI.
WHY VISIT CHICHEN ITZA?
Chichen Itza was a large city built by the Mayan people around 600AD. Today the archaeological site is maintained by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and is one of the most visited sites in Mexico with over 2.6 million visitors in 2017. The centrepiece is El Castillo which was named one of the seven wonders of the modern world in 2007.
The great pyramid, a temple to the Mayan serpent deity Kukulcan, dominates the landscape as you arrive at Chichen Itza. Around the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, part of the pyramid casts a series of shadows against the north side which creates the illusion of a serpent wriggling down the staircase. As this phenomenon occurs only twice a year, expect large crowds if you are visiting around this time.
But if you are not fortunate enough to be visiting around the equinox – have no fear. There is still so much to see at Chichen Itza. For example, the other hidden treasure of El Castillo can be enjoyed all year round. As you enter the site, you will undoubtedly notice a large number of tour groups clapping at the bottom of the temple steps. If you join in then you will notice that the echo from the pyramid mirrors a bird call. The bird in question is actually the quetzal, a green and red bird revered by the Mayan people as the god of the air.
Other than the temple, there are a huge number of other ruins to explore at the Chichen Itza archaeological site. Our particular favourite was the Great Ball Court. Ask your local guide about the game that was played in this stadium that used to be a national past time of the Mayan people. You should also check out the Sacred Cenote and the magnificent Temple of the Warriors.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR VISIT TO CHICHEN ITZA?
Hopefully we have convinced you that Chichen Itza is worth the visit. But how can you make the most of your trip? See our top 3 tips below:
1. GET THERE EARLY
Chichen Itza is a few hours drive from Cancun and as such tends to be at its quietest when it first opens at 8am. The crowds tend to arrive later in the morning so by getting there first you can get some beautiful unobstructed views of the great pyramid. Definitely worth the early start! If you book with TUI, you will arrive at Chichen Itza when it opens.
2. GET A GUIDE
There are a number of local guides working at Chichen Itza who have studied its history and will be able to bring this archaeological site to life. Guides tend to be relatively cheap and if you are not on an organised tour you can usually find a group to join by the main entrance. One of the most interesting aspects of Chichen Itza is that there are a number of conflicting interpretations of its history. Each of the local guides will talk to you about a different interpretation meaning no two visits are likely to be the same.
3. TAKE SUN PROTECTION
This might seem like an odd tip but there is very little shade at Chichen Itza and it gets incredibly hot. Make sure you take a hat, suncream and plenty of water to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
The Great Pyramid
There is so much to see at Chichen Itza!
HOW WAS THE TUI COLLECTION TOUR?
On arrival at your TUI hotel you will be invited to a welcome briefing on your first morning hosted by your in resort reps. We know that none of us really want to spend the first morning of our holiday sat indoors listening to a sales pitch but we would still recommend attending. Why? Well we found that the talk was a useful source of information right at the start of our holiday. Obviously, nothing beats doing your own research and we had done plenty before our trip but we did learn a lot about the different options available and what could be booked through TUI.
At the end of the presentation we decided to book the TUI Collection Chichen Itza tour for three main reasons. Firstly, being first time visitors to Mexico we felt safe knowing that the excursion was being organised by a reputable company that would be providing all of the transport and guides for the day. The TUI team took care of us from meeting us in the lobby until they dropped us back off again in the evening.
Secondly, the tour offered a wide and interesting itinerary. The trip set off early in the morning, allowing us to get to Chichen Itza before the crowds. It also included a visit to a rural Mayan community and a cenote. If you don’t know what a cenote is yet, then I would recommend searching for them on Instagram as the photos are beautiful. A cenote is an underground pool that is typical of the Yucatan peninsula. The cenote and surrounding area we visited are reserved for the sole enjoyment of TUI customers and well looked after. The cenote itself was stunning and we thoroughly enjoyed taking a dip in the cool subterranean waters. The experience was a highlight of our entire trip.
Thirdly, the guide was fantastic. You have one main guide for the duration of the excursion as well as an additional local guide for the tour around Chichen Itza. Our main guide had a real passion for Mayan culture and had clearly studied the history of Chichen Itza. He helped bring the ruins to life and added so much to our enjoyment of the excursion.
CHECK IN TO…CHICHEN ITZA
So our final verdict is that if you are visiting Mexico then you simply must go to Chichen Itza. It is easily one of the most famous landmarks in this wonderful country and really does capture the imagination. If you are staying with TUI we would highly recommend the TUI Collection Tour which you can book with your in resort reps on arrival.
Have you been to Chichen Itza? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below. For more information on our trip to Mexico, subscribe to our mailing list below.
For more information on Chichen Itza visit their website. Tickets to access Chichen Itza cost 242 pesos/£9.70 (including tax) and the TUI Collection Tour cost $140/£108 each in December 2018 and included entrance, transport to/from your hotel, lunch and refreshments.