There seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding Chichen Itza amongst traveller circles in Mexico. I sympathise. The combination of its fame and proximity to the big resorts on the coast means that it welcomes coachloads of tourists – and has adapted to accommodate them. There is something about turnstiles and tour groups that can slightly take the edge off a thing. Another complaint I heard frequently was about the cordons that stop you getting up close to the pyramids. I didn’t find this unusual until visiting other ruins and having a lot of fun climbing all over them. Which is a joy that – for very good reasons – is denied to visitors here.
Still, this wonder of the world and UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t all bad. Because for one, you can avoid the tour groups if you just arrive early.
See all those tourists just there?
Which is the beauty of staying in Valladolid. We got the first bus to Chichen Itza in the morning and were at the site by around 9.15 am. (Another entertaining moment that occurred just as me and my hostel buddy were walking off the bus. An English lady asked our driver – who didn’t speak a word of English – when she could get the bus back. Before offering our translation services, we watched her ask again, but s-l-o-w-l-y, get frustrated for a short moment, shake her head, and curse the lack of English spoken. Um.)
For me, the joy of Chichen Itza was just in wandering around, hanging out by the pyramids and taking silly photos. We were a bit too broke/cheap to pay for a guide, which meant that we did miss out out on some of the science and history behind it – but Lonely Planet helped, as did a fair amount of eavesdropping.
Here are my Chichen Itza-grams:
But incredibly, we did managed to spend the best part of the day here – and it wasn’t until around 4pm that we decided to head off.
It was kind of like a long day at the park, with loads of giant famous ruins all over the place.
Which is pretty cool, even if you have to pay and go through turnstiles to reach them.