Wondering how to get from Playa del Carmen to Chichén-Itza? In this post, I will tell you all about it and all the possible options you have to visit one of the world’s seven wonders and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This amazing archaeological site is rich in history and if you have never been there you should visit Chichen-Itza at least once in your life.
While you explore the ruins, you can learn about the ancient legends of the “water witches” of the Yucatan peninsula, their sacred cenote, human sacrifices, and incredible pyramids.
Whether you plan to go on a full-day tour or spend only 3 hours at Chichen Itza, I’ve got you covered with all the information you’ll need!
So let’s start!
How to get from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza
I will tell you more about why you should visit Chichen-Itza and all the practical tips further below. For now, I am going to share the three best options to go by car rental, by group or private tour, or by bus.
🚗 Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza by car rental
Buy Chichen Itza Entrance Ticket in Advance
Avoid the lines and the hassle of carrying extra cash!
One of the most pleasant ways to get from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza is by car.
Even though it may seem the most expensive way, renting a car gives you complete freedom to explore at will, choose your time schedule, and avoid crowds.
But you can also combine Chichen Itza with other interesting sights in the surroundings.
You can easily make side trips to beautiful nearby attractions.
For example, you can check out some of the amazing cenotes near Chichen Itza, which I wrote about, or visit the colonial city of Valladolid, for example.
Car Rental to Chichen Itza Costs
- Car Rentals from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza cost between $60 and $70 per day.
- Expect to spend 25 to 40 USD for a full tank of gasoline
- You’ll also need to pay toll fees if you go on the toll roads. Budget $35 to $45 round trip.
I recommend booking your Car rental on Discovercars.com because it gives you the opportunity to compare prices between the different car rental companies and choose the most convenient for you.
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
In my opinion, it is well worth going to Chichen-Itza on the toll road because you’ll get there faster and you make sure you get there before the crowds. (more about it down below this post)
However, on the way back when you have more time you can skip the toll roads and drive through the small villages and towns, admire the ancient churches, and maybe you can find a new hidden cenote and make the most out of your car rental.
You may also want to sleep in one of the old haciendas turned into a luxury hotel and live the full Yucatan experience.
🚙 Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza by tour
One of the most popular ways to visit Chichen Itza is to go from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza with a tour.
Tours usually include hotel pickup, transportation, a tour guide to lead you through the ruins, time to swim in a nearby cenote, and a visit to Valladolid.
Here I have selected the top and most highly rated tours for you;
Top-Rated Tours to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen
The Viator exclusive Chichen Itza Unique Entry, Buffet Lunch & Cenote English Tour is a great choice for anyone who wants to beat the crowds and the heat but still, get a full tour package. This tour starts REALLY early, but it’s so worth it.
You’ll get right in the doors at the opening hour.
Be sure to put Playa del Carmen as your departure city, and take lots of water with you!
The Chichen Itza, Cenote, and Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour begins with pickup from your hotel (or a nearby location).
You’ll then travel to Chichen Itza, enjoy the archaeological site, swim in the spa-like Saamal Cenote, and then wander the streets of the Spanish colonial city of Valladolid.
This 5-star day tour only costs $69 per person, although you can pay more to have a beverage included.
The VIP Chichén Itzá Private Tour includes all entrance fees, an al-la-carte lunch, and private transportation. During this tour, you’ll visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, then jump into the San Lorenzo Oxman cenote to cool off.
After that, you’ll head to Valladolid for lunch in the main square. Afterward, you’ll have time to walk and explore the cute colonial streets before returning to Playa del Carmen.
This tour has all of the ingredients for an amazing Chichen Itza day trip!
The Chichén Itzá Early Access, Ek Balam & Cenote Small Group Tour from Playa del Carmen is another great tour. The price includes transportation to Chichen Itza, a buffet lunch, swimming in Saamal Cenote, and then a visit to another ruin with historical importance: Ek Balam.
Chichen Itza Tour Tips
If you’re going on a tour from Playa del Carmen, keep these tips in mind:
👉 Not every tour includes hotel pickup, water, entrance fees, and lunch. Check ahead to make sure you know what you’re getting.
👉 Check the cancellation allowances ahead. Many tours allow a free cancellation if it’s over 24 hours before the tour starting time.
➢ Do I need travel insurance in Mexico? Yes, you do! I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens, I am covered. I have been using Safety Wing, and I find it quite fair, covering a lot for its pricing level. Depending on your needs or you can compare different insurance companies on this useful site, TRAVEL INSURANCE MASTER. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase. If you are undecided yet, you can read my post on the best travel insurance for Mexico for more clarity.
🚌 Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza by Bus
Take the ADO Bus from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza
One of the easiest ways to get from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza is to take one of the local Mexican ADO buses. You can get your ticket online and then catch the bus at the terminal.
There is one ADO bus to Chichen Itza in the morning. It costs between 300 and 450 Mexican pesos one-way.
The ADO bus leaves at 8:17 am from Playa del Carmen and arrive in Chichen Itza at 12:17 pm.
Day Trip Bus
If you’re doing a day trip and need to return to Playa del Carmen, you can catch the ADO bus back again. It leaves Chichen Itza at 4:00 pm and arrives in Playa del Carmen at 7:55 pm. This only gives you four hours to enjoy the archaeological site, but it’s an option if you’re pressed for time.
The cons of getting to Chichen Itza by bus
The disadvantage to taking an ADO bus directly to Chichen Itza is that you’ll get there quite late in the day when the heat and the crowds are at their peak.
How to make the most of your trip to Chichen Itza by bus
To avoid this, you could decide to spend one or more nights in the nearby colonial city of Valladolid. This lovely city is a great place to visit.
Many ADO buses run from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid every day with different schedules, so you can choose the time that works best for you.
Spend some time enjoying the city, then catch a “colectivo” bus to Chichen Itza as early as 7 am the next morning. The trip only takes 45 minutes, so you’ll get to Chichen Itza bright and early, with no time constraints!
Stay in Pisté or a hotel nearby Chichen Itza
Another option is to stay in the hotels directly outside of Chichen Itza, or a hotel in the closest town of Piste. The hotels might not be as nice as along the Riviera Maya, but you can’t beat the convenience!
You can get the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza directly but instead of rushing it you can enjoy the surroundings and then visit Chichen Itza early morning before the crowds get in.
😎 Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza: private transfer!
If you’d like the ease and comfort of going to Chichen Itza in a private transfer, why not book a trip with this trustworthy company.
I use them for Cancun airport transportation and they are very reliable.
You’ll get an English-speaking driver in a comfortable sedan car, and can take the day at your own pace.
A private transfer from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza costs $345 for one to three passengers.
Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza Facts
Now that we know all the possible ways to get to Chichen-Itza from Playa del Carmen, in this section, I’ll answer the frequently asked questions about transportation times and safety.
Distance from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is 182 kilometers from Playa del Carmen. You can go on toll road 180D, and then return by road 180, or other even smaller back roads, to discover other nearby gems.
Is Chichen Itza closer to Cancun or Playa del Carmen?
Chichen Itza is a little closer to Playa del Carmen. Cancun is 197 kilometers from Chichen Itza.
How much does it take to get from Playa del Carmen to Chichen-Itza?
It takes about 2 hours and 25 minutes to drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza in your own vehicle, or as part of a tour.
How long is the bus ride from Playa del Carmen to Chichen-Itza?
If you are going from Playa del Carmen on a bus, expect it to take about 3 hours.
Is it safe to get from Playa del Carmen to Chichen-itza?
Yes, the Riviera Maya is considered relatively safe, and so it’s Yucatan, where Chichen Itza is located. It is one of the most-visited sites in the Yucatán Peninsula.
Just remember to drink lots of water to avoid sunstroke, keep an eye on your belongings, and don’t flash money around.
Is visiting Chichen Itza worth it?
Visiting Chichen Itza is definitely worth the heat, the high price, and the crowds you are going to face. It’s going to be a very tiring day, I warn you. But in the end, you will be so happy to have seen such beauty. It is one of the seven wonders of the world for a reason, I suppose!
Highlights of Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins
Mayan Deities, Intricate Calendars, and Crazy Constructions
The ruins at Chichen Itza are fascinating and varied, with examples from different periods in history. You can learn about Mayan culture, including their deities, such as the rain god Chaac, or the feathered serpent Kukulcan.
Many of these ruins have intricate bas-relief images on the outside, harking back to interesting periods in Yucatan history. The Itzá peoples were also masters of the time. They developed incredible calendar systems related to the movement of the stars and sun.
Portals to Xibalba
The sacred cenotes on the site (as well as those in the surrounding area) are very beautiful and interesting.
Did you know that the Maya thought of sinkholes (cenotes) as portals to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld?
In fact, they believed that their serpent god Kukulcan was born in the underworld. Eventually, he grew so big he broke through to the surface.
Many demons inhabit Xibalba, so one of the main roles of the Mayan priests was to appease them through sacrifices. These sacrifices included jewelry, gold, jade, and even human maidens, children, and warriors.
Hidden Cenote beneath the Pyramid of Kukulcan
There is an underground cenote beneath the most famous structure in Chichen Itza: the Temple of Kukulcan. This iconic pyramid was built right over the top of a hidden cenote. Scientists fear that, eventually, the limestone platform it sits on will disintegrate, and the entire pyramid will fall into the water below.
Hopefully, that won’t ever happen, but it is all the more reason to go on a Chichen Itza tour now, while the ruins are still intact.
Best Spots to See in Chichen Itza
Chichén Itzá is an amazing place to visit, whether you have 10 hours to devote to it or less than 4 hours.
Make the most of your excursion by visiting the primary ruins that make Chichen Itza one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Here are the most important temples and buildings to visit in Chichen-Itza.
Pyramid of Kukulcan
I won’t spend long talking about this pyramid (also called El Castillo), because I don’t want to steal the thunder from your certified guide!
However, no trip to Chichen Itza would be complete without seeing this incredible structure. And you couldn’t avoid either as it sits in the middle of the ancient Mayan city in all its splendor.
It was built between 900 and 1200 A.D. Archaeologists believe it was made as a lookout onto the four corners of the universe.
Each side has 91 steps, with balustrades carved into the shape of a feathered serpent.
If you decide to visit Chichen Itza during the Equinox of Spring and Fall you will see an interesting event, when the sun of the late afternoon creates the illusion of a snake prowling down the northern staircase slowly.
This even has been seen as a symbol of Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan, the feathered serpent entering the heavens, earth, and the underworld, day and night.
The Ball Court
The Mayan people played an interesting game using a rubber ball. They couldn’t use their hands after the initial throw but would bounce the ball off their thighs and hips, and try to get it through a circular ring.
The ball game wasn’t really so much a game as a special ritual that might have represented the legendary battle between day and night.
It was who won who was being sacrificed. In fact, it was considered an honor!
Tzompantli of Chichen
A tzompantli is a structure common amongst the Maya. The people of Chichen would display the heads of their enemies on this structure. The outside is covered in five hundred (!) skull engravings. There are also engravings depicting an eagle eating human hearts, a human sacrifice, and skeletal warriors carrying arrows and shields.
Creepy? Check. Interesting? Check!
The Thousand Columns
The Thousand Columns Group is a very impressive sight! Although there aren’t actually one thousand columns in this part of the ruins (200 is the real number), it is inspiring and grand.
When archaeologists named the site, they wanted that grandness to come across. I agree with them, The Thousand Columns sounds much better than the more accurate but rather dull “Two Hundred Columns.”
So what is it? Its history is a bit mysterious, but the quadrangle was probably divided into four rooms which were used as meeting halls.
Chichen Itza Facts
What is the price of a ticket to Chichen Itza?
Entry fees are as follows:
🧑Price for Adults: $533 MXN
🧒Price for Children (3-12): $80 MXN
🇲🇽Price for Mexican Citizens (and permanent residents): $237 MXN
🫔 Price for Locals (Yucatan ID): $80 MXN
🐍 Price for Kulkulcan Night Experience: $600 MXN
🎫 Price for a guide: approximately $40 USD
When do I need to bring cash?
Yes, you do! Take your Mexican pesos when you drive from Playa del Carmen! You never know when a credit card machine will break down, or the ATM will empty out.
If you like to buy knick-knacks, many vendors sell within the park, you may need pesos for this as well. They are now accepting every form of payment, it’s hilarious, but paying in Mexican pesos is always more convenient.
PRO-TIP – Save money on food and buy your lunch at a restaurant in Pisté instead of at the over-priced restaurants within the ruins complex.
What to wear and take with you when visiting Chichen Itza, the ancient city of the Maya
Chichen Itza has no shade and is very hot and muggy year-round. Be sure to take these essentials so you can fully enjoy the excursion!
What should I take to Chichen Itza?
✅ Camera/Phone (but no tripods)
✅ Insect repellant (remember to shower it off when you go visit a cenote, before getting in the water)
✅ Mexican Pesos to pay all entrance fees
✅ Passport with immigration card – nowadays immigration officers are doing random checks and stopping busses along the road checking if you are here with a valid permit whether it’s a tourist or resident. So make sure you don’t lose your immigration card.
What NOT to take to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen
Some items are either not allowed in Chichen Itza, or require special permits or charges. Avoid problems and fees and skip packing the following items:
🔴 Drinks other than water
🔴 Professional Camera Equipment – you can take any DSLR camera but tripods are not allowed
🔴 Drones (you need a special permit that you have to apply for a few weeks in advance and pay hundreds of $$)
If you are a professional photographer and would like to take your equipment into Chichen Itza, you can apply for a permit through the INAH office.
Can I hire a guide in Chichen Itza?
Absolutely! If you aren’t going with one of the Chichen Itza tours, you can easily hire your own tour guide once you get to the entrance. It will be much more interesting to explore the site with a certified guide to tell you all about ancient Maya and the history of Mexico. The cost is around 1000 MXN per group
Prefer a self-guided tour?
Alternatively, you can purchase a self-guided tour packet, such as the Chichen Itza walking tour available through Action Tour Guide. It includes audio stories about different sites and has gotten several 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor.
Are dogs allowed at Chichen Itza?
Only guide dogs are allowed, and they must be kept on a leash. Be sure to clean up after them if you have a guide dog.
Can you go to Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen without a tour or guide?
You don’t have to take a tour or get a guide when you go to Chichen Itza. Personally, I like to learn interesting facts about the places I go to, and the Mayan ruins at this heritage site are no exception.
But it’s up to you! Maybe you like to “feast with your eyeballs”. Or maybe you love to research on your own in your free time.
When is the best time to visit Chichen Itza?
There are two things to consider when it comes to figuring out when is the best time to visit Chichen Itza: crowds, and the weather.
Crowds At Chichen Itza
Up to 2,500,000 people visit the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza every year. As you can imagine, that means it can get pretty crowded at the ruins. Tourism is at its peak in December and January, so if you can, book your visit in November, February, or March. I also recommend getting to Chichen Itza right when it opens at 8 am so you can beat some of the crowds.
Weather At Chichen itza
Chichen Itza is located in the center of the Yucatan peninsula. Expect the weather to be hot and humid year-round.
However, the weather is even hotter and more humid during the summer. It could also be rainy at that time. The weather is nicer with blue skies from November through April.
The Best Cenotes to See Near Chichen Itza
Whether you are going on a group tour from Playa del Carmen, or are visiting on your own, it’s good to know what cenotes are worth visiting around Chichen Itza. Different tours visit different cenotes. And of course, if you have a rental car, you can visit as many as you like!
🔵 Cenote Ik Kil
This deep sinkhole is the closest one to Chichen Itza (only ten minutes away). You must be pretty mobile if you’re going to visit this cenote because you’ll have to walk down 88 feet of stairs to get to the water! But it is an amazing experience to swim in that deep well and look up at a circular sky framed in rock walls and dangling vines. It’s beautiful!
Just expect a huge crowd.
Insider tip – Cenote Ik-kil has also bungalows for rent at a very affordable rate. So if you are driving you can spend there one night and visit the Cenote when it’s close to the public!
🔵 XCajum Cenote
The XCajum Cenote is about 25 minutes from Chichen Itza. This sinkhole is very large and touristy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit.
There are lockers where you can store your belongings and a delicious buffet lunch. Swimming in gorgeous turquoise water will be very refreshing after the heat at the ruins.
🔵 Yokdzonot Cenote
Yokdzonot is only 24 minutes from the archaeological site. It is easier to access than some of the other cenotes.
There aren’t any lockers, and you are supposed to wear a life vest (you get one for the price of your entrance). This is a spot favored by locals.
🔵 Lol-Ha Cenote
Lol-Ha is another beautiful cenote. It is only 30 minutes from the Chichen ruins. The water is a deep blue. If you like cliff diving, you can jump off the sides. The cenote is 52 feet deep, so it is sure to get your adrenaline pumping.
🔵 Saamal Cenote
If you plan to visit Valladolid, it will be easy to stop at Cenote Saamal on your way in or out. It is located on the property of a Hacienda, so it is well run and well kept.
The stairs can be slippery, so hang on to the rail when you’re going down. This is a big cenote, so even when big tours come through, it won’t feel cramped.
Expect to pay around $7 to get in. The Hacienda also has a tasty buffet for when you get hungry.
Note: If you don’t have a car, you can visit the Spanish colonial city of Valladolid by catching a local “colectivo” bus.
🔵 Suytun Cenote
If you don’t mind driving 40 minutes away from Chichen Itza, Suytun Cenote is a wonderful spot to visit. It is a closed cenote, so it looks like an enormous cavern.
The water is a gorgeous clear green, and there is a concrete path leading out to a circular platform in the middle of the water.
Once a day, the sun will fall through one of the small holes in the roof and land on the platform. Talk about a memorable moment!
You may want to read:
The Best City to See Near Chichen Itza
Valladolid is what Lonely Planet calls Mexico’s Bohemian Oasis. Picture colonial-era buildings, palm trees swaying in the wind, bohemian shops, and cafes, and lots of places to eat.
You can rent a bicycle and sail down the Calzada de los Frailes, nab some tacos, sip a cappuccino, or enjoy gelato made from local ingredients.
Read more about Valladolid in my complete guide.
🏨 Places to stay nearby🏨
Does a day trip sound too rushed? If so, maybe you want to spend a couple of days enjoying the area around Chichen Itza.
This could include going on a full-day tour of the ruins, swimming in multiple cenotes, and exploring the streets of Valladolid.
If that’s more your style, here are some accommodation options for you to consider.
🏨 Hotel Chichen Itza
This three-star hotel was recently renovated. Hotel Chichen Itza is located just one mile from the ruins, in the center of the town of Piste.
It has a swimming pool, tropical garden, free wifi, free parking, satellite TV, and a restaurant and bar. The staff will also get you into Chichen Itza without having to wait in line.
🏨 Hotel Puerta Chichén
Hotel Puerta Chichen is another good option if you’re looking for somewhere close to Chichen Itza. It is only a 3-minute drive from the archaeological site and a 6-minute drive from the cenote Ik Kil. They have a swimming pool and offer fresh delicious Maya cuisine in their restaurant.
🏨 Hacienda Chichen Resort
This boutique eco-hotel is also very close to Chichen Itza. The price of Hacienda Chichen Resort is a bit higher than the hotels previously mentioned on this list, but guests say it is a relaxing and lovely place to stay.
There is a big property, swimming pool, air conditioning, and an on-site chapel.
You can spend the night here, then get an early start on your full-day excursion into the Mayan Ruins of Chichen.
Enjoy visiting the sacred cenote, tour the pyramids before it gets too busy, and then spend a few hours cooling off back at your hotel.
🏨 Villas Arqueológicas Chichen Itza
The Villas Arqueológicas is one of the hotels closest to the Chichen Itza entrance. It is a pretty economical price, but still comfortable. It’s a good option if you don’t want to take a paid tour from Playa del Carmen.
From Playa del Carmen to Chichén Itza: final thoughts
As you can see, it is well worth it to visit Chichen Itza. There is so much to see, not only within the grounds but in the surrounding areas as well. Book your excursion, rent your car, pack lots of water, and get ready for an epic trip!
MORE MEXICO TRAVEL GUIDES
- The Best Hotels on the Riviera Maya 
- Things to do in the Riviera Maya
- Cenote Cristalino Playa del Carmen, Prices and Info 
- Where to Stay in Uxmal Mexico in 2023
- Aldea Zama Tulum Rentals + Travel Guide
- Where to Stay in Calakmul Biosphere: 5 Amazing Hotels
- How to Visit the Calakmul Biosphere and Mayan Ruins
- How to Get from Playa del Carmen to Isla Mujeres: 6 Best Options
✨ Mexico Travel Planning Guide ✨
👉 Do I Need Travel Insurance to Travel to Mexico?
I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and know that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out SafetyWing which I have used and find it affordable and comprehensive and also Travel Insurance Master which is great because you can insert all your information and what kind of insurance you need and their system will pull out the best insurance for your need.
🚰 Can I Drink Tap Water in Mexico?
No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.
🚗 Is It Safe to Drive in Mexico?
The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I recommend Discover Cars because the site offers the option to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.
Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.
📱 Will My Phone Work in Mexico?
It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!
🤕 Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico Right Now?
The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around.
Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunting expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keeping a low profile.
Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:
💉 Do I Need Any Vaccine to Travel to Mexico?
No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico
🇲🇽 Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Mexico?
If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form that you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine.
Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards.
It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa
💸 Where Do I Find the Best Travel Deals for Mexico? 💸
A trip to Mexico can be expensive if you love to travel with all the comforts (like I do). There are a few tricks that will help you find the best deals. Here are my tips:
👉 DON’T travel in the high season, which is Holy week, Christmas and winter in general, and August.
👉 Book months in advance to find early booking discounts
👉 Use aggregators such as Discover Cars to find price comparisons and VRBO for vacation rentals!
👉 Look for packages flights+hotels on Expedia.
👉 Check on Booking.com or Hotels.com for hotel deals