We had put off for many years a trip to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, a World Heritage Site. The primary reasons for our reluctance were the reported huge crowds and the high-pressure sellers of trinkets and other souvenirs, hordes of them.
Though those reports are very accurate, there is a very easy tactic one can apply to avoid those annoyances—if you consider them to be annoyances.
Kathey is expert at—or just really patient—in the process of finding a way, finding the deal, finding the best times, days of the week, dates, etc., for most any travel adventure we might seek.
We wanted to see Chichen Itza while we were living in Playa del Carmen, mostly because we had the time to fit it in and time to find the best deal—and approach. So she went to work on the problem and found an excellent method to see the ruins without suffering the crowds and hawks: GO EARLY!
She found a company that offered early access tours to Chichen Itza, either from Playa del Carmen or Cancun. This strategy does have one drawback, to go early, you must get up early. If you struggle with getting out of bed before 5:00 a.m., or plan to stay out late the night before, take the normal tour that arrives at Chichen Itza in the late morning.
However, if you can manage an early wakeup call, book an early access tour and be at Chichen Itza when the sun is just coming over the tree tops—and be on your way back to your resort, hotel, condo, or even the beach when the crowds are swelling and the hawks have finished setting up for a day of competitive business.
Early access tours are also smaller groups in smaller vans; they provide a minimal lunch and will walk you through the entry process (included in your tour cost) and set the group up with and expert guide to the ruins.
This guide will then walk you through the main aspects of the ruins and Mayan culture before setting you loose to explore on your own. Early access tours, which focus on avoiding the huge crowds, normally only stay at the ruins for three or four hours; plenty of time, unless you like to study in deeper detail.
In the event that you are an archeology buff and do want to spend more time at the ruins, stay close by at one of the many hotels or resorts. The Cenote Ik Kil has “small palapa homes for overnight stays.” This is a beautiful spot to use as a home base for exploring Chichen Itza and has a huge cenote to snorkel in and cool off upon the completion of that day’s tour of the ruins.
A cenote (cen-oh-te) is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Cenote Ik Kil is 130 feet deep from water line that is 85 feet below ground level.