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How to Get from Cancun to Chichen Itza 2024

What’s the best way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza? As a local expat, I will share the details on how to get to Chichen Itza.

If there’s one place you need to visit in the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s Chichen Itza. Immaculately preserved and perfectly restored, Chichen Itza is arguably the most famous archaeological site in Mexico. The pre-Hispanic city was one of the most important cities of its kind — and it’s easy to see why, from its impressive pyramids and intricate carvings.

To get to Chichen Itza, most people fly to Cancun Airport as it has regular flights from the US and other parts of the world. Cancun has the best beaches in Mexico and it’s got world-class resorts and archaeological sites in its proximity. [Read my Cancun travel guide here.]

In this post, I will explain the various ways on how to get to Chichen Itza, whether you’re planning to drive, catch a bus or join a tour.

how to get from cancun to chichen itza

Where is Chichen Itza?

About a 2.5-hour drive west of Cancun, Chichen Itza is located inland in the state of Yucatan. The massive archaeological site is surrounded by thick jungle, without any hotels or towns nearby. Around 2.5 million people visit it each year, mostly on day tours from Cancun.

The nearest city to Chichen Itza is Valladolid, which is around a 40-minute drive away. It’s a small town, but I absolutely loved my time there. It feels like a Mayan town, with many locals dressed in huipil (embroidered blouses), despite its proximity to such a major attraction. There are plenty of things to do in Valladolid and around it: some of my favorite cenotes and archaeological sites are in the area.

To explore Chichen Itza without the crowds, I highly recommend staying overnight in Valladolid and heading to the archaeological site first thing in the morning. If you get there as it opens, you’ll be able to see it in its full glory — before the tour buses descend upon it.

map from cancun to chichen itza

How far from Cancun to Chichen Itza?

Cancun is relatively big and spread out, so the amount of time it takes to get there depends on where in Cancun you’re coming from. Besides, current roadworks is causing a lot of traffic congestion on the Federal Highway so expect delays.

Here are the general driving distances and time from various parts of Cancun.

Driving distances and time from Cancun

  • Cancun Airport to Chichen Itza – 126 miles (200 km); 2.5 hours of driving.
  • Cancun Downtown to Chichen Itza – 119 miles (190 km); 2 hrs of driving.
  • Cancun Hotel Zone (beach) to Chichen Itza – 135 miles (217 km); 3 hours of drive time. 
how to get to chichen itza

How to Get to Chichen Itza

Cancun airport is the main gateway to Chichen Itza and it’s about a 2.5-hour drive away (or 126 miles/ 200 km away).

But the closest airport to Chichen Itza is in fact in Merida, about 140km away. I recommend visiting the charming colonial city of Merida if you’re interested in Mexican culture and history [Read my list of things to do in Merida.] Its airport however is smaller than Cancun Airport and mainly serves other airports in Mexico.

There are many ways to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza. Since I live near Cancun, I’ve traveled the route many times and recommended various options to friends who are visiting. In this article, I’ll share the pros and cons of each of them.

chichen itza how to get there

Mexico Travel Requirements

  • Mexico has no travel restrictions, and there’s no need for proof of vaccine or PCR tests on the plane. Anyone is welcomed to travel to Mexico.
  • However, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. These days, it is particularly important to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19. Read my travel insurance guide.
  • Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.

1. Cancun to Chichen Itza by Day Tour

Going on a day tour is perhaps the most popular way to visit Chichen Itza, as it’s easy and convenient. It’s a good option if you’re short on time, but I always recommend people to spend some time in Valladolid and visit Chichen Itza from there (so you can spend all day there and take your time).

See also  Bacalar Mexico: My 2024 Guide to Bacalar Lagoon

Here are some recommended day tours from Cancun to Chichen Itza:

  • Chichen Itza & Yaxunah Early-Access Tour: This tour allows you to be the first at Chichen Itza and see it before others enter. It also includes a visit of an unexplored exclusive archeological site just for the group. Meet a local guide from the Mayan community and see the secrets of Yaxunah.
  • Chichen Itza Early Tour with Cenote Swim: This tour also offers an early visit to Chichen Itza, with a swim in a nearby cenote, and a buffet lunch. The tour includes round-trip transportation from Cancun and a knowledgeable guide.
  • Chichen Itza Light and Sound Show Tour: This tour offers a visit to Chichen Itza during the day, followed by dinner and a light and sound show in the evening that illuminates the ruins with colorful lights and tells the story of the Mayan civilization.
chichen itza day tour

Pros and Cons of Booking a Day Tour

Visiting Chichen Itza on a day tour can save a lot of time and headaches. The tour company takes care of all the logistics and you just need to show up. But keep in mind you’ll be traveling with a big group and that can always be tricky.

Pros – Saves time and trouble planning. You’ll also get a guide; a good guide can make the ancient site truly come alive.

Cons – You’ll be herded around the historical site like kids and there’s little time to explore on your own. You won’t get the chance to explore Valladolid and the cenotes nearby.


2. Cancun to Chichen Itza by Car Rental

In my opinion, renting a car is the best way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza, especially if you’re going to do a Yucatan road trip. It’s an easy and straightforward drive (on Hwy 180, with no deviations). Hiring a car in Mexico is relatively affordable; the average price ranges from 600-800 MXN (US$30-40) per day, including insurance and taxes.

I always use DiscoverCars.com to for car rentals worldwide. The search engine compares rental-prices from all the major companies and has consistently given me the cheaper rates and best services. Search for car rentals in Cancun here!

⚠️ Many bloggers accuse car rental companies in Mexico of scamming innocent travelers into buying insurance, as it’s not mandatory. It’s NOT true; you do need to have insurance when you rent a car in Mexico! It will cost more than what you were quoted online, but at least you’ll be covered in case of any accidents.

renting a car from cancun to chichen itza

Pros and Cons of Renting a Car from Cancun

If you can drive, I would definitely recommend renting a car as it’s the easiest way to get around the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s generally easy to drive in Mexico, and most signs are in Spanish and English. Just watch out for portholes and crazy drivers! Most rental companies accept drivers’ license from anywhere in the world, so you don’t need an international drivers’ license to drive in Cancun.

Pros – Allows you to travel at your leisure, make as many stops on the way as you want, and even make small detours to nearby areas.

Cons – Drivers in Mexico can be rather wreckless, just be aware of them. Parking at the archaeological site is limited, but just go early and you should have a spot.

Tips for Renting a Car from Cancun Airport

  • Purchase a Personal Liability Insurance and a Car Insurance without fail Many bloggers tell you it's not mandatory to buy insurance, but that's no longer true.
  • Inspect and take good photos and videos of the car's interior and exterior. Focus on any visible dents, scratches, stain marks, rips in seat fabric, etc.
  • Keep a copy of all the rental agreements, booking information, and car papers.
  • In Mexico, a common scam among car rental companies is that they charge you with exorbitant fees on damages on the vehicle. The first time we rented a car here, we were told a safety device was missing from the car, which we didn't even remember having it in the first place (but sadly had no proof) and had to pay a fine of $50.
  • Always stay within the speed limit, even if you notice that nobody sticks to it! Tourists are often targeted by the police. We haven't encountered this ourselves, but several friends have been asked for bribes by the police because they were not following certain traffic rules.

Is it Safe to Drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza?

Yes! Highway 180 is a 2-lane road that’s smooth and well maintained. It’s a toll road (toll fees are not expensive, around US$10 each way) and it rarely gets congested. Unlike the Federal Highway, there are no speed bumps or police checkpoints along the way. We have never had any issues driving this road.

Driving Tips in Mexico

  • In Mexico, you drive on the right side of the road.
  • Always keep your driving license, car rental papers, and proof of insurance handy.
  • The main road hazards are reckless drivers; they tend to go very fast, changing lanes as and when they like without signaling. Be wary of these drivers and keep calm!
  • When you see the signpost “TOPE“, slow down and prepare for the bumps.
  • Avoid driving at night as you won’t be able to see the speed bumps and drivers go even faster than usual.
See also  20 Things to Do in Valladolid, Mexico (And Around!) 
how far from cancun to chichen itza

3. Cancun to Chichen Itza

by Private Transfer

If you can’t or don’t want to drive, the second best option is booking a private transfer from Cancun to Valladolid. I always book with Cancun Airport Transportations, as they are reliable, responsive, and provide door-to-door service from Cancun Airport to Valladolid.

Booking a private transfer from Cancun to Valladolid not only saves you time, it’s also convenient and you won’t have to haggle with the drivers. It is expensive though, usually costing around US$300 one-way or US$555 round-trip. But if you’re traveling as a family or with a group of friends, you can split the cost!

You’ll have a bilingual driver who speaks English (and actually drives safely!), waits for you for arrivals even if your flight is delayed, and drives you in an air-conditioned car straight to your hotel in Valladolid. That said, a private transfer will only bring you to Valladolid and not Chichen Itza.

cancun to valladolid transportation

Pros and Cons of a Cancun Private Transfer

Pros –This is the fastest way to get from Cancun to Itza; you won’t need to waste time waiting for other passengers and your driver; you get picked up by a bilingual driver and in a nice vehicle.

Cons – It’s the most expensive transport option AND it only gets you to Valladolid. You will still need to find transport from Valladolid to Chichen Itza.

streets of tulum - how to get to tulum

4. How to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza

by Bus

Taking a bus is the cheapest option to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza. All major cities in Mexico are well-connected with an extensive bus network. These buses are clean, safe, comfortable, and air-conditioned.

ADO is Mexico’s largest bus company that has regular departures from Cancun to Valladolid and then onwards to Chichen Itza throughout the day. I’ve traveled in ADO buses many times and can safely say the bus company is top notch. They always leave on time and boarding is pretty well organized.

Pre-book your bus tickets here before arriving to Cancun to ensure availability or visit the ADO counter at the airport to get tickets for the next bus. Prices for bus tickets from Cancun to Valladolid range from 190 MXN (US$9.5) to 322 MXN (US$16) each way, and tickets from Valladolid to Chichen Itza cost around 150 MXN ($7.5) each way.

The first ADO bus from Cancun to Valladolid departs at 04:00 AM, and the last bus leaves at 9.30 PM. It takes around 1.5 hours. There’s only one bus from Valladolid to Chichen Itza at 10.27am each day.

*NOTE: There are no direct buses from Cancun Airport to Valladolid. You must first get to the main ADO Cancun bus station in downtown, then head to Valladolid.

chichen itza how to get there

CANCUN TO Valladolid : ADO BUS SCHEDULE

  • 10:30 am
  • 12:00 pm
  • 1:20 pm
  • 2.40pm
  • 4:00pm
  • 5:20pm
  • 6:40 pm
  • 8:05pm
  • 9:25 pm

Is the ADO Bus Safe?

Yes! ADO Bus is generally very safe and secure. I’ve never heard of any theft, robbery, or crime taking place in the bus. Drivers also abide traffic rules (mostly).

You’ll be surprised by how well run and organized the bus company is. Just show your bus ticket on the phone before boarding. The driver scans your QR code, then you leave your baggage underneath the bus, and you can board! ADO buses are always air-conditioned and comfortable, with reclining seats and WiFi onboard.

The bus is definitely a cheap, safe, and comfortable way of traveling from Cancun to Chichen Itza. It’s really popular among locals and travelers.

ADO bus from cancun to valladolid

6. Cancun to Valladolid by Colectivo

Colectivos are shared minibus/minivan-like vehicles that run on set routes in Mexico. They are a cheap transport, without any fixed schedules. For those on a shoestring budget, this would be the cheapest way to go. A colectivo ride from Cancun to Valladolid costs only about 40-60 MXN (US$2-3) per person.

This trip takes much longer than the ADO bus thou (up to 4 hours sometimes), as colectivos stop many times along the way to pick up/drop off passengers. Colectivos do not service Cancun Airport. To catch one, you either have to walk from your terminal to the Highway 307 roadside and flag one down.

I personally wouldn’t recommend catching a colectivo for such a long distance. Firstly, it is not a comfortable ride, and secondly, there’s little to no luggage space. The colectivos also make many stops in between, taking way too long to get there.

colectivo from cancun to valladolid

FAQs

How to get from Valladolid to Chichen Itza

By Taxi

Once you get to Valladolid, Chichen Itza is just an easy 40-minute drive away. For those without a rental car, the fastest and most convenient way is to take a taxi. Official taxis usually charge around 500-600 pesos ($25-30 USD) each way, which is pricey considering how near it is.

I suggest asking your hotel to arrange a taxi for you or pre-arrange it yourself through this link. You’ll need to arrange a time for the driver to come and pick you up for the way back.

taxi from cancun to chichen itza

By Colectivo

Colectivos are a cheap and easy way to get from Valladolid to Chichen Itza. They start as early as 7:00am in the morning from Valladolid and run till later in evening – past 5:00pm. The last colectivo from Chichen Itza leaves around 5:30pm.

See also  Monte Alban Ruins: My Guide to the Oaxaca Pyramids

Just show up at the Valladolid colectivo stop and wait for the mini-van to get full, and you’re on your way! A colectivo ride takes about an hour. The vehicle will make multiple stops to drop locals, so that takes up some time.

The colectivo stop in Valladolid is on Calle 39, between Calle 46 and Calle 48. Here’s the exact address: C. 39 2-215, Centro, 97784 Valladolid Yucatan. Click here to find it on Google Maps.

The colectivo fare to Chichen Itza from Valladolid is 40 MXN ($2 approx) each way. Bring some cash and pay the driver directly.


Is There Uber around Chichen Itza?

Uber works in Valladolid, and it is possible to find Uber drivers to get you from Valladolid to Chichen Itza, but it’s not easy. It’s best to use Uber a few times in Valladolid and get to know a driver then arrange it directly with him.

Uber does work in Cancun, but not at Cancun Airport. That said, it is possible to hail an Uber using the app from downtown Cancun. However, Uber drivers still face a lot of issues from the local taxi companies.


Where to Stay near Chichen Itza

There are several hotels in the jungles surrounding Chichen Itza with a peaceful and magical setting. But remember if you stay here, you’ll be far from restaurants and conveniences. If you don’t have your own transport, I suggest staying in Valladolid to have easy access to the town attractions. Check out my Valladolid travel guide for hotel recommendations.

Meanwhile, here are the nearest hotels to Chichen Itza:

Mid Range: Hotel Okaan  

Set amid the lush jungle, this laidback hotel is 5 km from chichen Itza. With a gorgeous pool featuring a sunken sofa, the rustic yet chic hotel has spacious rooms with balconies with jungle views. Check the rates here.

Mid Range: Hotel Chichen Itza

This beautiful colonial hotel off Highway 180 is the nearest hotel from Chichen Itza. While slightly dated, the hotel has suites with pyramid views and thatch-roofed bungalows with mosquito nets and carved wood accents. Check rates here.

Luxury: Hacienda Chichen Resort

This eco-friendly resort is located about 5 minutes from Chichen Itza and offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere. The resort has a spa, yoga classes, and an organic restaurant. Check rates here.

cancun to chichen itza - hotel okaan

Things to know before visiting Chichen Itza

  • Opening times: The ruins are open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day, but the busiest time to visit is usually between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
  • Beat the crowds: Try to arrive at the site as early as possible, ideally before it opens at 8:00 am. This way, you can explore the ruins before the crowds arrive, and the temperature is cooler.
  • Tour guides: You can choose to explore the ruins on your own, but hiring a tour guide can enhance your experience and provide valuable historical and cultural context.
  • Bring bug spray: Mosquitoes and other insects are common in the Yucatan Peninsula, so be sure to bring insect repellent to protect yourself.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: The site is quite large, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so it’s important to wear comfortable shoes that can handle uneven surfaces and stairs.
  • Visit nearby cenotes: There are several cenotes (natural swimming holes) located near Chichen Itza, Ik Kil is the most popular, and just 3km away. Theyt are a great way to cool off and relax after exploring the ruins. Bring your swimsuit and snorkeling mask!
  • Stay for the evening light show: Chichen Itza hosts a nightly light show that illuminates the ruins with colorful lights and tells the story of the Mayan civilization. It’s a unique and memorable experience that is worth staying for. Tickets are available from the booth from 3 to 8pm.
cancun to chichen itza - night show

More info on Mexico Travel

I hope this article has helped you decide on how you’re getting from Cancun to Tulum. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below.

For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!

4 thoughts on “How to Get from Cancun to Chichen Itza 2024”

  1. Hi!
    All the info you provided is really useful! Thank you.
    I do have a question though: is there a bus that goes straight from Cancun to Chichen ItzA? because I read above that you mentioned buses from Cancun to Valladolid, and then you need to take a different transport to connect with Chichen Itza…so, aren´t there any buses that go straight from Cancun to Chichen Itza?

    1. hi Marlene, thanks for your question! No, there are no buses that go straight from Cancun to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is located in the jungle, the nearest town to it is Valladolid. There are many plenty of tours that will bring you straight there, you’ll see all the options in my article above. Hope this helps! 🙂

  2. Hi Nellie, wondering if the prices you’ve listed for car rental and the toll road are updated? I’m finding cars are way more expensive to rent and the toll road is now MXN $500-600 one way? Thanks

    1. hi Riane, the prices are from 2023. We have our own car in Playa del Carmen, and have also rented cars a few times in different parts of Mexico. Keep in mind that you often have to pay more when you pick up your car rental, for insurance and other extras. The toll prices were from the last time we went in early 2023, they may have gone up already.

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