Chichén Itzá is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and it is one of the most-visited Mayan ruin sites in Mexico. With its popularity comes lots of tourists, so we’re going to tell you our best secret for getting the place nearly to yourself.

A few things to know about transportation

  • Most tour groups go from Cancun or Playa del Carmen by bus, very early in the morning. Both these places are a two or three-hour drive away.
  • By staying in Valladolid, you are only one hour away from Chichén Itzá, making it a much more relaxing trip.
  • Colectivos (small mini-buses that leave when they fill up) leave from the center of Valladolid. The first ones start leaving around 7:00 a.m.
  • If you take the first colectivo of the day, you will get to Chichén Itzá before it opens and you can be one of the first people in for the day.

The biggest Mayan pyramind at Chichen Itza, Mexico

Getting to Chichén Itzá before the crowds

We got up on our second day in Valladolid around 6 a.m. and headed to the town center from Hostal La Candelaria. We were much too early for the first colectivo of the day, which left at 7:00, but this gave us time to stop at the convenience store OXO for coffees. We also made conversation with the colectivo driver on the corner, who spoke with us about Mayan ruins, comparing where we had already been (Dan, to the Aztec ruins of Teotihuacán outside Mexico City, and Becca, to the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala… much more nearby, relatively) with where we would be going.

A morning coffee on the streets of downtown Valladolid, Mexico Early morning on the downtown streets of Valladolid, Mexico

The colectivo dropped us at the entrance to the ruins. We waited in the ticket line and were among what seemed some of the first to enter Chichén Itzá. After paying the entrance fees of 242 Pesos per person (US$12.70) we were in!

After seeing the pyramids, we wandered further into the patches of plants and trees. There were no other humans around. You may even feel alone in the jungle if you walk quickly toward the Mil Columnas and further into the smaller ruins.

Clusters of jungle-like trees in the Chichen Itza national park in Mexico

Ancient Mayan columns at Chichen Itza in Mexico Taking a photo with a phone near the Mil Columnas in Chichen Itza, Mexico

After admiring the large pyramids against a perfect blue sky, we hopped in a shortcut through a small jungle, stepping over pieces of ruin (or updated reconstructed ruins) in all shapes. We found our way to two cenotes, neither of which are for swimming, and saw some large lizards.

The most well-known of the Mayan pyramids at Chichen Itza National Park in Mexico Lizard in a tree at the Chichen Itza national park in Mexico

All good things come to an end

As predicted, within an hour or less, the site was nearly overrun with tourists in groups who had come on tour buses from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, known for their resorts and vacation packages. There were groups with guides and umbrellas to beat the heat, everywhere, and luckily, we had gotten our “we are the only ones here” photos already.

Dan admiring ancient Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, Mexico Becca with the biggest pyramind at Chichen Itza national park in the Yucatan, Mexico

We spent a total three hours in Chichén Itzá and walked a bunch of miles, seeing two cenotes, which are natural sinkholes filled with stillwater, and more temples and cool stone carvings like jaguars and lizards.

We left on a colectivo back to Valladolid for the same price (35 pesos, or US$1.84 for an hour-long ride) and were glad to see that we had been charged the same price as locals, as we overheard.

Do you have other ways to beat the crowds at major tourist landmarks? Let us know!