Home North AmericaMexico Visiting Chichen Itza & Ik Kil Cenote

Visiting Chichen Itza & Ik Kil Cenote

by Kat
The Pyramid of Kukulcan, Chichen Itza

Cancun, Mexico is known for its luxurious resorts where you can spend days relaxing on the beach, but it is a good idea to leave the resort and see some nearby attractions. The most popular day trip from Cancun is to Ik-Kil Cenote and Chichen Itza. Many visitors choose to book day tours from their resort to go there, but if you don’t want to take a tour you can take an ADO bus, a colectivo bus or rent a car.  I booked a day tour to Chichen Itza, Ik-Kil and Valladolid with Viator. The guide, Luis, was entertaining and very informative!

Depending on traffic and weather conditions, the order of the stops on your tour will vary. The first stop of our tour was Valladolid, a colonial town. Its most famous attraction is its cathedral, San Gervasio.
San Gervasio Cathedral in Valladolid, Mexico

Ik-Kil Cenote

The next stop was Ik-Kil Cenote. A cenote is a natural pit formed after limestone has collapsed into the underground water system. The Mayans considered cenotes sacred and performed rituals there. At some cenotes, they even did sacrifices!

Remember to bring a towel and your swimming gear to the cenote.

We were given the choice of eating lunch first or swimming first. Some people on the tour ate first but we went swimming first. The water looked very refreshing!

View of Ik Kil Cenote in Mexico from above

Ik-Kil is 40 m (130 ft) deep, so I recommend renting a life jacket unless you are a very very strong swimmer. There are only a few ropes to hold onto if you get tired. Even though I can swim, renting a life jacket allowed me to lie on my back, relax and enjoy the view of the vines dangling from above and the sunlight streaming down into the cenote. I took my GoPro into the cenote with me to take pictures.

View of Ik Kil Cenote while swimming

After changing, you will need to rinse off at the outdoor shower. Then you can make your way down the stairs to the cenote. If you are brave enough, there is a platform which you can jump or dive from. If not, there are ladders you can use to get into the cenote. Many black catfish were swimming around.

View of Ik Kil Cenote while swimming

Painting of Chichen Itza outside a Mayan Gift Shop

Painting of Chichen Itza at a Mayan Gift Shop

Chichen Itza

After a stop at a Mayan gift shop, we headed to Chichen Itza, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. It is most famous for its Pyramid of Kukulcan, El Castillo.

As we entered the site, there were many vendors waiting. One wore many sombreros piled one on top of the other. The vendors shouted at tourists “Sombrero, amigo? Almost free, almost free!” As you walk past vendors, you will hear the loud noise of them blowing Mayan jaguar whistles. It is because of all these vendors that there are rumours that Chichen Itza may lose its status as a Wonder.

Vendors selling souvenirs at Chichen Itza

El Castillo Pyramid, Chichen Itza

El Castillo has 4 staircases on each side of the pyramid, each representing 91 days. Combined with the top step of the platform, they represent the 365 days of the year. You will hear many tour groups clapping in front of the pyramid because the echo sounds like a chirping bird.

In the late afternoon (around 3-4 pm), the site was not that crowded.

Wall of Skulls, Chichen Itza


Ball Hoop in the Ball Court at Chichen Itza

A stone ring, which some historians believe was used to play ball games. However, others believe that the Grand Ballcourt was actually used for ceremonial purposes.

Grand Ballcourt, Chichen Itza

Grand Ballcourt

Temple of the Bearded Man, Chichen Itza

Temple of the Bearded Man

El Caracol Observatory, Chichen Itza

El Caracol Observatory

Osario Pyramid at Chichen Itza

Osario Pyramid

The Osario is also known as The High Priest’s Grave because there is a communal graveyard under its foundation.

Las Monjas, Chichen Itza


Men wearing costumes at Chichen Itza

Actors wearing native costumes outside Chichen Itza.

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Take a day trip from Cancun and discover the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza, swim in the sacred cenote of Ik-Kil, and visit the colonial town of Valladolid.

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Tripidee August 13, 2017 - 7:49 pm

Looks great. If you could do it again would you take a guided tour or go on your own? We might be visiting in the fall.

Kat August 19, 2017 - 10:47 pm

I enjoyed the guided tour! It’s a good option for first-timers. It was convenient because we didn’t have to worry about transportation. At Chichen Itza, it was great having a guide to explain the history of the place!

Tripidee August 20, 2017 - 10:28 pm

Good to know. Thanks!

Kay August 20, 2017 - 2:05 pm

I think I went on the same tour you did, but we went to Chichen Itza before the cenote, and only got a half hour for swimming, definitely not enough time! I also enjoyed the pit stop at Valladolid.

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