When heading to Mexico there’s only one place on everyone’s mind. Chichen Itza. It’s one of the seven wonders of the modern world and with it’s impressive stature and wealth of culture it’s not surprising.
The Mayan pilgrimage site was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It was one of the largest Mayan cities, covering five square kilometres. The Castillo is the most iconic part of the site and is the shape of a large pyramid with four staircases.
Second to that is the enormous ball court which is thought to be largest ever found. It’s lined with intricate carvings which that display the rules of the sacred game. And it was clearly a game they took seriously – one carving shows the captain of the losing team being beheaded.
There’s also the Temple of Warriors, a sacred well, the astronomical observatory and loads more. So when should you go?
As one of the seven wonders of the modern world it’s incredibly popular. The best time to go is first thing in the morning when it opens at eight. Within a couple of hours of arriving the number of tourists had gone from about fifty to a few hundred. It might be tiring but is a way better experience, not to mention your photos will look a million times better.
If you don’t fancy sitting on a coach for several hours at some ungodly time in the morning then look for somewhere to stay in Valladolid. The Colonial town is really small but very pretty with an authentic and local feel to it and (more importantly) only a 45 minute drive to the site. El Méson del Marqués is a traditional hotel right in the centre of the town with loads of charisma.
Make sure you book in the night before you want to head to Chichen Itza. Then you can wake up fresh and head over early the following morning. But the Chichen Itza isn’t the only reason you should head to Valladolid…
Mexico is filled with thousands of cenotes. The underwater caves and caverns are basically sink holes in the ground and when the light filters through the result is stunning. Some have fish, some have terrapins, some have crystal clear turquoise water and best of all you can swim in them.
And Valladolid is home to one of Mexico’s most famous cenotes – Ik Kil. It’s unique in that at 40 metres deep the water is a jungly green. Vines hang down from the surface and black catfish swim around you. Once you’ve made your way down the carved staircase you can either climb into the cenote using the wooden ladders or if you’re feeling brave jump off the platform at the side.
TIP: The best way to get from Valladolid to both these sites is by bus. ADO is a first class company with rockbottom prices and buses run every hour. If you need to leave at any other time there’s second class buses which run really frequently and you can find at the normal ADO bus stop as well.
Other than that, Valladolid is great for just pottering round in, lazing around in and eating great food in.
Overall the Chichen Itza is a huge tourist trap, but one that’s an absolute must when visiting Mexico.
Want to know where to head after Valladolid? Check out Swimming with Turtles in Tulum