On the road to Chichen Itza
We finally made the time to visit Chichen Itza on our #MexicoNow trip. We have been wanting to go visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World for sometime but never found the time to get on the road to Chichen Itza until now. Chichen Itza in Mayan is mouth of the well of the Itza people.
We did a bit of research about getting there. There are tours- of course, and 2 driving routes to choose from, one scenic going through small towns –pretty slow going and one not so scenic on a toll road but relatively quick. We decided this time we would drive and take the toll route. I thought beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it can’t be THAT bad! For most we would recommend a tour unless you like to come and go as you please like us.
To be on the safe side I checked with our concierges, Fernanda and Enrique at Now Jade Resort and Spa, about the safety of traveling that far alone in a car by ourselves. They assured us it would be safe. They provided us with plenty of tips and supplies to make our adventure to Chichen Itza a safe and fun day. We were given a map with step by step directions, plenty of bottled water to drink and a couple of extras in the event of car trouble, their contact information in the event of an emergency. We ordered sandwiches and fruit from room service to eat along the way, borrowed an umbrella from the lobby to shade us from the sun or rain –whichever the case may be, and I was glad we borrowed a hand towel to wet and put around our necks to keep us cool. We also bought a fabulous book in the gift shop, Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum: Yesterday and Today. Now all we had to do is get there without getting lost!
We admit, we aren’t the best at following directions or finding our way even at home. I was pretty nervous as we started out on the road to Chichen Itza because MrTravelD noticed the speedometer wasn’t always working which made me wonder if this was an omen of things to come. It is pretty easy to find the toll road -just follow the signs that say Cuota or Autopiste. The worst part of the trip was in the very beginning before we got to the toll road when oncoming traffic was in our lane and it appeared as though we might be involved in a head on collision or two, but we weren’t! WHEW! The rest of the road trip was pretty uneventful as was the scenery. In fact, most of the time we were the only car in miles!
Occasionally there was a colorful Poinciana tree with bright orange flowers but that was about it. We looked for birds and wildlife but only saw 4 goats. There are no exits until you arrive at Valladolid so be sure you leave with a full tank. After driving a little more than halfway we paid the toll of 233 pesos, more or less $20. When we finally saw the exit for Valladolid we stopped to refill the tank, stretch and wander around a bit. We are pretty sure the gas attendant pocketed a 100 peso note, 8 bucks. To be fair, we know better and should have counted the money aloud, as we usually do, so there is never a misunderstanding on anyone’s part.
In Valladolid (founded in 1543), we found a nice old church, St. Lucia to photograph. We also sat in the immaculate park in front of it for a few minutes imagining what it must be like on the weekend, full of life. There is a fountain, playground, a statue on Benito Juarez and a basketball court.
Then we wandered around the corner into a charming hotel for a drink passing a vegetable stand and a chicken grilling along the way. Not too much was going on mid day on a Tuesday.
After a tequila and a trip to the bathroom, the friendly bartender drew us a little map of sights to see but we needed to get back on the road to Chichen Itza. We talked about returning to stay a couple of nights to leisurely see the things we missed. Unfortunately or rather fortunately, we missed our turn back to the toll way and drove through several little towns before finding our way to the entrance of Chichen Itza which saved us 57 pesos, about $5.
Finally, we made it! There is a parking fee of 22 pesos, $2 when you arrive at the gate of Chichen Itza. Hang onto your receipt we had to show ours before we could exit the lot. I teased Mr TravelD as he looked around to see where we parked, “at the entrance of parking lot E,” he said. Pobrecito, poor thing- he doesn’t speak or read Spanish—the E means entrance –it was the sign for the entrance to the parking lot! We were lucky to be 3 cars from the sign!
We walked up the steps to entrance pay our admission of 115 pesos, $9 per person and then another fee of 51 pesos, $4 (a photography fee) before the turnstile. Be sure to use the bathroom before going through the turnstile and get a cold drink or a popsicle. There are many guides should you want one and from what I could hear they seemed to know their stuff but we chose to go without one. The prices vary- one offered $40, then $20 if we waited for another 2 people. He had a good point about the need for a guide but I knew what I was after—photographs! Plus, it was HOT and I was afraid I wouldn’t be very attentive and I had read a good part of the guide book during the drive.
Once inside the gate we were shocked! The path leading to the grand Pyramid of Ku’Kulkan (KO-cool-cahn) was lined with vendors! Vendors also had tables ALL around the perimeter of the grounds. Most stayed at their tables but we were really disappointed in the commercialization of such a sacred and important place.
We were also concerned about children working as we thought they should have been in school. I am not convinced that selling handcrafts is a sustainable future for them with so much competition. Even more shocking were the 2 women who went past the ropes and leaned on the Temple. I prayed they were not American! Thankfully, they weren’t. WHEW!
the west face of the Pyramid Kukulcan
There really weren’t as many people as I expected, most were in groups with guides. When I realized this I knew I was on a mission to photograph all 4 sides without people in the image. While waiting for people to move along we sat on a bench under a tree.
I bought a large embroidered handkerchief to wipe my face from an old woman for 30 pesos, $2.50. Did I mention it was HOT?!! I wondered why people lingered, talking about God knows what while they could see I was waiting. I now know why patience is a virtue and not particularly one of mine.
Temple of Venus
Temple of Warriors with a Thousand Pillars
Are we glad we went to Chichen Itza alone? Definitely! Nonstop, one way is only 2.5 hours on the Autopiste, toll road. Next time we would be more relaxed and bring a small cooler with ice as Enrique suggested. He’s a concierge, we should have heeded all of his advice!
I would like to see the light and sound show and possibly stay at the Lodge of Chichen Itza which was recommended to us by an older couple who had stayed there.
A group of the Thousand Pillars
New areas are being excavated
There was a lot we didn’t see at Chichen Itza but my personal mission was accomplished for this adventure. I know I was lucky to get these photos, I probably will not be so lucky next time.
North-West Corner of the Pyramid Kukulcan
South face- showing more natural deterioration
Mission not so accomplished- we got lost on the way home, missed our exit, wound up in Cancun City- and not the tourist area either! Eventually we asked for help from a nice man to find our way back to the 307 highway. And… yes, it was my fault! The exit sign we needed read—307 Tulum blah blah… and I didn’t want to go there, at least not this day! We should have taken that road. MrTravelD was right. There I said it.