How to Get from Cancun to Chichen Itza in 2024: Local’s Guide

If you are curious about how to make the journey from Cancun to Chichen Itza, you have come to the right place. I live in the Mexican Yucatan, have made this journey numerous times, and always keep this article updated to reflect the latest transport information and schedules. 

There are 5 different ways that you can make the journey from Cancun to Chichen Itza and back and we will cover them all here so that you can figure out which one works best for you.

How to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza
How to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza

Traveling from Cancun to Chichen Itza

It is pretty easy to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza and you have a couple of different options available to you for making the journey. There is a distance of 197km (122 miles) between the two sites and the journey takes about 2.5 hours overland. 

The wonderfully preserved Mayan ruins here are one of the “new” seven wonders of the world. No matter how many times you have seen the site on Instagram or watched Nat Geo documentaries that take a look at the city’s history, nothing compares to traveling here in person and seeing Chichen Itza with your own eyes so yes, the site is definitely worth the effort to get to.

If you are planning on doing a fair amount of travel around the wider Yucatan region, I am a very strong advocate for renting a car here. It gives you so much more freedom and flexibility in your schedule and makes it so much easier to get to lesser-known beaches, pueblos and Mayan archeological sites in the Yucatan. 

However, if you are literally only going to travel from Cancun to Chichen Itza and then spend the rest of your time in your resort, or you are not confident driving overseas, your best bet is book a spot on an organized tour or take the bus. 

As of December 2023, the new Mayan train is up and running. However, while it runs from Cancun to Merida and Palenque and back on a limited schedule, the Chichen Itza stop is not yet ready and likely will not be functioning for another few months. 

How to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza
How to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza

Take the bus

Public transport-wise, the easiest and cheapest way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza is to take the bus. There are a couple of ADO bus stations in Cancun but it is best if you can make your way to ADO Centro. (Calle Pino, SM23, MZ56, Lt 1 y 2, Centro, 23, 7750).

There are currently only two direct buses that run to Chichen Itza from here each day. One is the Autobuses Oriente bus that departs from Cancun at 07:30am daily and arrives in Chichen Itza around 09:30am. 

The other is the ADO Connecta minivan that departs from Cancun at 08:45 each day and arrives at around 10:40. Allow a little extra time, as most journeys tend to take at least 30 minutes longer than expected due to traffic and Tren Maya construction work. 

If you check bus timetables on websites like Rome2Rio, ADO and BusBud, it looks like there are more daily buses but actually, most of them require a change in Valladolid and result in a journey that takes over 6 hours so that is really not worth considering.

The Pok-ta-Pok ball court at Chichen Itza is the largest in Mesoamerica

Purchasing bus tickets 

Frustratingly, it is not possible to buy tickets for the Oriente bus online so you need to buy them in person at the ADO bus station. It is better if you are able to pass by a couple of days before you plan on traveling as it is not unheard of for certain buses to sell out completely, especially if you travel during the peak season (between December and March).

You can buy the ADO bus tickets in person at the ticket office or online via the ADO or BusBud websites. The ADO website is in Spanish only although it is pretty self-explanatory and easy to use. 

Unfortunately, sometimes it glitches and wont accept foreign bank cards. (This is an annoying thing that has been an issue since I arrived in Mexico several years ago!) 

Busbud is a good alternative although they do charge an admin fee. (It is literally only around $1).  

The direct ADO Connecta bus costs 400 MXN each way so 800 pesos or approximately $46 USD return in total. Oriente buses cost between 125 and 200 pesos.

El Castillo on a cloudy morning

Taking the bus back from Chichen Itza to Cancun

The ADO bus returns to Cancun from the parking lot outside the ruins at 16:00pm. The pick-up point will be in the same place that the bus dropped you off, but it will be easy enough to find as the only ADO van with “Cancun” displayed on the front. 

Honestly, arriving here between 9.30 and 10.40 and leaving at 16:00 gives you plenty of time to explore the site at a steady pace. The only debatable downside is the fact that Chichen Itza opens at 8 and is already crowded by 8.30, so the site will be pretty full in the mid morning and you might have to queue a bit to get your tickets. 

If you want to get to the site before the crowds, you can consider staying overnight in Piste or in one of the hotels near Chichen Itza. My partner and I stayed at the Hacienda Chichen right beside the entrance and it even had its own private guest entrance into the archeological site. 

We were waiting outside the ruins at 7:30am and after it opened at 08:00, we were able to experience it without tons of other people being there for at least 30 minutes or so. 

Ride the Tren Maya 

After years of anticipation and construction and billions of pesos worth of investment, the Mayan train is finally up and running around the Yucatan, albeit on a limited schedule for now. 

The Chichen Itza station is not yet ready although you can take a train from Cancun Airport to Valladolid or Izamal and travel onwards from there. Both places are Yucatan pueblo magicos and very worthwhile towns to visit on day trips from Cancun but obviously that is not as direct as just taking a bus from Cancun to Chichen Itza. 

Since the train has only recently started running, it is still running on a very limited schedule, tickets only open up for sale about a week in advance, and the train moves a little slow. Later in 2024, things should pick up a bit and this will become a great option.
If you do want to go from Cancun to Valladolid and then onwards, you can purchase your tickets via the Tren Maya site.

Trains depart at 07:00am and 09:00am daily and tickets cost 472 MXN per person in tourist class and 755.5 MXN per person for the premier class.

Participate in a Chichen Itza tour 

Opting to participate in an organized Chichen Itza tour takes a lot of the stress out of worrying about how to get from A to B, waiting around for buses etc. This is nice because you know that you will have someone pick you up from your hotel in the morning and drop you off there again at night. 

Many reputable tour companies can be found in Cancun and the Riviera Maya and they often advertise their tours on Get Your Guide and Viator. 

Small group tours often start from as little as 650 pesos per person which can actually work out about the same or cheaper than doing the same journey independently by bus. If there are a couple of you traveling together, you can also reserve a private tour so that you dont have to share the experience with others. 

These tours often leave Cancun very early to try and beat the crowds though that does mean a very early start. Many also include lunch or a visit to other popular places to visit in the Yucatan. like Ek Balam or Cenote Ik Kil.

Best Chichen Itza tours from Cancun in 2024

A selection of some of the best Chichen Itza tours that you can take from Cancun this year are summarized below. Book your spot online, in advance to avoid disappointment!

Rent a car and drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza

One of the easiest ways to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza is to rent a car in Mexico and drive yourself. Many reputable rental companies have branches at Cancun airport and in downtown Cancun including the likes of Hertz and Avis.

Use a comparison website like Discover Cars so that you can compare and contrast the prices between different providers. Realistically, you are looking at paying between $30-$40 per day for an economy-sized car including full-coverage insurance.

If something seems too good to be true it probably is, so when you see local independent firms offering rentals for $5-$10 a day, they are better dismissed in favor of rentals from reputable international firms.

It is advisable to reserve your car in advance, particularly if you are traveling to Mexico in high season (i.e. December/January to March)

Driving from Cancun to Chichen Itza

The roads between Cancun and Chichen Itza are very well-paved and maintained. Since this is a very touristic part of Mexico, road conditions here are excellent and you don’t have to worry about potholes, etc.

Honestly, driving in the Yucatan is not that different from driving in the US or Canada. Cancun is safe, as are the roads to Chichen Itza.

Just be mindful of driving at night due to low visibility and the potential for hazards on the road (e.g. stray dogs and wildlife). If you are setting out on a wider Yucatan road trip, there are several interesting places that you could stop en route. (E.g. a remote Yucatan hacienda, Valladolid, Telchac Puerto, Izamal, etc).

There are two different roads that you can take from Cancun to Chichen Itza. There is the toll road (toll roads (autopista/carretera de cuota) and there is the free road (carreteras libre).

The toll road takes you on a faster route and this road is better maintained. The toll fees are around $17 (350 pesos) each way so make sure that you have plenty of small notes/change on you.

In some parts of Mexico, the free roads are considered less safe but that really isnt the case in the ultra safe Yucatan state. You can always take the toll road there and then the free road back.

Speed limits in Mexico are displayed in Km/h. The maximum speed limit on a Mexican highway is 110 Km/h and on main roads, the limit is up to 70 Km/h.

Gas stations

It is a good idea to fill up your tank before you start driving toward Chichen Itza. There are plenty of gas stations en route too where you can stop and fill up if necessary.

Most Mexican gas stations are full-service. In other words, someone pumps your gas for you. You should be sure to tip them. Prices are displayed in pesos per liter rather than per gallon.

Parking at Chichen Itza

The parking lot at Chichen Itza is pretty large – as it needs to be to accommodate the abundance of cars and tour buses that park up here every day. Parking costs 200 pesos ($10) for a day and needs to be paid separately from the site admission ticket.

Cancun to Chichen Itza
Cancun to Chichen Itza

Take a cab or an Uber to Chichen Itza

Some local taxi companies may be willing to take you to Chichen Itza from Cancun. However, this is definitely something that needs to be organized in advance and you can expect to pay between $300 and $350 for this service.

Never take random street cabs in Cancun as they are notorious rip-offs. If you want to take a cab, book one in advance via a reputable firm recommended to you by your hotel or accommodation provider.

Although $300 works out not that bad if there are a few of you, it is far from being the most economical option and renting your own vehicle is generally easier

Uber in Cancun does exist (it is the only place in Quintana Roo where the app functions). but you may not be able to find someone that accepts your fare due to the distance.

Take a private flight to Chichen Itza

If you want to arrive in style, you can in fact take a private flight from Cancun to Chichen Itza. The little planes that make the journey accommodate a maximum of 5 people and depart from Cancun International Airport on your schedule.

The cost is for the entire aircraft, not per person as the flight is private for you and your travel companions. A one-way ride is $1374 USD and a return flight is $2750 USD.

You will be provided with food and drinks during the hour-long flight. Arguably the best part of this experience is seeing an aerial view of the ruins as you fly overhead and come to land at the site.

Keep in mind that you also need to factor in the time it takes to get to and wait at the airport which can amount to several hours as you have to go through airport security, etc as you would on a regular flight.

A brief history of the Chichen Itza site

Visiting Chichen Itza is a highlight of any Yucatan itinerary.

Once upon a time, 35,000 people called the city of Chichen Itza their home. The site is over 1,500  years old and is believed to have been occupied since the early 400s AD. 

The name “Chichen Itza” is Ancient Mayan, meaning “at the mouth of the well of the Itza” which refers to the network of rivers beneath the surface of the city which were used as a water supply. The Itzas are believed to have been a noble local family during the days of the Ancient Mayans and the site thrived for centuries as the Yucatan’s capital.  

However, following the downfall of Chichen Itza, King Kukulkan II of Chichen Itza and his people moved to the city of Mayapan where he ruled between 1263 and 1283 AD.

Practical information and admissions 

Over 2 million tourists travel to Chichen Itza every year. That is tens of thousands of people every day, even in the low season! 

It pays to be strategic about when you travel to the site so that you can avoid the bulk of the crowds. You should travel during the week rather than at the weekend if you can.

Sundays are generally best avoided (where possible) as admission is free for Mexicans on this day. This is usually the only day of the week that a lot of local people get off work making the site more crowded than ever.

If you can get to the site as soon as it opens at 8 a.m., you will have it almost entirely to yourself (besides a few other eager tourists) for around 30-60 minutes. This makes for better travel photos and an all-around more magical experience.

General admission to the site is 614 MXN pesos per person for adults ($36 USD), 272 MXN for Mexican citizens and 90 MXN for Yucatecans.

Concessions are available for young children and the elderly. Since the above prices are subject to change (prices have increased every year since I moved here), it is a good idea to check the admission prices on the official Chichen Itza site.

Tzompantli platform of the skulls

Exploring the site

The ruins at Chichen Itza are more comprehensive than you may realize and you need at least three hours to explore them. The Temple of Kukulcán is the main focal point and it is one of the first structures that you see shortly after entering the site.

There are several other notable structures to look out for, as summarized below. If you want to hire a guide to obtain a little more information and context (it’s worth it!), you can hire one at the entrance for 600 pesos ($29.21 USD). Most speak fluent English and Spanish.

The Iglesia
The Iglesia

Notable structures within the Chichen Itza complex

  • The Tzompantli platform – a stone platform carved with skulls where the Ancient Mayans would stack the skulls of their enemies to scare off other tribes

  • The Iglesia – An old, ornate Puuc carved structure dedicated to the Mayan rain god

  • Temple of Kukulcán – a temple dedicated to the feathered serpent deity Kukulcán

  • Pok-ta-Pok ballcourt – the largest Pok-ta-Pok court in Mesoamerica

  • Sacred cenote – vast cenote where people were sacrificed to the gods

  • El Caracol (“the snail”) – an observatory used to watch and monitor the constellations

  • The Temple of the Bearded Man – a temple with a carving of a man who looks like he is sporting facial hair

  • Temple of the Warriors – a grand colonnaded building with a Chac Mool at the top

  • Tomb of the High Priest – an ossuary with carved serpent heads containing seven tombs

Final thoughts on traveling from Cancun to Chichen Itza

I hope that this post has helped you to figure out the best way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza and vice versa based on your budget and personal preferences.

As I mentioned, I have been living in the Yucatan (in the capital of Merida) for the last couple of years. If you have any further questions about traveling to this part of the country, please don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below or connect via email/social media.

If this is your first time traveling to the Yucatan, you may be interested in this post on safety in the Yucatan, or this post on the best time to visit the Yucatan.

Buen Viaje! Have a wonderful time in Mexico! Melissa xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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