How to Get from Tulum to Chichen Itza in 2024: 5 Ways to Travel

Curious about how to get from Tulum to Chichen Itza during your time in the Mexican Yucatan? Not to worry, I have got you covered here. 

There are five different ways that you can make the 151.5km (94 miles) journey from the beach town of Tulum to the UNESCO-protected archeological site. Whichever option you choose, it shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours to get to the ruins. 
You are in good hands here because I live in the Yucatan and have made this journey several times. (Understandably every friend/family member that comes to visit wants to go and see Chichen Itza for themselves!)

Tulum to Chichen Itza
Tulum to Chichen Itza

How to Get from Tulum to Chichen Itza in 2024 

Although Chichen Itza might seem a little bit of a trek from Tulum, rest assured that the journey to the site is well worth the effort. (If you only have time to visit one Mayan archeological site during your time in Mexico, make it this one!) 

Public transport wise, the easiest and cheapest way to make the journey is via ADO bus. The new Mayan train is partially up and running as of December 2023, but currently the train only runs from Cancun to Merida, Campeche and Chiapas, with the Tulum stop to be added and inaugurated in the near future. 

You can also opt to rent a car (which makes getting around during your Yucatan itinerary a lot easier and more convenient, especially if you want to venture off the beaten path). 

Alternatively, if you want to prioritize comfort and have someone else manage the logistics of how to get from A to B, you can book a place on an organized tour or hire a private driver. 

Arguably the best way to get from Tulum to Chichen Itza depends a lot on you, your personal preferences, and your budget. From here, we will look at the various options available and then look at some useful tips for visiting Chichen Itza. 

The Tzompantli of Chichen Itza

Take the bus from Tulum to Chichen Itza

If you are not comfortable with the idea of renting a car, taking the bus from Tulum to Chichen Itza is the cheapest and easiest option. ADO does operate direct buses between Tulum and the archeological site but keep in mind that they only leave once per day. 

The bus leaves the ADO station in Tulum (Tulum Centro, 77780 Tulum,) at 9.37 am and arrives at Chichen Itza at 11.27 am, taking approximately 2 hours. Until recently, this journey took a lot longer thanks to all of the Tren Maya construction but things are a lot better lately.

Since Chichen Itza opens at 8am and is already crowded by 9am, the site is going to be busy when you arrive at 11.27 and you are likely to have to wait in line for 20 minutes or so to pick up your tickets. If you are on a tight schedule, it is what it is – the crowds don’t really detract from how impressive the structures here are.

If you have a little more flexibility in your itinerary, I would recommend staying overnight in one of the Chichen Itza hotels right at the gates of the archeological site. (My partner and I stayed at the Hacienda Chichen Resort and Yaxkin Spa and had a wonderful time) 

Spend a day hanging out by the pool, relaxing and eating good traditional Yucatecan food, and then get up bright and early the next day to be waiting outside the site at 7.30 am to be one of the first ones in when it opens.

Returning from Chichen Itza to Tulum 

The only return bus from Chichen Itza to Tulum departs daily at 16:00pm, arriving in Tulum at 19:45pm. Honestly, if you arrive at 11.27 and leave at 16:00, that gives you plenty of time to explore the grounds of the site thoroughly.

The bus picks you up from the parking lot directly in front of the ruins, in the same spot where it drops you off. 

Purchasing ADO bus tickets

Tickets cost 304 pesos ($14.80) each way and can be purchased online in advance via the ADO app and website, or in person at the ticket office.  I would strongly advise you to purchase your tickets in advance, especially during the high season (December to March) since the buses do often fill up completely.  

The ADO site is in Spanish only but it is pretty self-explanatory and easy to use, even if you cannot speak Spanish.

Unfortunately, it is pretty glitchy and often does not accept foreign bank cards. If you want to secure your seat in advance and you cannot get the ADO site to function, you can also buy tickets via BusBud. The site does charge you a small administrative fee but it is literally only around $1.

Taking ADO buses

Mexican ADO buses are very comfortable and are a great way to get around the country on a budget. They operate on many popular routes around the country – Tulum to Chichen Itza, Cancun to Merida, Merida to Valladolid, etc.

You will probably find that they are more comfortable and reliable than American Greyhound or British National Express buses! The buses are air-conditioned, have restrooms on board, and come with reclining seats. Some also have complimentary wifi.

Opt to stay overnight

Hacienda Chichen Resort
Hacienda Chichen Resort

If your budget permits, there are some gorgeous properties situated in the heart of the jungle right beside the archeological site. Some also have their own private entrance to the ruins, meaning that you can be the very first person into the site the next day.

Hacienda Chichen Resort is a gorgeous luxe accommodation choice set in a traditional building nestled in the jungle. Nearby, the Hotel Villa Arqueologicas is a comfortable choice with a pool and an excellent on-site restaurant.

Take an organized tour to Chichen Itza 

Taking a private or small group-organized tour of Chichen Itza takes a lot of stress out of having to manage the logistics of how to get from A to B. Most tours include hotel pick-up and drop-off so you don’t need to worry about waiting around for buses, etc.

Many reputable tour companies operate in Tulum and many of their tour options include lunch and a visit to other nearby points of interest and cenotes.

Best Chichen Itza tours from Tulum

A selection of reputable Chichen Itza tours that you can take from Tulum is detailed below for your consideration. You should reserve your place online in advance, particularly if you are planning on traveling during the high season (e.g. visiting Mexico in January).

Take the Tren Maya train to Chichen Itza

After billions of dollars of investment and years of anticipation, President AMLO’s Tren Maya project finally started making its first journeys in December 2023. Unfortunately, the Tulum stretch of track is not up and running yet and, according to my partner who is one of the senior engineers on the project, it may be a few more months until it is. 

The Cancun to Palenque stretch of the track is running, but all of the stops between the two cities are not – and that includes the Chichen Itza stop. 

If you really want to take the train, you need to make your way to Cancun first. From there, you can take the train from Cancun to Valladolid and then onwards to Chichen Itza, but since there are many changes and different transport methods involved, for now it is better to take the bus. 

You can purchase Tren Maya tickets, check the latest route information and prices via their official website here. 

Rent a car and drive yourself 

Renting a car in Mexico is not as daunting as it may sound, especially not when you are traveling around Quintana Roo and the Yucatan state. Road rules and speed limits are enforced here just like anywhere else in the world and the road conditions in this part of Mexico are actually very good.

There are many places where you can collect a rental car in Tulum (or on arrival in the country at Cancun International Airport). Many reputable global rental companies operate here including the likes of Avis, Hertz, and Budget.

I recommend and always use Discover Cars for car rentals in Mexico. The platform also allows you to compare and contrast the best rental companies in the area so that you can find the best deal.

You should expect to pay around $30 a day for an economy-sized rental car in Tulum including full-coverage insurance.

(Be mindful of deals that look super cheap. If something looks too good to be true it probably is!) I usually use Discover Cars and then filter by vendors that have a rating of 8.5 and above.

How to get from Tulum to Chichen Itza
How to get from Tulum to Chichen Itza

Driving between Tulum and Chichen Itza

As mentioned, the road conditions in this part of Mexico are very good. You don’t need to worry about potholes, dirt trails, or poorly maintained roads.

If you are planning on staying in a hotel near the ruins the night before visiting, try to avoid driving in Mexico at night if you can.

Many rural roads are not well-lit and this can make it hard to see hazards such as wildlife or random stray dogs that may run out into the road. Speed limits in Mexico are displayed in Km/h.

The maximum speed limit on a Mexican highway is 110 Km/h. On main roads, the limit is up to 70 Km/h.

There are two different routes that you can follow. One is a paid toll road (autopista/carretera de cuota) and the other is the free road (carreteras libre).

The toll road offers a faster route and the road is in better condition though you should expect to pay around $17 USD in tolls each way so keep plenty of small notes/change on you.

The Iglesia at Chichen Itza
The Iglesia at Chichen Itza

Places to stop along the drive

You may be driving from Tulum to Chichen Itza as part of a wider trip itinerary. However, even if you are only planning on driving to the ruins and then returning to Tulum later that same day or the following day, there are a lot of points of interest to add to your radar.

Ek Balam is another fascinating Ancient Mayan city in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, close to the settlement of Temozon. Its name translates to mean “dark jaguar” or “black jaguar” in Mayan.

The site was occupied for more than 1,000 years and, fascinatingly, it was not discovered until the 1980s. Although there are many Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, a highlight of visiting Ek Balam is El Torre – the 95-foot pyramid at the center of the site.

You can climb to the top of El Torre and from up here, you have a phenomenal view of the canopy over the Mayan jungle. You can see the rest of the ancient city beneath you and on a clear day, you can see Chichen Itza and Coba in the distance.

The site is just 71km (67 miles) away from Chichen Itza so you can easily visit them both in one day. You could consider getting to Chichen Itza as soon as it opens in the morning and then having a late breakfast in the town of Piste when you are done exploring the site.

From there, head towards Cenote Ik Kil before heading to Ek Balam. If you want to stay overnight, you can consider staying in one of several beautiful Yucatan haciendas in the area or at a hotel in charming Valladolid.

How to get from Tulum to Chichen Itza
How to get from Tulum to Chichen Itza

Take a cab or a private transfer 

It is possible to organize a cab or a private transfer to take you to Chichen Itza. It’s a little on the pricier side but if there are a few of you traveling together and you don’t feel confident driving yourself, this is not a bad option.

Didi, Uber, and other ride-sharing apps do not work in Tulum and Quintana Roo (you can only use Uber in Cancun but drivers don’t usually want to set off on long-distance journeys). You need to pre-book a taxi and use a reputable firm, ideally one that has been recommended to you by your hotel or a local friend.

Expect to pay around $350 USD for a transfer to Chichen Itza. You may also be able to negotiate a price with your driver if you want more flexibility (i.e. you want them to wait at the ruins while you explore and then you want to stop at Ek Balam or Coba on the way back).

You should never get into a random street cab in Tulum. Taxi drivers here are a law unto themselves.

Most will not want to set out on such a long journey unless it is booked in advance and many will quote exorbitant prices for the shortest distances because they will think that as a tourist you have no idea what the correct rates should be.

In Mexico, there is also always a risk of being a victim of an express kidnapping. This happens when a tourist is held at knife/gunpoint by a cab driver and forced to hand overall of their cash and valuables. Although somewhat rare in Tulum, it is still not a risk you want to entertain.

Useful Tips for Visiting Chichen Itza in 2024

Chichen Itza is one of the best places to visit in the Yucatan. The historical site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and in 2007, it became one of the “new” Seven Wonders of the World. 

More than 2 million tourists pass through the gates at Chichen Itza every year. That is tens of thousands of people a day! 

Sure, the site can get crowded but that doesn’t detract from the charm of visiting. It is popular, but for good reason. Even if you have visited the Tulum ruins or other Mayan sites in Mexico, there is nowhere quite like Chichen Itza and it is well worth the effort to get to.

It pays to be a little strategic about when you visit the site. If you can be there for when the gates open at 8 (ideally queuing up outside from 7.45), you will have the site virtually all to yourself (plus a few other super keen tourists) for at least 30-45 minutes. 

When the tour buses roll up en mass after 9, it detracts from the magic somewhat. Plus, your travel photos are much better when you don’t have hundreds of guidebook-wielding tourists crowding up the background!

Tulum to Chichen Itza
Tulum to Chichen Itza

Admission Information 

Chichen Itza is one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico that you can visit. It is also one of the most expensive. 

Entrance is $614 MXN pesos per person for adults ($36 USD) and an “adult” is classed as anyone aged 13 and over. Admission is $272MXN for Mexican citizens and $90MXN for local Yucatecans. Concessions are available for young children.

The site is open from 8 am until 5 pm daily. If you want a little more information on the site, you can also hire a guide at the entrance. They charge 600 pesos ($29) for one day’s guidance and it is well worth the money for a more in-depth understanding of what you are seeing.

Tulum to Chichen Itza
Tulum to Chichen Itza

Things to know before you go

Chichen Itza was once a great Mayan city home to over 50,000 people. It dates back over 1500 years and is believed to have first been occupied in the 400s AD.

Two cenotes (freshwater sinkholes) in the area provided water for the settlement and gave the city its name. Chichen Itza comes from the ancient Mayan words “chi” (mouths), “chen” (wells), and “Itza” (the Maya tribe that settled there). In total then, the name of the city is “the mouth of the well of the Itzas”.

The city was the ancient capital of the Yucatan for centuries, with its influence and power reaching far and wide. Eventually, though, Chichen Itza lost importance, and its residents started to relocate west to the settlement of Mayapan.

Points of interest within Chichen Itza

The site is actually much larger than you may realize and you should dedicate 3 to 4 hours to exploring it. The grand Temple of Kukulcán is one of the first things that you will see as you follow the woodland trail from the ticket office to the center of the site.

However, it is far from being the only point of interest. You should also look out for the below structures while visiting Chichen Itza.

  • 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

  • Venus platform – a platform dedicated to the planet Venus used for dances and ceremonies

Final thoughts on traveling from Tulum to Chichen Itza

Hopefully this article has helped you to figure out the best way for you to make the journey from Tulum to Chichen Itza. Visiting the historical site is one of the best things you can do in the Yucatan peninsula and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

If you are traveling from elsewhere in the Maya Riviera/Quintana Roo, you may also enjoy reading these travel tips to know before visiting Mexico for the first time. 

As I mentioned, I live here in the Yucatan and I am always happy to chat or assist as best as I can. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to connect via email or social media, or drop me a comment below.

Safe travels! 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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