Tourists love the Yucatán peninsula not only for its white-sand beaches and warm turquoise waters but also for all the historical heritage of the area.
The Mayan civilization and the ruins of its golden age attract millions of visitors each year. It must be said that the cultural and historical heritage of the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most important in the world.
This region is the cradle of one of the most important pre-columbian civilizations.
In addition to Teotihuacán, near the capital, the Mayan ruins in the states of Quintana Roo and Yucatán are usually the most visited in the country.
Many visitors come to the archaeological site in Tulum as they are the closest to Cancun and Playa del Carmen, but not everyone knows that other beautiful pyramids, ancient sites and sacred cenotes are just a 2 hour drive away.
So if you are interested in visiting the archaeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula, read on to experience a 100% Mayan day! Let us show you how to visit three of the main sites in the Yucatan Peninsula, in a single day 😉
Let us show you today how to fit into a daily tour of three important Mayan sites: Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Cobá.
Follow the guide, it's this way. 👇 👇
First Stop - Chichen Itzá
Chichen Itza is the main archaeological site in the Yucatan Peninsula. For anyone who visits Cancun and the Riviera Maya, going on a tour to this site is a must.
A few tips for a visit to Chichen Itza……
Chichen Itza is the best known of the three places that we will talk about in this article. This is the site that will be most crowded. There are days that the lines to enter the site are really long.
To have a better experience, we recommend you to visit Chichen Itza early in the morning to avoid the crowds. This will also be helpful to be less exposed to the hot temperatures in the place, especially around noon. It is important to know that it is hard to find a spot to cover yourself from the sun in the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá.
No matter what, you must not forget to bring a hat, your sunscreen and a bottle of water.
The heat and the sun in Yucatan are relentless!
How to get to Chichen Itza?
The best way to visit Chichen Itza site at your own pace and then be able to explore the other sites is to rent a car.
This is, without a doubt, the most flexible means of transport for you to do this tour. You will find car rental dealers very easily at Cancun airport, in Cancun-city or in Playa del Carmen. In the rest of the Riviera Maya, it is going to be more difficult to rent a car.
How long does it take to get to Chichen Itza?
The toll road that takes you all the way to Chichen Itza is in excellent condition. It will take around 2 hours to get there from Playa del Carmen.
🚗 For your information, Chichen Itza is located:
- • 2h40 from Cancun
- • 2h20 from Playa del Carmen
- • 2 hours from Tulum
- • 40 minutes from Valladolid
Chichen Itza is the furthest location on this tour. Whether it is Cancun or Playa del Carmen, the rest of your tour will necessarily bring you closer to the place where you are staying.
If you don't feel like renting a car for this excursion, it is also possible to book a guided tour to visit all three archaeological sites for the day.
To learn more: consult our tours, click here!
From what time can you visit Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza opens at 8 am so wake up early and get to your destination before the crowds.
You can also skip the line if you book your tickets online in advance.
Check the current prices and buy your tickets here.
Why should you visit Chichen Itza?
Other than that it is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world and a treasure of humanity listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Here are three more reasons!
Let's just say...¡
- #1 is one of the best preserved Mayan sites in the Yucatan Peninsula.
- #2 has the largest Ball Court in all of Mesoamerica.
- #3 and the pyramid of Kukulkan and its fascinating astro-architecture.
That's it, are you convinced? 🙃 😉
Our advice: Walk around, take pictures, and avoid the pushy salesmen that unfortunately are all around.
Chichen Itza is easy to navigate so you don’t have to hire a guide if you don’t want to.
Second Stop - Ek Balam ⭐ 🐆
Ek Balam means "Star Jaguar", it was an important Mayan city between 600 and 900 AD.
We think that the archaeological site of Ek Balam will really enchant you, probably more than Chichen Itza.
Especially if you are not a fan of crowds!
Why visit the Ek Balam?
Although Ek Balam site is small, compared to the imposing site of Chichen Itza, it has many interesting highlights and things to see.
First of all, It's possible to climb the pyramids and buildings!, you will be able to admire the magnificent constructions from different perspectives
Add to that:
- • magnificent stuccos and bas-reliefs
- • a 360° jungle view
There’s also more vegetation around so you can visit the area around noon and still feel relatively comfortable.
Did you know that?
Ek Balam has its own cenote! If you have time, take a dip!
What to do after visiting Ek Balam?
After your visit to Ek Balam, why not take a break in Valladolid? Just 40 minutes from the site, this superb colonial city has preserved its charm and architecture from the time of the Spanish conquest.
You can eat there and get a little rest to refuel yourself before heading to the last stage of this tour... The mysterious city of Cobá!
Third stop - Coba
Coba will be the last stage of your adventure in Mayan lands. This last tour brings you closer to Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
Your day of sightseeing will soon come to an end, but before we head back, let's go to every adventurer's dream: a lost city in the heart of the jungle!
The city of Cobá is a very big place. Unfortunately, you will find little information about its history on the site. That's why we recommend hiring the services of a guide so you don't miss any of the fascinating history of the place or, even worse... get lost in the jungle! 😰 😱
Seriously 😉, it is possible to visit Coba or hiring a rickshaw to enjoy the ride effortlessly!
In Cobá, it is possible to climb some of the buildings, such as the Nohoch Mul pyramid and walk its 132 ft. (42-meter) height to its summit. However, it is important to do it with the utmost caution. The steps are very irregular.
Of course, we assure you that the reward is at the top of the pyramid, a 360° view of the jungle!
Once you've accomplished this feat, you'll have plenty of time to wander the site and discover the various structures, such as the ancient ball court.
⚠️ Warning: the site closes at 5 p.m. m., so keep an eye on your watch!
The road trip back to Playa del Carrmen is about 90 minutes. You have to go through the main road of Riviera Maya.
If you are staying in Cancun, it will take 2 hours to go back to the city from Coba.
📅 Get Ready for Your Yucatan Ruins Trip
When planning your vacation on the Yucatan Peninsula make sure you reserve some time for visiting the Mayan ruins in the area. It will be an interesting break from beach days and will increase your knowledge about the Mayan culture.
If you have time, we would highly recommend dividing the tour into two days with an overnight stop in the "Magic Town" of Valladolid. You could add cenotes Ik-Kil and Hubiku between Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, and the next day combine Cobá with a visit to Cenote Choo-Ha and Cenote Tamcach-Ha.
Two days would also give you more time to try local delicacies such as Cochinita Pibil or Motulenos Eggs for breakfast.