How To Get From Cancun To Chichen Itza: Drive, Tour & Bus
The ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are one of the most spectacular sights in Mexico, and there are a bunch of easy ways to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza on a day trip. This place was once one of the biggest and most important cities for the Mayan civilization.
You can get from Cancun to Chichen Itza by booking a tour, driving yourself in a rental car, or taking the public bus. In this travel guide, I’ll explain how to use each of these transport options, as well as their pros and cons.
Overall, it’s not very complicated to visit this wonder of the world on a day trip from any of the tourist towns in the Yucatan peninsula, and it’s also pretty budget friendly, so you should definitely add it to your Mexico to do list!
Where is Chichen Itza?
First things first — where is Chichen Itza located?
Chichen Itza is located in the middle of the Mexican state of Yucatan, and the distance from Cancun to Chichen Itza is about 200 kilometers (125 miles), so it can be reached in 2 or 3 hours of driving.
The Chichen Itza ruins are located near the 16th century city of Valladolid, as well as many nice cenotes (natural sinkholes) to swim in, so there are lots of other great things to see in the area near the ruins.
How To Get From Cancun To Chichen Itza
• Join A Group Tour
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza is by joining a group tour with other travelers, which you can book online or arrange with your Cancun hotel when you arrive in Mexico.
Chichen Itza tours are very popular, so there are many companies offering them every day of the week. You’ll be picked up from your hotel in the morning, driven by van or bus to Chichen Itza, and then given a guided tour of the ruins.
We used one of these tours ourselves and had a great experience. There are even early morning tours where you can beat the crowds and be one of the first people to enter the Chichen Itza ruins at the start of the day.
Oftentimes these group tours from Cancun to Chichen Itza also include other great sights of the Yucatan peninsula, like the Coba ruins, Tulum, Valladolid, and a swim at one or two of the many scenic cenotes in the area. These tours usually include a buffet lunch and hotel pickup / dropoff as well.
The only downside of a group tour is that you have a fixed itinerary, so you usually only get to spend about one hour or less in each location you visit on the tour. Personally, we wanted to stay a bit longer, but for many people this may be plenty of time.
In an arrangement like this, you’re also sharing the tour with a bunch of other travelers, although we didn’t mind that since Chichen Itza is going to be crowded anyway, and the bus ride is a chance to meet other travelers.
Book Now: Chichen Itza Group Tour
• Book A Private Tour
If you want to visit Chichen Itza with a tour but don’t like the idea of joining a big group, there are also private tours and small group tours from Cancun to Chichen Itza departing every day of the week.
This option is more expensive than a group tour, but if you have the budget then it can be a great way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza! This way you’ll have a private driver and a multilingual tour guide to transport you to each location and explain the history of the archaeological sites in detail.
Some of these private tours also include the nearby Mayan ruins of Coba and Tulum, with buffet lunch and hotel pickup / dropoff from Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, or other locations in the Riviera Maya.
Book Now: Chichen Itza Private Tour
• Rent A Car & Drive Yourself
Renting a car and driving yourself is another common way to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza, and it’s fairly easy as far as Mexico goes.
This arrangement gives you the most freedom to plan your schedule, and it can be very cost effective if you’re traveling with friends or family, that way you can split the cost.
The journey by car from Cancun to Chichen Itza (or vice versa) takes about 2.5 hours of driving, and the roads are in great condition.
You’ll be driving on the 180D highway, which is a toll road. At the time of writing, the toll is about 400 peso (~$21 USD) each way, and it can only be paid in Mexican Pesos (no credit cards or US Dollars), so make sure you bring enough cash.
Along the way, you can also stop at other sites like the 16th century city of Valladolid, and the many beautiful cenotes near Chichen Itza.
Remember to book your rental car through a reputable company and take photos of the whole vehicle body to avoid any possible rental damage scams.
For Chichen Itza, keep in mind you will still need entrance tickets to visit, even if you drive yourself. It’s a good idea to book your Chichen Itza entrance tickets online in advance, that way you can skip the line when you get there and spend more time touring the ruins.
• Take The Public Bus
One of the cheapest ways to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza is by taking the ADO bus, which departs daily from downtown Cancun at 8:45 AM and returns to Cancun at 4:30 PM.
This can be a good option if you’re a solo traveler on a budget and don’t mind a bit of extra hassle in arranging your own transportation rather than taking a tour. You can get to the Cancun bus station by taking a quick taxi or Uber.
The bus journey from Cancun to Chichen Itza (or vice versa) takes about 3 hours of driving and costs about 250 peso ($13 USD). You can buy these tickets online at the ADO Bus website, or in person at the bus station in Mexico.
The ADO buses are clean, with air conditioning and bathrooms. Just be careful and keep a good eye on your bags and any valuables, because theft is common in the buses and at the bus terminal. You’ll also want to show up to the bus station early, because the check-in process on a busy day can be tedious and messy.
The main drawback of going to Chichen Itza by bus is that you’ll have 5 hours to walk around at the archaeological site, which may be more time than most people need. One workaround for this is to instead take the bus from Cancun to Valladolid, where more departures are available, and then take a colectivo (shared van) to Chichen Itza.
If you still have extra time left over, you could also hire a local taxi to take you to one of the cenotes near Valladolid while you’re at it! That way you get to see more places in the same amount of time.
For Chichen Itza, keep in mind you will still need entrance tickets to visit, even if you go without a tour. It’s a good idea to book your Chichen Itza entrance tickets online in advance, that way you can skip the line when you get there and spend more time touring the ruins.
Book Now: ADO Bus To Cancun
Cancun To Chichen Itza FAQ
- Is Chichen Itza worth visiting?
Yes! Chichen Itza is definitely worth visiting! It’s a wonder of the ancient world, and the main pyramid is really impressive. This was the highlight of our trip to Mexico.
- What is the distance from Cancun to Chichen Itza?
The road distance from Cancun to Chichen Itza is about 200 kilometers (125 miles).
- Is it safe to drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza?
Yes, the general consensus is that it is safe to drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza. The roads are in great condition and it’s a fairly easy route. Obviously there are no guarantees in Mexico, but the Yucatan state is the safest state in the country, and many tourists drive from Cancun to Chichen Itza every day without any issues.
- What is the best Chichen Itza tour?
Here is a high rated Chichen Itza full day group tour with pickup from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or Riviera Maya. We used this tour ourselves, and had a great experience!
- How can I go from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen to Chichen Itza?
If you’re starting from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen, you have the same basic options as in Cancun. You can book a tour to Chichen Itza, rent a car and drive yourself, or take the ADO bus.
- How many people visit Chichen Itza?
Chichen Itza got 2.6 million visitors in 2017, and daily numbers can be as high as 18,000 visitors. Needless to say, it’s a very popular tourist attraction, but there’s a lot of wide open space surrounding the ruins so it doesn’t feel as crowded as you might expect. If you want to beat the crowds, get there early in the morning, and try to avoid weekends and holidays.
- What is Chichen Itza?
From 600 AD to 1200 AD, Chichen Itza was one of the biggest and most important cities for the Mayan civilization. The centerpiece of this archaeological park is the giant pyramid known as the Temple of Kukulcán (El Castillo). Even though you can’t climb it anymore, it’s still a spectacular wonder of the world!