Merida to Chichen Itza: 10 Highest Rated Tours in 2023

Wondering how to visit Chichen Itza from Merida?

You’re in the right place because the 10 best Merida to Chichen Itza tours are highlighted below.

As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins are the most visited of all the Yucatan ruins.

It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with many different tours available to this important and historical wonder — So how do you pick the best Chichen Itza tour?!

You get help from a Merida local: Me!

Hi, I’m Shelley, and I’ve been living in Merida since 2019. Over the years, I have helped friends, family and followers find the best tours from Merida to Chichen Itza, so I’ve seen a good amount of the options available to Merida visitors.

This list has all the best tours, with unique experiences that combine a visit to these famous Mayan ruins in Yucatan with many of the other great things to do near Chichen Itza. There’s also information on the Merida to Chichen Itza bus.

Ready to discover all the best Merida to Chichen Itza tours?

Let’s get to it, starting with the best Chichen Itza tour — the Mayan Food Experience & Chichén Itza Tour with lunch cooked by a Netflix chef! After the tours, you’ll learn some FAQs and interesting facts about Chichen Itza that make this such an important site.


10 Best Merida to Chichen Itza Tours

The tours featured here combine a visit to Chichen Itza with other nearby places and/or a unique experience. Each one is a great opportunity to discover Chichen Itza with a guide, plus another one of the best things to do in Yucatan, Mexico — for a day you won’t forget.

1. [Netflix Chef!] Mayan Food Experience & Chichén Itza Tour

Merida tours: Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins
Chef Rosalia opens her home to visitors, for a once in a lifetime experience to have lunch made by a Yucatan chef.

A true once in a lifetime experience! For visitors who can only take one tour — this is the one — especially for those who were already planning to go to Chichen Itza from Merida.

The Mayan Food Experience & Tour of Chichén Itza tour checks a lot of Mexico bucket list boxes: a visit to Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and an authentic Mexican meal cooked by Chef Rosalia Chay Chuc — as seen on Netflix’s Chef’s Table: BBQ.

On the Mayan Food Experience & Tour of Chichén Itza, you will:

  • Learn ancient Mayan cooking techniques from Chef Rosalía Chay,
  • Enjoy a traditional lunch with Chef Rosalia and her family in their small pueblo of Yaxuna, Mexico, and
  • Explore the Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins with a certified, local tour guide.

You’ll be picked up from your Merida hotel or Merida Airbnb, and driven to Chef Rosalia’s home in Yaxuna, deep in the Yucatan jungle. Take a seat at her family’s table for a traditional lunch of Yucatan foods, like cochinita pibil, poc chuc, handmade tortillas and more.

Chef Rosalia will show you how she prepares food the old fashioned way — by hand and in an underground oven called a pib. Using recipes passed down through generations in her family, learn how to make tortillas using an ancient method of cooking technique.

From there, head with your guide to Chichen Itza, one of the best Mayan Ruins in Mexico!


2. Pink Lakes, Flamingos, Cenote & Chichen Itza

Las Coloradas Pink Lakes | Rio Lagartos (Flamingo Sanctuary) | Cenote | Chichen Itza

This all-encompassing tour takes you to so many of the can’t miss Yucatan sites!

After some time at Chichen Itza with tour guide, Hernan, head to the Mexico pink lakes of Las Coloradas — a true Yucatan bucket list trip in the town of Rio Lagartos.

In the Río Lagartos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, you’ll see alligators and many bird species, including flamingos🦩

After that, you’ll stop for lunch in the small Yucatan pueblo of Temozon, followed by a swim in one of the nearby Yucatan cenotes.

Wondering, What are cenotes? In short, they are sinkholes or natural jungle pools… and they offer the perfect way to cool down after a long day of touring.

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


3. Mexico Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns), Cenote & Chichen Itza

Cenote Xkeken, an underground cave cenote in Yucatan, Mexico.

Valladolid | Izamal | Cenote Xkeken | Cenote Samula | Chichen Itza

Did you know Mexico has magical towns?! There are about 135 so-called pueblos magicos, all known as places a visitor would want to see because they are unique in their aesthetic beauty, unique folklore and history, and more.

On this tour, you’ll visit two of the best Yucatan pueblos magicos, Valladolid and Izamal, “The Yellow City.” In case you’re wondering, yes!, the whole town is yellow.

You’ll also visit Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula, two of the best cenotes in Yucatan, which are located underground in a cave.

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


4. Cenote Ik Kil & Chichen Itza

The magical Ik Kil Cenote near Chichen Itza is one of the most Instagram worthy cenotes in Mexico.

Ik Kil Cenote | Chichen Itza | Traditional Lunch

Located just minutes from Chichen Itza, you’ll be at what many consider one of the most beautiful and best cenotes near Merida. Cenote Ik Kil is a semi-open cenote, so there is a large opening at the top with vines dropping in, giving this cenote a downright otherworldly look and feel.

It is the perfect place to visit right after Chichen Itza, to cool down after a long (likely hot 🥵) day of exploring the ruins. After a refreshing swim in this picturesque cenote, enjoy a traditional lunch of yummy Yucatan food (included in the cost).

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


5. Cenote, Cooking Class & Chichen Itza

Cenote Yokdzonot | Yucatan Cooking Class | Chichen Itza

After touring Chichen Itza with your guide, you’ll visit the small pueblo of Yokdzonot, Yucatan.

There you’ll swim in the beautiful Cenote Yokdzonot, which has a zip line and rappelling for the adventurous! This cenote is operated by a local co-op, and proceeds from the cenote benefit this small community.

After a refreshing swim in the blue waters of Cenote Yokdzonot, you’ll participate in a cooking lesson with the locals. Prepare delicious Yucatecan foods like salbutes (puffy, fried tortillas) and panuchos (tortillas stuffed with black bean paste), which you’ll eat in the on-site restaurant.

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


6. Mayan Cenote Park & Chichen Itza

Step inside a traditional Mayan home while visiting Cenote Tsukan.

Cenote Tsukan Mayan Culture Park | Chichen Itza | Traditional Lunch

After touring Chichen Itza with your guide, you’ll head to nearby Cenote Tsukán (pronounced sue-kan). This Mayan culture park is deep in the lush jungle, surrounded by native tropical plants and trees endemic to the region.

Here, you’ll get to swim in the crystal-clear waters of Cenote Tsukan and learn more about the Mayan people who have lived in this part of the Yucatan for generations. Enjoy a traditional local lunch and have the chance to meet some of the locals, and learn about their customs and traditions.

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


7. Zip-lining, Rappelling, Cenote & Chichen Itza

Rappelling down the side of Yokdzonot Cenote. (Photo: Chichén Itzá & Outdoor Sports in Cenote Spring via Get Your Guide).

Cenote Yokdzonot | Zip Lining | Rappelling | Traditional Lunch | Chichen Itza

After touring Chichen Itza with your guide, you’ll head to the nearby Yokdzonot Cenote. This is a large, 130-foot wide and deep cenote, which has a platform where you can dive in. You can also walk in with a ladder, and then swim and snorkel around.

Enjoy the adventurous activities at Cenote Yokdzonot — including zip lining and rappelling down the limestone rock walls of this cenote!

After that, you’ll get a chance to have a delicious meal of Yucatan food, and then some time to just kick back in a hammock and relax before heading back to Merida.

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


8. Sacred Caves, Cenote & Chichen Itza

Exploring Balankanche caves in Yucatan, which are sacred to the Maya.

Balankanchen Caves | Cenote Yokdzonot | Traditional Lunch | Chichen Itza

After touring Chichen Itza with your guide, Antonio, you’ll visit the nearby Balankanchen Caves.

There are a few caves in Yucatan, but these are special in that they served as a religious and ceremonial space for the Maya. You’ll walk among impressive stalagmites and stalactites, descending into Mother Earth.

As it can get quite hot in the caves, you’ll then head to Cenote Yokdzonot for a refreshing swim. After swimming, enjoy a traditional Yucatan food meal, where everything’s made by hand and cooked over an open flame — the old school way!

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


9. Izamal “The Yellow City,” Kinich Kakmo Ruins, Cenote & Chichen Itza

Izamal pueblo magico (magic town) is known as “The Yellow City,” as the downtown is completely painted yellow!

Izamal | Cenote | Traditional Lunch | Kinich Kakmo Ruins | Chichen Itza

After touring Chichen Itza with your guide, Hernan, you’ll visit a nearby, off the beaten path cenote — which is operated by a Mayan family. There, you’ll have plenty of time to swim in the crystal clear freshwaters of the cenote, while the family cooks an authentic Yucatecan lunch for you.

After lunch, you’ll head to Izamal, Mexico, known as “The Yellow City,” because it is in fact, completely yellow!

After exploring all the best things to do in Izamal, you’ll head to the nearby Mayan temple at Kinich Kakmo Ruins. For the adventurous, you can climb the 100-foot-tall (34m) structure.

💦 Note: Don’t forget your waterproof phone holder and water shoes for visiting the cenote.


10. Yucatan Cities: Valladolid, Izamal & Motul, & Chichen Itza

The Iglesia de San Servacio Valladolid church in Yucatan, Mexico. (Photo: Rafael Cisneros Méndez via Unsplash)

Valladolid | Izamal | Motul | Traditional Breakfast | Chichen Itza

Start the day in the city of Motul, Mexico, famous for creating the popular Yucatan breakfast, huevos motuleños. From there, head to Chichen Itza with your guide, Jorge Roman, to explore and learn about this historic site.

Next, you’ll head to two pueblos magicos in Yucatan — Valladolid and Izamal.

Mexico pueblo magico towns are well known as beautiful, interesting small-sized towns, which are welcoming to visitors. Among the two most beautiful Yucatan pueblos magicos are Valladolid, and “The Yellow City” of Izamal.


Merida to Chichen Itza Bus

Besides Chichen Itza, check out these additional 12 Best Merida Tours for an Unforgettable Mexico Experience!

Want to take the bus from Merida to Chichen Itza? It’s totally do-able, and only about a two-hour ride each way.

You can buy your tickets online here with BusBud, for the ADO bus. This is Mexico’s largest bus company, which operates a fleet of comfortable yet affordable buses.

The Merida Chichen Itza bus departs from the main terminal in Centro Historico (Historic Downtown Merida), which you’ll see abbreviated as CAME or TAME.

The Merida bus station address is Calle 70 #555, Centro, Mérida, Yucatan, 97000; 🗺 Head here for the Google Map.

If you’d prefer not to buy tickets in advance, just show up to the bus station about 30 minutes early to buy your ticket at the ADO counter. The advance to buying in advance is being able to have more control over your seat selection.

Note: Tours are often cheaper than taking the bus

Uxmal Ruins is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and among the best Mayan Ruins near Merida. 🎟 BOOK UXMAL TOURS

Bus ticket prices vary, but average $20USD round trip.

When you then factor in the Chichen Itza admission cost of about $25USD, an on-site guide at about $40, plus the $20 for the bus — Chichen Itza tours are often cheaper than going on your own. Besides that, you get private transport and your tour guide handles all the planning.

All tours featured above also include a visit to other places besides Chichen Itza, for added value. These additional places include all the best experiences in Yucatan, like cenotes, the pink lakes, pueblos magicos (magic towns), cooking classes with local Maya chefs, and more.

On-Site Chichen Itza Tours

With such an important site, you’ll want a guide to explain the significance of it all. If you think about it, without an explanation, you’re essentially just looking at some rocks!

When you arrive at the counters to buy your Chichen Itza admission tickets, you’ll be approached by local guides offering tours. They sell them for about $800-1,000 pesos ($40-50USD), and will accommodate a group of 6-10, depending on the guide.

Note: To hire an onsite guide, bring enough pesos in cash to pay them!

Merida to Chichen Itza Tours

Chichen Itza Facts & FAQ

Where is Chichen Itza?

Chichen Itza location
Merida to Chichen Itza drive

Chichen Itza is located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, in Yucatan state.

It is located near the center of the peninsula, making it accessible from all the other popular Yucatan destinations like Tulum, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen, and of course, Merida. It is closest to the city of Valladolid, Mexico.

Merida to Chichen Itza Distance

Merida is about 75-miles (120km) from Chichen Itza. The drive takes about 1.5-2 hours.

Wondering, How do I get from Merida to Chichen Itza? If you’re not going with one of the tours listed above, drive your rental car east on Highway 180 (Carretera Kantunil-Cancun), on a straight shot right from Merida to Chichen Itza.

When was Chichen Itza Built?

Historians differ as to when they say Chichen Itza was built, though the consensus seems to be 400-500 AD. It went on to become one of the most important Maya centers of economic and political power, before it was abandoned in about 1450 AD for unknown reasons.

After the 13th Century, historians say no additional major buildings were constructed. The Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins site was excavated in 1841. In 1998, Chichen Itza was declared both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

What does Chichen Itza mean?

El Castillo (The Castle AKA Temple of Kukulkan) is the largest Chichen Itza Pyramid.

Chichen Itza is Maya for at the edge of the well of the Itzas, also translated as “at the mouth of the well of the Itza.

This is in reference to the Itzá, a prominent and powerful ethnic group in the Yucatan Peninsula, and the large, Chichen Itza Sacred Cenote “well” (which you see in the photo gallery below ⤵).

Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza. (Note: Swimming isn’t allowed here, but you can swim at these Merida cenotes!)

Things to do in Chichen Itza

Some carvings on one of the buildings in the Nunnery Complex.

The things to see at Chichen Itza include numerous structures located within 20 building groups. These are connected by 75 scabes, or roadways.

Chichen Itza also has Mesoamerica’s largest Mayan ball court. If it sounds like a big site — it is — spanning about three-miles from end to end.

Wondering, How much time do you need at Chichen Itza? Most visits last 3-5 hours, so wear your most comfy shoes, and don’t forget your refillable water bottle, cute sun hat and insect-repelling sunscreen.

When visiting you won’t want to miss these most prominent buildings at Chichen Itza:

  • El Castillo (The Castle): This is the largest structure at Chichen Itza, and also called the Temple of Kukulkan or Chichen Itza Pyramid.
  • Sacred Cenote: A large cenote (sinkhole) used to make offerings to the gods. In it, everything from gold, jade, pottery, and even human skeletons, have been found.
  • Nunnery Complex: There are three buildings here, all with intricate decorative stone carvings.
El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza
The Warrior’s Temple, and some of the columns from the Group of the Thousand Columns.
  • Warrior’s Temple & Group of the Thousand Columns: Despite the name, there are really only about 200 columns at the large, impressive Temple of the Warriors.
  • El Caracol (Chichen Itza Observatory): The astronomical observatory was used as a telescope to track the planet Venus, and other celestial bodies.
  • Wall or Platform of Skulls: A wall used to memorialize lost soldiers and display the heads of sacrificial prisoners or enemies who died in battle.
  • Great Ball Court: A long stretch used for pa ta pok, an ancient Mayan ball game.

Merida Travel: Frequently Asked Questions

Is Merida, Mexico Safe?

Merida has been ranked as not only the safest city in Mexico, but one of the safest on the entire Americas Continent by CEOWorld Magazine. In 2021, Conde Nast Traveler magazine Merida the #6 best big city in the world — the only Mexico city on the list.

Though Merida is considered safe, you’ll still want to follow the 10 General Travel Safety Tips below to err on the side of caution. These safety measures are the same ones you’d follow when traveling anywhere, and should suffice in Merida.

10 General Travel Safety Tips
  1. Always listen to your intuition — because your intuition is always right.
  2. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place asap. Don’t worry about making a kind, nice or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away fast.
  3. Don’t walk home alone at night.
  4. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  5. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  6. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  7. Speaking of bar neighbors… don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended.
  8. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  9. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  10. When in doubt: Get Travel Insurance!
Mexico Travel Insurance

Want an added level of security and peace of mind with Mexico travel insurance during these strange times? Smart choice!

Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling. If Mexico and Merida travel safety are on your mind, World Nomads is a great option for more adventurous travelers, and Safety Wing provides affordable, basic travel policies.

Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the FREE STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

After you’ve registered, the U.S. Consulate in Merida can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.

Merida Podcast

Need more Merida travel info? Check out this Merida, Mexico podcast — the perfect audio resource for planning your first Merida trip.


Where is Merida, Mexico?

Merida is the capital of Yucatan state, one of three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula — along with Quintana Roo and Campeche states. The Yucatan Peninsula is in southeastern Mexico; to the south and east, there’s the Caribbean Sea, and to the north, the Gulf of Mexico.

Merida is located in southeastern Mexico, about 160 miles west of Tulum, 180 miles west of Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya, and 190 miles west of Cancun.

It is also not far from other top Yucatan Peninsula destinations, including Bacalar Lagoon, AKA “Maldives of Mexico,” and the pueblo magicos (magic towns) of Valladolid, and the “Yellow City” of Izamal.

Flights to Merida, Mexico

Wondering, What’s the best way to get to Merida? There’s actually an airport about 20 minutes from downtown — Merida International Airport (code: MID).

There are direct flights to Merida from only a few U.S. cities, like Miami, Houston, and sometimes Oakland.

If you can’t get a direct flight from the U.S., you can also fly into Mexico City or Guadalajara International Airport. From either of those, you can take a short, connecting flight into MID.

Merida Airport transfer service

From the airport, you can take a rental car, Uber, taxi, or private transport service to your accommodation. Depending on where you’re staying and traffic, the drive is usually no more than 30 minutes.

Note: If you want to use Uber, make sure you have a Mexico SIM card with data!

Where to Stay in Merida

You have so many Merida accommodations options! For detailed guides, head to the articles linked below:

BOOK ➡️ Rosas y Xocolate Merida (Photo: Expedia)
BOOK ➡️ NH Collection Merida (Photo: Expedia)
BOOK ➡️ Casa del Balam Hotel (Photo: Expedia)

Final Thoughts: Merida to Chichen Itza

There’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Merida!

Besides what to do in Merida itself, there’s also many amazing days trips from Merida located 30 minutes to two hours outside of town, gorgeous Merida cenotes, and amazing beaches in Merida Mexico, just outside of the city — all that, and of course, your visit to Chichen Itza.

Going on a tour is a fun way to see this important site. As much of what’s significant about Chichen Itza isn’t visible to the naked eye, your guide will give you fascinating insights into this New Wonder of the World!

Merida Travel Planning Guide

Should I buy Mexico travel insurance?

100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10 USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from Travel Insurance Master, one of the biggest names in travel insurance. (Read more)

Can you drink the water in Merida?

No — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Mexico, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling Mexico. (Read more)

Is it safe to rent a car in Merida?

Yes — Renting a car in Mexico is one of the best ways to see the country! I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Mexican companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)

Will my phone work in Merida?

Maybe — It depends on your company, so check with your provider. If you don’t have free Mexico service, buy a Telcel SIM Card. As Mexico’s largest carrier, Telcel has the best coverage of any Mexico SIM Cards. (Read more)

What’s the best way to book my Merida accommodation?

For Mexico hotels and hostels, is the best site. If you’re considering a Mexico Airbnb, don’t forget to also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb! (Read more)

What’s the best site to buy Mexico flights?

For finding cheap Mexico flights, I always recommend Skyscanner.

Do I need a visa for Mexico?

Likely Not — U.S., Canadian and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Mexico; but check here to see if you do need a Mexico travel visa. The majority of travelers will receive a 180-Day FMM Tourist Visa upon arrival.

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