As part of our time in Tulum, we decided to make our way to Chichen Itza, one of the most iconic Mayan cities in Mexico.
Located about 2h40 from Tulum, midway between Tulum and Mérida, the site can easily be reached with ADO or any other bus company.
We left Tulum at 9am that day, and arrived just before midday. Entrance fees were a whopping 480 pesos per person (about AUD $35), which was quite an increase from what we read online and most other activities.
Rather than get a guide this time, we downloaded some podcasts for the bus to educate us on the history of the site. It gave us some great insight in to the origins of the pyramid and, for instance, the fact it is built on another pyramid! Another fun fact – the ball court is where the Mayas used to play a type of ball game with a 4.5kg ball. They’d have to move the ball around using their hips, hands or feet (sometimes they’d use decapitated heads of the previous game’s losing captain team as the ball too, gruesome!).
When you get in, the first thing you see is the pyramid, which is quite a magnificent sight. This is known as El Castillo.
Its party trick occurs at equinox each year. The sun brings light to the side of the stairs, making a snake appear from top to bottom. See what I mean below. At other times, you can just see the head at the foot of the stairs.
The site is quite large, with the huge ball court, multiple temples, the market, the observatory (Mayas were apparently good astronomers), their church etc.
We had a pretty good time going around and enjoying another bit of the Mayas history.
After our ride back we returned to a stormy and flooded Tulum, in which we had to sprint back to our hotel to avoid being completely soaked. This was a losing game though, as the rain was torrential and the streets so floaded you HAD to get soaked. We were kind of used to it by then, so we had to laugh.
The following day, as we read that you could swim with turtles in a small village called Akumal about 30 min drive away from Tulum, we decided to get a collectivo and make our way there early to beat the crowds and enjoy the day before the usual 4pm storm.
That was before we realised the tropical late afternoon storm timing can’t be 100% trusted; that day it decided to rain early.
When we arrived in Akumal, the rain was still falling but we decided to go for a swim anyway in the hopes of seeing some sea turtles.
One thing to know about Akumal is that the whole beach is now classified as natural park, so you basically have to pay an entrance fee at the dive center (100 pesos per person) and need to go with one of the many tours to swim with the turtles. At least that’s what they want you to think! According to official websites, every beach in Mexico is free. Good luck trying to get on this one without paying though – the locals are certainly cashing in on the tourism.
As the tours were 500 pesos per person, and we have swam with turtles before, we decided to try and swim in areas that were unrestricted (the tours ban the swimming in certain areas). We still had hopes of seeing turtles, but we weren’t lucky. The areas operated by the tours are located there for a reason!
After a while swimming and snorkelling in the rain, we decided to go for a coffee at the coffee shop nearby, hoping the weather would get better.
After a while, we realised the weather wasn’t going to improve any time soon, so we decided to go for one last swim before heading back to Tulum.
By the time we got back, the weather had improved so we went for a walk around the town. It seemed every other time we went through it we were running and ducking for rain cover. We checked out the different craft shops, and finished the day at a bar for some happy hour drinks.
- We don’t know how much a tour to Chichen Itza costs, but going by yourself from Tulum is easy business. The only issue is that you have a bit over 4h30 to visit the ruins, which can be a lot but there are bars and restaurants available to chill whilst waiting for the bus if you’re back early.
- If you want to swim with turtles in Akumal, go with a tour. If not, you won’t be allowed to swim in the area where the turtles are and won’t be able to see any.
- Catch a collectivo from Tulum to Akumal (direction Playa del Carmen) for 35 pesos per person.