We went on a tour of Chichen Itza with Xichen, a tour company owned and operated by the Xcaret family of parks. Was the tour worth the price?
Chichen Itza is considered one of the wonders of the new seven wonders of the world. While most people are familiar with the central pyramid, the entire archeological site is massive with an ancient observatory, additional smaller pyramids, and cenotes. We wanted to see this impressive sight, but knew the distance from our hotel was significant. It would be a very long day of sight-seeing, so we booked a tour with transportation included. We found a discount on the Xichen Deluxe tour, and paid $90 for each adult and $60 for one child (adults are ages 12 and up). At the time of the trip, Matt was 13 and Nolan was 11 years old.
How Far is Chichen Itza from the Hotel Zone?
We stayed at El Presidente Intercontinental, at the top of the zona hotelera in Cancun. To reach Chichen Itza, it is a full 208 km (128 miles)! Without stopping, this is a drive time of over 2 hours and 40 minutes - each way.
Google, @ 2021 INEGI
We looked up tours and found the Xichen Deluxe tour, which included all bus transportation, food, and a stop in Valladolid on the return trip. We signed up and were excited for our big adventure!
Tour Pick Up and Morning Drive
We knew to meet our bus pick-up at 7:00 am. We were prepared for the early start, and wore comfortable clothes for the long bus ride. Our boys brought their iPods for electronic entertainment. A pink bus marked "XCaret" arrived at our hotel, and we had to determine if this was the correct one to board. Two buses arrived that morning for our hotel area - one for the XCaret park and one for all other tours. I was a little nervous, unsure of what our bus would look like and how we would know it was the right one. Fortunately, another XCaret bus arrived shortly after the first one and a uniformed Experiences XCaret staff member got out and called the names of the families on the tour. Our name was called and we were verified by the credit card we booked the tour with. We were issued wrist bands, and boarded the bus for a short drive to the central bus depot owned by the park system.
Once at the central bus depot, we boarded a large coach bus with extremely comfortable seats, air conditioning, and two bathrooms (one for men and one for women).
We were soon on our way to Chichen Itza. We were served a breakfast of a ham sandwich and coffee or juice. I was very grateful for the coffee that morning!
The drive was long, but interesting as we watched a video about Chichen Itza and our guides explained the history of the Mayan civilization. We learned that the Mayans invented huun paper in the 5th century, and an example was passed around for everyone to see.
The boys, of course, were far more interested in the obsidian knife that was passed around. The sharp knife was used in sacrificial rituals. The objects passed around and the extremely knowledgeable guides were a definite plus in taking this tour. We learned a lot and the drive time to the archealogical site seemed a lot faster than 2 1/2 hours!
We made it to the site and parked outside the entrance. Our guides obtained our tickets and separated us into two lines: one for spoken English and one for Spanish.
We joined the English speaking group and were issued headphones and a volume-control box. Our guide wore a microphone, and everyone could hear what he said - no matter the location within the group. This was fantastic. My son who wears a cochlear implant struggled a little with his box, but our guide was very good and kept him up front for any group discussions.
We were issued water bottles with a strap carrier for hydration during the tour. We were also given umbrellas as a shade for the sun, which was very welcome in the 95°F (35°C) heat! There is little natural shade in the area, so we were extremely grateful for the umbrellas. The flashy pink sunshades also made it very easy to find our group!
The tour was very detailed and covered several areas around the main pyramid. Our favorite part was the tour of the ball courts - the skill the Mayans had to get the ball through the hoop must have been incredible! Once this part of the tour concluded, we were given about an hour to explore on our own. We really enjoyed checking out the observatory and other buildings at the site. There were signs in both English and Spanish to explain each ruin.
As our time wound down, we headed to the entrance to use the bathroom (the restrooms at Chichen Itza are clean and plentiful). We found our bus and were given a soda or water as we boarded. We headed out for the second leg of our trip: a visit to Valladolid for lunch!
Lunch was served buffet-style at La Casona, a restaurant owned and operated by the XCaret group. The options were plentiful and we really enjoyed our lunch here.
Sopa de lima at La Casona in Valladolid
Once we had finished lunch, ,we checked out the beautiful fountain at the back of the restaurant and the gift shop inside the restaurant.
Once the group was done eating, we were given some time to explore the town square of Valladolid. San Servacio church is located at one end of the square. The gates were closed, but we could walk around it and learn a little bit about it. The original building was constructed in 1545, but demolished in 1705. Fortunately, it was restored in 1706, and that is the church that exists today.
The town square is fun, with people enjoying the sunshine and selling snacks. We really liked hanging out in the "conversation seats" set up around the square.
Dennis and I check out the "conversation seats."
The beautiful town square of Valladolid.
Our free time to explore the town came to an end, and we boarded the bus for a short trip to the cenote in the center of Valladolid - Cenote Zaci. While a cenote in the center of the city is interesting, there was no time to swim here and there were no bathrooms, so this was the least favorite part of the tour for our family. I think the cenote is amazing and would be a lot more fun for those staying overnight in Valladolid to explore at leisure. We did enjoy watching some of the brave swimmers leap from a high ledge inside the cave wall of Zaci.
If we had more time in Valladolid, I would have loved to have toured the Parque Apicola, which is a Mayan bee farm. The Melipona bees are stingless and make a honey unique to the area.
Once we had finished touring the cenote, we climbed back into the bus for the ride home. Both boys passed out from exhaustion on the ride back, as did many other guests. The ride was smooth and we were grateful to get back to the central bus depot and on the smaller bus that would take us back to our hotel. We returned to our room at nearly 7:30 pm, over 12 hours since we had left that morning! We took a quick walk to Surfin' Burrito to grab some much-appreciated dinner before crashing into our bed.
Is It Worth the Price?
Overall, I would say the Xichen Deluxe tour is definitely worth the price. Check online prices before your trip for the best deal, especially around Black Friday the November before your trip. The education, food provided, and door-to-door transportation in a comfortable bus were worth the price for our family. The only thing I would change about the tour would be the stop at the Cenote Zaci - without time to swim, it is not really worth the extra time in Valladolid. Everything else was absolutely wonderful and a great way to see Chichen Itza if you are staying in the hotel zone.