Visit Mystical Chichen Itza With Kids

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that experiences matter way more than things. Now both boys have flown the nest, our time to travel as a family is limited, and we savor every opportunity we get. We were eager to visit the Great Pyramid at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, since it’s the last place on our list. We set out a family goal to visit all Seven Wonders of the World when the boys were very young, so we took a week during Thanksgiving to finish it off.

During a trip to Cancun, Mexico we carved out a day to visit Chichén Itzá in the Yucatan to explore this complex of famous and well-preserved Mayan ruins.

Visit Chichén Itzá with kids
El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, at Chichén Itzá

It’s relatively easy to take a day trip from Cancun to visit Chichén Itzá by booking a local tour, driving yourself in a rental car, or taking the public bus. I’d recommend taking a local tour since it’s approximately a 2-hour drive each way. Most of these tours include a swim in a sacred “cenote” or natural underground pool. There are many cenotes in the Yucatan located near Chichén Itzá.

a magical swim in a sacred cenote, located near Chichén Itzá.

However it’s important to note that a tour is a FULL day tour (about 12 hours door to door), so be prepared with lots of water and snacks. And, there are certain lunch stops and cenotes that are very crowded. Try to find a tour that goes to lesser known cenotes, you’ll have a better experience if you’re not with 12 other tour buses.

visit Chichen Itza in Mexico and visit a cenote

Swimming in Cenotes

Swimming in a cenote in Mexico is a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed by the collapse of limestone and the water is crystal clear with a stunning blue-green color.

Swimming in a cenote in Mexico can be a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

The water is cool and refreshing since it’s underground, and the silence of the underground cavern is incredibly tranquil and calming and you immediately feel connected to nature.

Here are 5 interesting facts you’ll learn when you visit Chichen Itza

1. El Castillo

The pyramid that is the centerpiece of Chichén Itzá is known as El Castillo, which means “the castle” in Spanish. Known as the Temple of Kukulcan, it’s a Mesoamerican step-pyramid. You can see why when you arrive.

visit the seven wonders of the world with kids - el castillo

2. The Mayans Were Great Astronomers

The temple pyramid has four staircases, one on each side. Each staircase has 91 steps, and when you add the platform at the top, that equals 365 steps total, representing the number of days in a year.

3. Incredible Acoustics

The Kukulcan pyramid is designed to create an acoustic effect that mimics the sound of the quetzal bird, which was considered sacred to the Mayans. The quetzal is a sacred bird in Mayan culture. The Mayans believed that the quetzal was a symbol of the sun and that its feathers could bring good luck. The quetzal is also a symbol of freedom and independence.

You can hear this sound when you clap your hands in front of a staircase. The resulting echo is a chirp rather than a clap, which sounds more or less like the sound of a quetzal (not that we’re that familiar with quetzal sounds).

hundreds of columns - visit Chichen Itza with kids

4. Chichén Itzá Was Well-Planned

The pyramid is directly aligned with the sun. During the spring and fall equinoxes, the sun creates a shadow that resembles a serpent crawling down the side of the pyramid.

Visit the gardens when you are in Chichen Itza Pyramid in Mexico

Chichen Itza in Mexico - experience this complex of famous Mayan ruins.

5. UNESCO World Heritage Site

The pyramid at Chichén Itzá was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

It’s very easy to visit the pyramid and the entire Chichén Itzá complex on a day trip from any of the towns around Cancun. It’s also fairly budget-friendly, so you should definitely consider adding it to your list when you’re visiting Cancun, Cozumel or the Mayan Riviera.

There are many sacred temples at Chichen Itza

Visiting Chichén Itzá with Kids: Insider Secrets

Planning a trip to Chichén Itzá with teenagers or kids can spark a few questions, especially when you’re aiming to make the experience both educational and fun. Here are some facts you might have to help you plan your visit.

What is Chichen Itza?

Chichén Itzá is one of the largest ancient Maya cities in Mexico, known for its pyramid temple. It was one of the most important Mayan cities during the Late Classic (AD 600–900) through the Terminal Classic (AD 800–900) and into the early portion of the Post-Classic period (AD 900–1200) of Mayan civilisation. The city was strategically located between the northern and southern regions of the Yucatan Peninsula, facilitating trade and cultural exchange between Mayan regions, and it became a powerful economic and political hub.

Why is Chichen Itza important?

It’s important because it shows us how advanced the Maya civilization was in areas like astronomy, engineering, and art. The site has temples, palaces, and the famous El Castillo pyramid tell us about Mayan innovation and culture.

Were there human sacrifices at Chichen Itza?

Yes, there is archaeological evidence, including human remains found in the Sacred Cenote that suggests the Mayans practiced human sacrifice as part of their religious rituals. These sacrifices were believed to appease the gods, particularly in times of drought or other crises. The Sacred Cenote is one of the most significant sites where evidence of this practice has been uncovered.

We also saw evidence of human sacrifices by the Mayans at the ATM Cave in Belize.

ATM cave tour in Belize - a must-do experience with kids

What’s the best time of year to visit Chichén Itzá with kids?

The best time is between November and March when the weather is cooler and more comfortable for exploring the ruins. We visited in June and it was quite hot, and there were many Mexican students on school field trips, so a bit crowded. Definitely avoid the heat of July and August.

What time should we arrive at Chichén Itzá?

Try to get there early, right when it opens at 8 AM. This way, you can beat the heat and the crowds, making it easier to explore with kids. If you’re taking a bus tour, you won’t arrive until after you’ve swam in a cenote and eaten lunch, sometime in the early to mid-afternoon. Explore quickly as it’s a big place and you might run out of time before it closes.

Can we climb the pyramid at Chichén Itzá?

Unfortunately, not anymore. Climbing the pyramid and any other structure at Chichén Itzá is not allowed. This helps preserve the site for future generations. If you want to climb a Mayan pyramid, visit Belize or Guatemala. These are older, but there are far fewer tourists and many are open to climbing.

Chichen Itza is one of the most impressive and well-preserved Mayan ruins in Mexico, and is recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

What else is there to see at Chichén Itzá besides the Great Pyramid?

There are many different things to see here, as this was an entire city. Many walls and buildings are still standing, and there are many impressive ruins. These were our favorites:

  • The Great Ball Court. It’s the largest ancient sports field in Mesoamerica where the Maya played a ball game with religious significance.
  • The Sacred Cenote. A natural sinkhole the Maya considered a gateway to the underworld, used for offerings, including precious items and even human sacrifices.
  • The Temple of the Warriors. A large complex surrounded by hundreds of columns, depicting warriors and scenes of conquest.

Is there a lot of walking involved?

Yes, there’s quite a bit of walking on uneven surfaces, so wear comfortable shoes. Bringing water is also a must to stay hydrated. There are paved paths everywhere, so bring a stroller for your kids if needed.

Are guides available?

Yes, you can hire a guide at the entrance. They offer valuable insights into the history and significance of the site, making the visit more meaningful. If you take a bus tour, you will have a guide for the day.

What should we bring?

Bring water, sunscreen, hats for shade, and a camera or phone. Snacks might also be a good idea since exploring can take several hours. There are plenty of vendors selling refreshments, however.

Is there an entrance fee?

Yes, there is an entrance fee for Chichen Itza. The cost will vary, so it’s best to check the latest prices online before you go.

Can we buy souvenirs there?

Oh yes. there are vendors outside and inside the site selling souvenirs like handmade crafts, jewelry, masks, and replicas of Maya artifacts. The exit takes you through one of the biggest souvenir markets we’ve ever seen, in any country. You’ll have no trouble finding souvenirs.

Visiting Chichén Itzá with kids isn’t just a walk through ancient ruins, it’s like an adventure into the past. Prepare to be amazed by the ingenuity of the Mayans (and try to ignore the crowds).

Have you been to visit Chichén Itzá in Mexico?

Let me know in the comments below and join me on Instagram and X (Twitter)!

About The Author


I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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