Mexico

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

Oct 18 , 2022 · 8 min read

Clients going to Mexico often ask if Tulum or Chichen Itza is better for sightseeing. Both Mayan cities are beautiful, fascinating, and memorable; if possible, you should spend time at both places.

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

But in case your time is limited, and you have to choose between Tulum and Chichen Itza, we’ve got all the info on these Mexican gems. Or maybe you want to prioritize your time. It’s always a good idea to do some research and plan how much time you will spend in each place.

All About Chichen Itza

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

Almost everyone has heard of this iconic site on the UNESCO World Heritage list, named one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This Yucatan landmark is on the bucket list of many people who would love the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the pyramid and ruins. El Castillo, the Temple of Warriors, the Platform of Thousand Columns, and well-preserved ruins will be a highlight of your trip to Mexico. 

Read up on the history of Chichen Itza before you go there. Find out interesting facts and local beliefs about the sacred area to enhance your time there. For example, scientists researching Chichen Itza found several nested pyramids inside the pyramid of Kukulkan.

Many say the Serpent God Kukulkan returns to Chichen Itza twice annually (during the spring and fall equinoxes). This optical illusion draws in more tourists than usual, and locals want to see the serpent slither down the temple stairs if the sun shines.

All About Tulum

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

As the only port city and central trading hub of the Mayan Empire, it was once an important location in the history books. The ruins of Tulum are also very well known, but perhaps not as famous as Chichen Itza. It hasn’t been recognized by UNESCO but still is a popular place to visit.

Tulum is on the Caribbean coast, so this pretty spot comes with stunning ocean views and is just 20 minutes from Tulum town and near many nice beaches. Photos of the ruins with a backdrop of blue sea, sky, and fluffy clouds always turn out to be postcard-perfect. Be sure to snap a picture of the upside-down god at the Temple of Frescoes and the towering El Castillo.

You don’t want to miss Tulum because it’s the sole walled fortress that the Maya people constructed between 1200 and 1450 AD. The word Tulum translates to the wall, hence the name of this historical area. The original name of Tulum was Zama, which translates to the place of the dawning sun in the Mayan language. 

Seeing Tulum and Chichen Itza

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

You can book a tour that takes in Chichen Itza and Tulum on the same day. It’s a non-stop long day to see both places, but if you are tight on time, you might want to consider it. Many people spend 3-4 hours or even the whole day exploring Chichen Itza and about 1-4 hours in Tulum. Other tours take in cenotes and smaller ruins.

We recommend keeping aside a day for each is best to experience the wonder of these stunning places fully. You can start early to beat the heat, enjoy a leisurely lunch and wander around some more in the afternoon. You could try a new restaurant or catch a show in the evening before heading back to your hotel or resort.

It is scorching work discovering the ruins. You might like to have the following day as a relaxing day at your resort. Wear sunblock, hats, sunglasses and light clothing that covers your body well and stays hydrated. It is easy to get dehydrated or even suffer heat stroke if you are not prepared for a day of viewing the ruins.

What To Bring

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

It’s hot without a lot of shade, so you must be prepared when visiting the ruins and many other tourist sites around Mexico. Here is a list of the essentials you will need:

The Cost Difference

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

Entry to Chichen Itza is more expensive than Tulum at about US$25 compared to US$3 (according to today’s currency exchange rates). Or 480 pesos versus 70 pesos. Both prices are a bargain when you consider how amazing the sites are and compare them to famous landmarks in other countries. There is an additional charge for using video cameras and hiring a private guide on arrival to the site if needed. While it isn’t mandatory to hire a professional guide, you will learn more about the ruins and support the local economy simultaneously. 

The Crowds

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

Chichen Itza is a more popular tourist destination and, therefore, more crowded than Tulum. But still, both places get busy. Avoid the crowds by arriving early; you might even get some photos without too many people in the background.

Another way is to reach 1-2 hours before each place closes. As the crowds depart the ruins, temples, and pyramids, it gets quieter. The downside is your time is limited. It is free for Mexicans to enter Chichen Itza and Tulum on Sundays, meaning it is always very busy.

More To See

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

After you have explored Tulum and Chichen Itza, you have a world of fun to explore in and around the Riviera Maya area. If you love the outdoors, you have zip-lining, hiking, ATVs, and an array of exciting tours. Check out the Tulum Mural Tour, where you meet a local artist and see amazing Mexican artwork. You will indulge in exotic Mexican food with authentic flavors and perhaps a tequila shot or two along the way.

For a modern take on the Tulum ruins and Chichen Itza, visit the interesting underground river in the Maya civilization archaeological site called Xcaret. It’s a great place to spend the day, beat the heat, and experience a new side of Tulum. 

More Ruins

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Key Differences To Know Before You Visit

If you can’t get enough of the inspiring ruins, there are more in the area worth seeing. The Coba ruins and Ek Balam should be on your travel radar. It will take about 45 minutes from Tulum to drive to the Coba ruins, and there are also nice cenotes in the area. So you can easily combine a trip to both places in a day.

To reach Ek Balam from Tulum will take about two hours by car. The trek is worth it since you will see unique stucco work that can’t be seen anywhere else around the Yucatan area. Also, this site allows visitors to climb the pyramids, unlike most other places. It is 106 steps to the top and the views are magnificent.

Many people say that climbing won’t be allowed in the future, which wouldn’t be surprising since Tulum and Chichen Itza previously allowed people to climb to the top. Look for the big open mouth of hell and winged warriors at Ek Balam if you can squeeze it into your sighting itinerary. Allow around two hours to fully explore the wonders of Ek Balam, including temples, hidden passages, stairways, and the impressive acropolis with the most significant pre-Hispanic buildings in Meso-America.

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The face of travel is changing rapidly. We are proudly leading the industry with an innovative and flexible Book Now, Pay Later option.

You can buy the air ticket and vacation packages by putting down a small deposit to secure the services and pay the balance in installments.

Flexibility and savings are just some of the benefits of flying with Trip Support.

You can book now and pay later and go to Honolulu in Hawaii with Trips Support. Get your pay later flight to Hawaii by Trip Support today!

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