Chichen Itza, not Chicken Pizza
If you were ever looking for a fantastic weekend getaway, I highly recommend visiting Chichen Itza, another of the Seven Wonders of the World. My work schedule is extremely busy but nevertheless I was able to make this trip happen without missing a day at work! I will give you a quick overview of how I made it in three days.
I departed SFO on a late Friday night, arriving at CUN on Saturday at about 7 a.m local time. The weather was stunningly beautiful and warm, a stark contrast to windy and chilly San Francisco. Chichen Itza is a two hour drive from Cancun, so I recommend picking up a car near the Cancun airport, as it is the most convenient and inexpensive option. Make sure to book it advance, which costs only $5/day. On the way there, you will be required to pay tolls in cash(pesos), the local currency, because other currencies and credit card are not accepted. I grabbed a hearty breakfast at a nearby hotel, called Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa, which had an amazing view of the ocean at the beach onsite.
After breakfast, I began driving to Mayaland Resort & Bungalows, the hotel that I would stay for the night. The drive is very simple and involves driving on a straight road for the majority of the time. Mayaland Resort provides not only free parking but also its own entrance to Chichen Itza to avoid the long lines. There is also a buffet here for those that want to grab something to eat. The next destination was visiting Cenote Ik Kil, a short drive from the hotel, and one of the most breathtaking places I have ever experienced in my entire life. Feel free to bring swimsuits and spend time swimming in this gorgeous cenote.
After admiring the beauty of nature that the cenote has to offer, I headed back to the hotel to watch a night time show. It was a unique 360 immersive experience that you watched on the ceiling of the room. It provided a historical perspective of Chichen Itza and various mythological stories that revolved around this landmark.
I got up in the morning at 7 a.m. the next day to eat breakfast and prepared to visit Chichen Itza, which opens from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Chichen Itza itself is a city built by the Mayans and was critical from about 600 AD to 1200 AD. When entering Chichen Itza, I first encountered what was known as the Group of a Thousand Columns. Divided into three separate regions and with a roof previously on top, these columns served both civic and religious purposes.
The main attraction to see at Chichen Itza is the pyramid El Castillo, also known as Temple of Kukulcan. A fun fact about this pyramid is that each of the four sides consists of 91 steps, meaning that these steps, along with the temple platform on top, results in 365 steps! Other places of interest worth visiting in Chichen Itza are the Great Ball Court, Sacred Cenote, the Osario, and El Caracol (observatory). Note that the cenote here is only for viewing purposes and not for swimming. Overall, about 3 hours was spent visiting Chichen Itza. While at Chichen Itza, I left my luggage in the hotel room and returned by noon for check out.
I then drove to Playa del Carmen to take the ferry to the charming island of Cozumel. At Playa del Carmen, I had one of the most delicious meals at a must-try restaurant called Carnitas y Barbacoa Silao. Unfortunately, most of the beaches were closed on Sunday, but it was still wonderful to breathe the air of Cozumel. After taking the ferry back, I ended my day by staying at Courtyard by Marriott Cancun Airport, a nice hotel that provides a free shuttle service to and from the airport. My flight was 6:45 a.m. the next day, so I was able to arrive in San Francisco and continue with the rest of my day.
Although my trip was relatively short, it was a fulfilling and productive weekend spending it in Mexico and completing another of the Seven Wonders of the World!