Chichen Itza translates as ‘At the mouth, of the well, of the place of water’. It is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico, and is one of the largest and most famed Mayan sites in Central America.
By accident we stumbled upon a great deal for a day trip, whilst caught up in a torrential downpour at the beach. A local travel company were offering transport, entrance fees and lunch for the small sum of $37. We had already shopped around and knew this was a good price (some tours being $99pp!), and being on a budget we were only interested in the cheapest tour we could find.
Our coach picked us up at 8am from down town Play Del Carmen, and after a quick stop to swap around some passengers (we think this was due to different languages) we were on our way. The journey was going to take around 2 hours and to our surprise we were served snacks consisting of a ham and cheese sandwich, cookies and a glass of orange juice, which we definitely weren’t expecting owing to the cheap cost of the trip. The tour guides on the coach spoke for quite sometime on the journey, explaining some history about what we were going to see today.
Our first stop was the location of a Cenote. A Cenote is a sinkhole which has appeared naturally after the collapse of limestone, which in turn exposes water underneath. They are particularly associated with the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Lots of people were dipping their toes into the cold water from a suspended platform, unsure whether or not they wanted to take the plunge. The emerald water looked so inviting, and after a few people jumped in, we decided to give it a go. The cold water took my breath away, and no amount of swimming around seemed to warm me up! I felt quite uneasy not knowing where the bottom was or what was below us, so after a few minutes I decided to get out, and left John to swim around a bit longer.
Our next stop was a delicious buffet lunch, with traditional Mexican foods and dancing. There was also a tequila factory next to the restaurant, which offered free tasters of a range of different flavoured tequilas. The lady explained the ageing process of the different bottles and John noted how different they tasted compared the harsh variety we get in the UK.
It was then time to make our way to Chichen Itza to see the famous El Castillo. The drive was around 30 minutes, and the hosts came around with fresh juice and beer. When we arrived at our destination we were all handed bottles of chilled water which was another added surprise. There is no shelter from the sun whilst you are there, so we hired a golf style umbrella for $2 to keep the heat of the day from wilting us. We were given a 45 minute guided tour of the site, our guide was very informative and offered many interactive points to keep us engaged. We then had around 45 minutes free time, and walked around to take in some of the ruins which we wanted to see closer up. We seemed to hit a quiet point in the day and managed to get some great pictures with no other tourists in the background. We were greeted at the coach by more cold water and baby wipes to refresh our faces after being in the searing heat.
Our final stop of the day was the Spanish influenced city of Valladolid. Home to a beautiful cathedral and park, lined with multi colour buildings and an amazing chocolate shop! we only spent 20 minutes here wandering around, tasting the chocolate samples and walking through the small park.
On our way back the hosts pulled out 2 huge bottles of tequila and asked the bus if we wanted to drink like Mexicans, they poured huge shots and handed round limes dipped in salt. The bus toasted together and those who took them up on their offer gulped down their shots at the same time. Following on from the shots came a round of Tequila Sunrise, we shared one whilst munching on the bags of crisps which also came round, as we drove back to Playa Del Carmen after a great day out.
This was probably the best value tour we had been on during our whole time away, at such a cheap price we weren’t expecting any of the additional drinks and snacks which we were provided with, and having seen the cost of the entrance tickets to Chichen Itza this took up a rather large chunk of the tour cost. If this taught us anything it’s that going with the cheapest doesn’t always mean you get a cut price tour!