tulum versus chichen itza

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: Which Mayan Ruins are Better?

If you are wondering what are the best ruins between Tulum and Chichen Itza, you have landed in the right place.


In this post, we are going to compare the two popular archeological sites, Tulum vs Chichén Itzá to help you decide which one is better and more worthy of your time.

First of all, you should know that Chichén Itzá is the most visited archeological site in Mexico while Tulum comes second on the list.

Teotihuacan, the big capital city near CDMX, is the third most visited in the country, for reference.

Also, the archeological zone in Tulum is located in the Riviera May right on the Caribbean Sea, while Chichén Itzá is in the middle of the state of Yucatán, 2 hours and 30 minutes from the Riviera Maya.

chichen itza visitor statistics
Number of people in thousands

Table of Contents

Tulum vs. Chichen Itza | Overview

About the Tulum Ruins

The ruins of Tulum are an icon of the Mexican Caribbean, Tulum is the most sought-after postcard of the Mexican Caribbean, with an impressive turquoise blue background. Many visitors just go there to see the spectacular view💙

tulum versus chichen itza

About the Chichen Itza Ruins

Chichén Itzá ruins have been proclaimed one of the 7 World’s Seven Wonders which makes it even more attractive for the visitor. This is also one of the reasons why Chichén Itzá and its Kukulkan Castle are the most visited ruins in all of Mexico.

tulum versus chichen itza

Tulum vs. Chichen Itza | Common comparison facts

Tulum vs. Chichen Itza: which one is bigger?

Chichén Itzá is much bigger than Tulum and although much of the old city hasn’t been brought to light is still much bigger and requires much more time for a visit.

How much time does it take to visit the sites?

To visit Chichen you should consider at least 1 hour and 30 minutes to go through the main route. However, if you are going to walk through the entire site you will need at least 3 hours.

To visit Tulum, you will need between one hour and 1 hour and 30 minutes depending on how many pictures you are going to take 😜 or how long you will be staring at that beautiful sight. 👀

Which ruins are more impressive?

If we look at the architecture and majesty of the buildings, without a doubt Chichén Itzá is the absolute winner. This ancient Mayan city, one of the largest and most impressive capitals, is truly majestic. It has an impressive Castle and a huge Ball Game that you will not see anywhere else.

Tulum is a postcard-worthy place with the Caribbean Sea as a turquoise backdrop, Tulum Mayan ruins leave no one indifferent.

You cannot climb any of the buildings in Chichén Itzá or Tulum.

Which one is more popular?

Both are really well-known and popular, but Chichén has an international advantage over Tulum for being one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

Which one is cheaper?

Chichén Itzá has an entry fee of 571 Mexican Pesos per person while Tulum of 85 Mexican Pesos per person, a huge difference.

tulum ruins
Tulum Castle
chichen-castillo
Chichén Itza Castle

Tulum vs. Chichen Itza | Location

Tulum Ruins Location

Tulum is in the Quintana Roo state. The archeological site is located only 4 km from Tulum downtown. From Playa del Carmen is 62 km (32 miles) and from Cancun is 128 km (95 miles).

Chichen Itza Location

Chichen Itza is in the Yucatan state. It’s located almost halfway between Cancun and Merida. From Valladolid just 45 km (28 miles). From Riviera Maya, it takes about 2 hours and a half by road, and 2 hours from Mérida.

Chichen Itza ruins are located 200 km (124 miles) west of Cancun (2 hr 40 min by car) at 187 km (116 miles) west of Playa del Carmen (2 hr 30 min by car) and 150 km (93 miles) from Tulum town. From Mérida 119 km (74 miles) (1 hour 45 minutes by car).

map tulum versus chichen itza
Open Google maps

Tulum Ruins or Chichen Itza: Who are the ruins best suited for?

Who are the Tulum Ruins suited for?

The archaeological zone of Tulum is perfect for everyone. It is a small enclosure and really very beautiful, so everyone will appreciate it.

It is ideal for families, as both children and older adults can enjoy it and the distances are doable.

For those who don’t like to walk, there is a shuttle from the parking lot to the entrance of Tulum. There is access for wheelchair users.

tulum ruins cancun

Who are the Chichen Itza Ruins suited for?

The ruins of Chichén Itzá are recommended for all audiences. However, as the site is huge and requires a lot of walking it should be taken into consideration if you are not fit for walking or standing for a long time, especially under the hot sun. (TIP- make sure you bring water with you)

The official parking lot near the entrance to the venue fills up in the morning, there are others further away from the entrance, from where you have to walk another 300 meters. There is access for wheelchair users.

tulum versus chichen itza

Tulum vs. Chichen Itza Ruins: Highlights

Highlights of Tulum Ruins

The beautiful Castle facing the Caribbean Sea and the amazing Temple of Paintings together with the wonderful location facing the sea are the highlights of Tulum.

For sure, the most beautiful Mayan City in the Caribbean.

tulum ruins

Highlights of Chichen Itza 

The Kukulcán Castle is undoubtedly a masterpiece of ancient Mayan architecture, a tribute to knowledge about time, it is impressive.

The Chichén Itzá Ball Court is another of the outstanding buildings together with the Observatory and the Group of the Nuns.

Chichén is a majestic architectonical work.

chichen itza versus tulum

Downsides of Tulum Ruins

The amount of people who visits Tulum daily is one of the downsides. If you want to be there with a smaller crowd make sure you be there at 8 in the morning when you will find just a few people.

Downsides of Chichen Itza

The same goes for Chichen Itza, really a lot of people are flocking to the site every day. Even if Chichen Itza is currently operating with certain restrictions and only 3000 visitors are allowed per day, it’s still a lot of people.

For the best experience, we recommend you rent a car and go on your own. This way you can get there the night before and stay in Pisté, a town near the ruins of Chichén, so that the following day you can get there when it opens at 8 a.m., avoid the line and enjoy the site almost all for yourself.

And remember that in Chichen Itza you can attend the light show. Click to know more about visit Chichén Itzá

Tulum versus Chichén Itzá
Sound and light show

Where to stay in Piste near Chichen Itza

Here are a few suggestions for the hotels in Piste.

🏨 Casa de Las Lunas

A cute budget-friendly hotel right outside Piste on the way to Chichen-Itza. A great choice if you want to save on accommodation and yet be in a comfortable and cozy environment.

🏨 Puerta Chichén Itzá

Hotel Puerta Chichen Itza is a budget hotel located only 3 minute drive from Chichen Itza Entrance. Not a fancy place but clean and comfortable with ample rooms and a large pool in a lovely garden.

🏨 Mayaland

Mayaland is basically inside the ruins, not only convenient for the location, but also a charming place in colonial style with a spectacular view over the ruins from the main building.

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: How to Visit the Ruins

How to Visit the Tulum Ruins

You can easily visit the ruins of Tulum from anywhere you are in the Riviera Maya, either on your own or on a tour. They are located only 4 kilometers from the town of Tulum.

Here below we will mention the available options you have:

Getting to Tulum by public transportation

There are buses that run between Tulum and Playa del Carmen and leave you in front of the entrance to the parking lot located on federal highway 370 (this highway connects Cancun with Tulum).

Ask the driver to tell you when to get off for the Tulum.

If you leave from Cancun you must go to Playa del Carmen and there take the bus to the entrance of Tulum.

Getting to Tulum by bicycle

From Tulum, it is a great option to rent a bicycle and get to the Tulum ruins from the beach road. You will find a specific area where you can lock your bike, right before getting to the restrooms and the ticket office.

Getting to Tulum by taxi

Taxis have official rates, and you can request the driver to show them. If you want them to wait for you at the exit, you must agree on a price with the driver. Keep in mind that taxis in Tulum are outrageously expensive compared to other destinations in Mexico.

Getting to Tulum by private car

If you do not have your own vehicle, you can rent a car and get around on your own, and thus organize your vacation to your liking in the Riviera Maya.

When renting a car in Mexico we recommend Discover Cars because on their website you can compare different companies and their prices and you can choose between their car insurance or the ones offered by the car rental directly, or both.

Visiting Tulum by tour

There are amazing tours that combine the visit to Tulum with another activity, normally with Cobá and a cenote or swimming with turtles in Akumal. It is a way to comfortably visit these attractions and leave the organization part to a knowledgeable guide while you are enjoying the sites.

Here below we have selected the best tours for you to enjoy.

How to Visit the Chichen Itza Ruins

Chichén is about two and a half hours by car from the Riviera Maya and 2 hours from Mérida. We recommend you sleep in Pisté, the town located a few km from the ruins, that is if you go on your own.

Another very good option is to sleep in beautiful Valladolid, which is only 40 minutes from Chichén Itzá.

Getting to Chichen Itza by Public transportation

Transporte público: si estás en Valladolid hay colectivos hasta Pisté que salen cerca del Parque. Desde Pisté deberás caminar alrededor de 1 kilómetro hasta el acceso a las ruinas de Chichén Itzá.

Getting to Chichen Itza by Taxi

You can go by taxi from any point you are. They have official rates, but if you want them to wait for you, you must agree on a price with them. From Riviera Maya they will charge you between 3,500-4,000 pesos with a stop at a cenote or in Valladolid. But in this case I would recommend booking a private tour with an official guide instead.

Getting to Chichen Itza by Car

If you do not have your own car, it is a very good option to rent a car for your vacations in the Yucatan Peninsula.

To get to Chichén you can go by highway or by toll-free road, and both are good options. Just remember to keep some cash with you in Mexican Pesos as the toll roads don’t accept payment in US or cards.

Getting to Chichen Itza by Tour

If you are on vacation in the Riviera Maya or in Merida and want to save hours of driving and spend a comfortable and relaxed day, the ideal is to go on a tour.

The tours they offer combine the guided visit to Chichén Itzá with other visits to a cenote and Valladolid.

We leave you the recommendation of some tours so that it is easy for you to book and enjoy the day 🙌🏽

Tulum vs Chichen Itza: What are the ruins like?

What are the Tulum Ruins like?

Tulum is a small area but with lots of charm that makes visitors fall in love. Its location at the foot of the Caribbean Sea and its beautiful buildings make it a place that everyone likes.

What are the Chichen Itza Ruins like?

Chichén is a great city where you can enjoy majestic buildings and large spaces, a unique opportunity to explore the history of an ancient city.

tulum versus chichen itza
Tulum
tulum versus chichen itza
Chichén Itzá

FAQs about the Tulum vs Chichen Itza Ruins

What are the opening hours?

TULUM opens every day from 9 am to 4.30 pm  Last access at 3.30 pm

CHICHEN ITZA is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day. The last entrance is at 4 pm. From 4:30 you will be asked to leave, by 4.45 for the central plaza.

When is the best time to visit?

In both cases, we recommend visiting early in the morning, at 8 am. At this time you avoid the big crowds.

What should you wear to the ruins?

Wear comfortable shoes, and light clothes for the heat, and shorts are fine. Wear a cap to protect yourself from the sun.

What should you bring to the ruins?

You can only enter with a small handbag or backpack and water. You can use mosquito repellent, although there are almost no mosquitoes neither in the ruins of Tulum or Chichén Itzá.

Is Chichen Itza closer to Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

It is almost the same distance from Cancun as it is from Playa del Carmen to get to the ruins of Chichén Itzá. From Cancun, there are 200 kilometers and from Playa del Carmen 185 kilometers. 2 hours and 35 minutes from Cancun and 2 hours and 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen by car.

Is Tulum near Chichen Itza?

The ruins of Tulum are 153 kilometers from Chichén Itzá, by car it takes 2 hours and 10 minutes. You can visit them on the same day 😊

Is it worth going to the Tulum Ruins?

Of course, it is, you will love to visit the postcard-worthy site of the Mexican Caribbean.

Is it worth seeing Chichen Itza?

Chichén Itzá is unmissable, it leaves no one indifferent, and its structures are majestic.

tulum versus chichen itza
tulum versus chichen itza

WHAT YOU CAN VISIT NEARBY TULUM

➡️Mystica museum – right at the parking lot you will find a brand new museum called Mystica – it’s a photography tribute to the Mayan world and the natural beauty of this region, through video sounds and stunning images. 

➡️Caleta Tankah 13.5 km/ 8 miles

➡️Cenote Cristal y Escondido 13.5 km/ 8 miles

➡️Cenote Corazón 14 km/ 8.6 miles

➡️Grand Cenote 22 km/ 13.6 miles

➡️Cobá ruins 48 km/ 29.8 miles

➡️Xel Ha ruins 16 km/ 10 miles

WHAT YOU CAN VISIT NEARBY

➡️ Cenote Ik Kil 6 km/ 3.7 miles
➡️ Valladolid 45 km/ 28 miles
➡️ Cenote Yokdzonot 18 km/11 miles
➡️ Cenotes Dzitnup 43 km/ 26.7 miles
➡️ Cenote Oxman 42 km/ 26 miles
➡️ Cenote Selva Maya 39.5 km/ 24.5 miles

➡️Ek Balam ruins 68 km/ 42 miles

tulum versus chichen itza

Final Thoughts:  Which is better Tulum ruins or Chichen Itza?

Honestly, we really like both ruins, although they are very different, both are magical. Chichen Itza is very impressive but it’s farther away compared to Tulum, which is at easy reach from anywhere from Cancun or the Riviera Maya.

If you want something quiet and close, visit Tulum, if you don’t mind the distance from Riviera Maya go to Chichén Itzá.

Tulum’s site location, facing the Caribbean is really unique, though.

Without a doubt, they are the most beautiful ruins in the Mexican Caribbean. Chichén is a very special and magnificent place. Kukulcán Castle is a masterpiece of ancient Mayan knowledge, and leaves everyone in awe!

So, by now we hope you have helped you make up your mind. If not, oh well, you just go visit both sites and let us know which one was your favorite! Enjoy beautiful Mexico! 🤗

tulum versus chichen itza

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