Lisa Owen

If you thought you needed to join a tour to visit Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruins, you thought wrong.

Many of Mexico’s ruins are easily accessible by public transport from the towns of Valladolid, Merida, Tulum and Mexico City.

Here’s what you need to know to visit five of the most famous Mayan ruins independently.

chichen itza

Chichen Itza

The Chichen Itza Mayan ruins is one of the largest in Mexico and have been dated back as far as 600 AD. Chichen Itza is also one of Mexico’s most popular ruins – largely due to its proximity to the tourist mecca of Cancun - and its listing as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The ruins can be visited independently from Valladolid, Merida and even Cancun by bus. Valladolid is the town closest to the ruins and you’ll get there in less than an hour. Staying the night in Valladolid and reaching the ruins is my recommended option as you want to get there as early as possible.

The site starts getting busy by 8.30am and by 9.30am it is completely packed. You will be checking out the main pyramid with hundreds of other people.

From Valladolid, buses run every half hour out to the ruins starting from 6am. At the time of writing, tickets cost 85 MXN ($4.50 USD) each way. Simply turn up at the bus station and ask for a ticket for the next bus.

To get back, simply wait where you were dropped off and a bus returning to Valladolid will come by approximately every hour.

To get there from Merida and Cancun, ADO buses also run regularly but it will take about two hours to get to the ruins and you’ll likely arrive when everyone else does.

You cannot climb any of the structures in Chichen Itza and some areas are roped off so you can’t get that close. Tripods are strictly not allowed into the Chichen Itza site.

While you’re at Chichen Itza, it’s also possible to visit the nearby Cenote Ik-Kil. You can reach it on foot or take a collectivo (shared minibus) from the Chichen Itza carpark.

Entry to Chichen Itza was 275 MXN ($15 USD) at the time of writing.

uxmal

Uxmal

The Uxmal Mayan ruins are located about 50 miles south of Merida. The site is believed to date back to the 6th century and it is one of the best preserved Maya ruins in Mexico.

To get to the archaeological site, you need to catch a bus from the Terminal Autobus of Merida (TAME) - the second class bus terminal. It is located adjacent to the first class bus terminal where the ADO buses arrive and depart.

Tickets cost 130 MXN return ($6 USD) at the time of writing. You’ll be given an open return ticket with the option to come back on the 12pm, 3pm or 5pm bus.

The bus journey takes about 80 minutes and you will be dropped on the main road passing the entrance and then have to walk about five minutes to reach the ticket office.

To get the bus back, simply wait on the other side of the road to where you were dropped off (near the chocolate museum) and flag the bus down when it comes by.

Entry to the Uxmal ruins is 200 MXN ($10 USD).

It’s possible to climb up to the top of some of the ruins for beautiful views of the complex.

tulum

Tulum

The Tulum ruins are located so close to the centre of Tulum, you can actually walk there in about 30 minutes.

The Tulum ruins are believed to date back to the 6th century.

You can also hire a bike and ride there, or take a collectivo (shared minibus) to the ruins entrance for 30 MXN ($1.50 USD).

There’s plenty of places to chain up your bike at the ruins entrance.

Entry to the ruins is 70 MXN ($4 USD). It’s a much smaller site than Chichen Itza or Uxmal, but what makes it special is that it overlooks the Caribbean Sea. In fact, it’s the only Mayan site built by the beaches of the Caribbean.

Make sure you bring your swimmers along as there’s a small beach inside the complex that’s perfect for a dip.

palenque

Palenque

The Palenque Mayan ruins are one of the biggest archaeological sites in Mexico. They are located under a thick jungle canopy and many ruins have yet to be evacuated.

The ruins are believed to date back to 226 BC.

The site is located only a few minutes drive from the town of the same name.

To get to the town of Palenque, you can take an ADO Bus from Merida or San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s a long journey of eight plus hours as Palenque is located in the middle of nowhere in the jungle. From the town of Palenque, you can then catch a collectivo to the ruins for 20 MXN at the time of writing.

However, rather than staying in Palenque, increasingly many travelers are taking the option to base themselves in San Cristobal de las Casas and see Palenque as well as the beautiful Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls on a long day trip. Shuttle buses leave San Cristobal de las Casas at 4am and return at 10pm.

The entrance fee into Palenque was 90 MXN ($5 USD) at the time of writing.

teotihucan

Mexico City (Teotihucan)

The Teotihucan Mayan ruins near Mexico City date back to 100 BC.

The archaeological site can be accessed by a combination of the metro and bus from Mexico City.

First you need to get on the yellow metro line (Line 5) in the direction of Politecnico to the Autobuses del Norte station. If you’re staying in the centre near the Pino Suarez Metro Station, the easiest way to get onto Line 5 is to take the pink line to Pantitlan (end of the line) and change to the yellow line (direction Politecnico). The cost of the metro including transfers is only 5 MXN (only 27 US cents!).

From the Autobuses del Norte metro station, head to the bus station across the street and then go to the Teotihucan bus ticket counter near Gate 8 to get your ticket for the one-hour bus ride to the ruins. Tickets cost 100 MXN ($5 USD) return at the time of writing.

Entry into the Teotihucan ruins cost 70 MXN ($4 USD) at the time of writing.

mayan ruins in mexico

Things You Should Know

  • Mexico’s ADO Bus network is very modern, safe and efficient. You can buy bus tickets the day before your departure at ADO bus station counters.
  • Entry costs into the Mayan ruins and bus fares frequently increase. All prices quoted were correct at the time of writing but are subject to change.
  • Mexico is a cash economy. You will need to buy bus tickets and pay ruin entry costs in cash.
  • Ruins such as Tulum and Chichen Itza attract lots of tourists. Head there early to avoid the crowds.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 70 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.