Although not the only Mayan temple complexes on the Yucatan Peninsula, these two are certainly the most famous. Oh and they are both UNESCO SITES! (Uxmal & Chichen Itza) 🙂 We were lucky enough on our last trip to visit both complexes, which I recommend if you have the time; if not, here is a run down so you can choose your own adventure!
Read more: Our Yucatan Itinerary
We decided to sleep in Valladolid the morning before visiting Chichen Itza to cut down our morning drive but it is about an hour and a half from Merida and 2 and a half from Cancun; on the other hand, Uxmal is about an hour from Merida and 4 hours from Cancun. Because Chichen Itza is so centrally located most tourists visit it over Uxmal. Which brings me to my next point…
Because Chichen Itza is easier to get to, it has a LOT more traffic. We arrived by 9:30 in the morning and there was a huge line to get in. Once in, the crowd thins a bit because there is space to spread out but by midday Chichen Itza felt like Disney World. Our tour guide said they see about 10-12 thousand visitors a day. The crowd at Chichen is totally something that annoyed me, just too much going on, but if it doesn’t bother you then go for it! Uxmal was by no means empty but it feel like you had more room to breathe.
You have to pay for parking at both sites, about 30 pesos, but we learned that you can park outside the main lot for FREE at both places. Now, if this trip was just my husband and I that’s what we would have done but it was worth the 30 pesos for park closer for my 80-year-old grandmother.
Both places had a million different vendors selling all sorts of trinkets, dresses, toys, you name it! However at Uxmal there were none inside the site, but at Chichen Itza they were stationed every foot or so! Now that can be super convenient if you are interested in buying souvenirs (we bought something for my mother-in-law) but it was mostly annoying to get hassled all day.
Because Chichen Itza so much more popular, they have closed down climbing on any of the temples or buildings since 2006; it’s for the safety of the artifacts. At Uxmal, you cannot climb the main temple (honestly the staircase would have been terrifying anyways) but you can hike up the steep stairs on almost everything else. The view from the top was drop dead gorgeous, the way down was drop dead dangerous. But I did it!!!!! So worth it!
Both sites aren’t expensive for Americans: 117 pesos per person (Uxmal) and 237 pesos (Chichen Itza). I would highly suggest you get tour guide, even though I know quite a bit about the Maya Civilization, there is a lot about the individual temples that I leaned new from our guide. Since we were going to both sites, we decided to get one at Chichen Itza but not Uxmal. And guess what?! Getting tour guide allowed us to skip the line for the entrance tickets, killing two birds with one stone. 🙂
And the winner is…
You can probably tell I preferred Uxmal: less crowds, the ability to climb the temples and an incredible birds eye view just won me out. But Chichen Itza is one of the SEVEN New Wonders of the World…that is certainly something to consider. Only you can decide what is best for your vacation.