This whole year I’ve been searching out socially distanced adventures for my family and I am here to report that it is entirely possible to have an amazing socially distanced Chichén Itzá weekend that kids and adults will adore. We hadn’t been to this modern wonder of the world since 2016, so I figured it was time for us to return.
I took my family to the fabulous Mayaland Hotel and Bungalows, just on the edge of the enormous Chichén Itzá complex. The hotel, surrounded by jungle, is spacious and airy, just right for a pandemic escape. Even when you’re walking through corridors it feels as if you’re outside due to the sheer number of open windows letting in the gorgeous jungle breeze.
From the moment you arrive, the members of staff are friendly and kind. They are super knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. Everyone speaks English, in fact, we had a hard time persuading them to speak Spanish with us!
Although the hotel can’t guarantee an early check-in, they will do everything they can to accommodate early arrivals. We were there by midday and had our room immediately, which by the way, was truly stupendous: we had a corner room with a view of the Caracol Observatory and of the most magnificent 300-year-old tree, making this writer a very happy person indeed.
The kids will love exploring the grounds, which are a mix of paths, manicured lawns, and jungle areas. There are two pools on-site and I have to admit to having been perfectly happy letting my kids frolic in the water while I rested after our arduous journey all the way from distant Mérida.
Exploring Chichén Itzá
Sadly, the hotel’s private entrance into Chichén Itzá is not open at the moment, nor are guests given preferential early entrance, but this really didn’t matter in the end. While officially the restaurant opens at 7 am for breakfast, we were already seated and served by 7 am to ensure we could get to the site for the 8 am opening.
We were on-site by 8:15 am and we were by no means the first to arrive, but there was no comparison with the crowds when we left at midday. Of course, El Castillo (the main pyramid and the first thing you see) is the main draw. I recommend getting your pictures and gawping out of the way as quickly as possible and then heading off to explore the quieter spots. Check out the impressive ball court to the left before heading off to the (non-swimmable) Cenote Sagrado nearby, the Templo de los Guerreros, the Grupo de las Columnas, and of course, El Observatorio Caracol.
While you might initially be horrified by the sheer number of souvenir stalls, don’t be put off. The sellers are incredibly friendly and kind: they don’t mind at all when the kids spend (what feels like) hours asking questions and coveting all the items they sell. In fact, they’ll be laughing alongside you when you have to drag your kid away reminding them they’re out of souvenir money. And yes, I speak from a place of experience.
Away from the main plaza, everything is much quieter. There are plenty of opportunities to sit still and just take it all in: close your eyes for a moment, listen to the birds chirping all around you, breathe deep, and smell the wonderful blossoms that permeate the air. Remember that this is how the Maya population of Chichén Itzá would have experienced their home, too, when they stopped and took a moment of calm. What an utter privilege.
Open your eyes now, your kids are probably doing something ridiculous.
Top tip: If you’re a Mexican citizen or a resident of Yucatán, be sure to take your ID as the prices vary. On Sundays, entry is free for anyone with a Mexican residency card.
Editorial by Cassie Pearse
Freelance writer and blogger, born in the UK. Cassie has a BA from Oxford University and an MA from SOAS, University of London. She lives in Mérida and loves exploring Yucatán with her family.
Photography by Cassie Pearse for its use in Yucatán Today.
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