Exploring Chichen Itza and The Ik Kil Cenote

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Remember when Charles and I traveled to Mexico last December for my girlfriend’s destination wedding? Most of our time there was spent at an all-inclusive resort. But we did manage to get off the resort for a day to explore.

Our itinerary for the day?

1) Chichen Itza – The capital of the Mayan Civilization and also one of the 7 man-made wonders in the world.

and

2) The Ik Kil Cenote – A large natural swimming hole fed by one of the many underground rivers located throughout the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico.

We booked the Clasico Tour through our resort with Experiencias Xcaret which included a bus pickup from our hotel, transportation to Chichen Itza  and the Ik Kil cenote as well as a buffet lunch.

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After a late night partying with friends, Charles and I were up at 6am to grab breakfast at the resort before rushing to catch our bus at 7am. It was a rough start considering we had gone to bed at 4am and were somewhat hungover – kudos to the “all inclusive” perks of the resort.

The first leg of our trip on the bus was spent asleep and/or guzzling water. Our bus stopped by a few other resorts nearby to pick up more tourists before making the 4 hour trip to Chichen Itza. This worked out perfectly because Charles and I were rested and ready to go when we arrived at our destination.

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The day was hot and humid. Overcast but very breezy so the cloud coverage was always changing and the sky would go from gray to sunny and back every couple of minutes.

Upon arrival, our tour guide handed out admission tickets to the group, led us through the main entrance and began sharing with us the significance of Chichen Itza as it pertained the Mayan Civilization and Mexico’s history.

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Chichen Itza dates back to 600-900 A.D. and walking through the archaeological site, I couldn’t help but feel amazed by the fact that these temples were all built by hand. The details within every inch of the grounds and the exact calculations needed to build such a feat exemplify how advanced in math and science the Mayan Civilization was before its time.

Super cool fact: The 12 month calendar we use today is based off of the Mayan calendar.

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^^ The columns in the Temple of a Thousand Warriors

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^^ The Castillo Temple, the most popular landmark in Chichen Itza.

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After a couple hours exploring Chichen Itza, we linked back up with our tour guide, hopped on the bus and headed “next door” to Ik Kil, located about 10 minutes away from Chichen Itza.

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The Ik Kil cenote is one of the larger natural swimming holes in Mexico. Historically in the Mayan culture, cenotes were used for ritual ceremonies and as burial sites where the dead were laid to rest.

I must admit that I was little nervous about swimming in the cenote, especially when looking down on it from viewing area above. It’s about 130 feet in depth and filled with alot of tiny black catfish that were harmless but still kind of freaked me out for some reason.

Add in my out of control imagination that envisioned the spirit of a Mayan ghost pulling me under the water to my death and I was in full scaredy cat mode for the first couple of minutes we were there lol. The whole time while I was swimming in the cenote, I was apologizing in my head to the “ghosts” for swimming in their burial hole… I know. I’m a whack job. But I do the same thing when I walk through cemeteries so at least I’m consistent, right?

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^^ Rinsing off before making our way down the tunnel to swim in the cenote.

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Once we finally made it down to the lower area, Charles and I took turns swimming and jumping off the diving ledge so there was always one person watching our bags and towels.

Ik Kil cenote has a high concentration of calcium in the water. This meant that 5-10 minutes of swimming felt like 30 minutes because the water was so dense and we tired very quickly. Most of the time, I just floated on my back and took in the beautiful  view of  the sky above.

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^^ Charles jumping off the ledge.

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^^ And me. Holding my nose per usual – I hate getting water up my nose.

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30 minutes later, we were pooped from swimming and made our way back up to Ik Kil’s on-site restaurant where we enjoyed a late lunch. An hour later, we boarded our tour bus and made the 4 hour drive back to our resort.

Overall Thoughts?

We’re sooo glad we made a point to get off the resort and see what Mexico had to offer besides its popular beaches and party scene.

We lucked out in getting a native Mayan tour guide who shared his honest views and opinions about their culture, history of oppression, and the positive and negative effects of tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula. It was a very humbling, reflective and educational experience.

Overall, I’m happy to say that I did more than just see a modern wonder of the world but also came away with a new perspective – one of the main reasons why I love traveling.

P.S. For more on our trip to Mexico, check out my Postcards from the Yucatan Peninsula :)

 {linking up with travel tuesday}

  • Looks like a lovely day! I bet a day away from the resort was perfect, especially with that natural swimming pool, it looks amazing!! :)

    • It definitely was Marcella! We were starting to get a bit of cabin fever on the resort (our first time staying in one place for so long when traveling) so having one day away really helped :)

  • I love, love Chichen Itza. We visited from Valladolid. I can’t believe I missed the cenote you are showing in here. That is an awesome one. We did visit three cenotes in and around Valladolid.

    • That sounds amazing! Whenever we make a trip back to Mexico, I definitely want to explore all the other cenotes in Mexico. I didn’t realize until we got there how many there actually were located all over the country. :)

  • I love that your took the initiative to get off your resort and explore! I Don’t mind all-incusive travel, but i need to get away form it at least for a day or two :)

    • Hi Carrie! This was my first time giving the all-inclusive resort experience a try and I definitely felt a bit antsy staying in one place for so long so I feel you. I’m really glad we made a point to get off the resort for one day :) xo

  • wooow!! Beautiful place and pictures!!

    • Thanks Jade! The photos don’t do it justice. Chichen Itza and the Ik Kil cenote were even more stunning in person :)

  • How COOL! And I can totally relate to your unspoken apologies and conversations with ghosts, haha. I do that all the time, so if that makes us weird/crazy, at least we know there’s one other person in this great big world that does it, too! ;) Thanks for linking up with #TravelTuesday!

    • Haha, glad I’m not the only who feels this way. Thanks for hosting!

  • Chichen Itza looks absolutely stunning, I’ve always wanted to go. So cool to wander around and be immersed in the history of the place. However, I’d have had exactly the same reservations as you about the swimming hole once I found out it’s an old burial ground! Eeek.

    • Hi Rachel! Chichen Itza was even more stunning in person,my photos don’t really do it justice. Hope you’re able to make a trip to see it live soon! xo