There are two sides to El Castillo of Chichen Itza, the most recognisable construct of this new Wonder of the World. Manicured perfection to the east; a vintage veneer to the west. It is questionable what should be viewed as 'the wonder'; the original creation or our ability to reconstruct the past.
Similarly, there are two sides to the tourist experience of this historic site. Whilst air-conditioned fleets from further afield in the Yucatan will coral in the parking lot, creating a guided head-phoned mass from 10a.m onwards, a more intimate experience can still be had.
Although an organised tour can be a very attractive option to those with little time or more funds, it is unlikely to result in the experience that glossy magazines or guidebook 'Top 10s' will convey: you will not get the perfect shot or the solitude to contemplate 1,000 years of non-Western history.
However, taking the time to plan your own journey with local transport from Valladolid and setting the alarm for 6 a.m. start will give you at least an hour or so to truly appreciate why this is a 'New Wonder of the World'.
Need some proof? Here's the shot you can get at 9 a.m.
And here's the same view at 10.30 a.m.
HOW TO GET THERE WITH PUBLIC TRANSPORT
From Valladolid, an air-conditioned collectivo will deliver you to the main site in 45 minutes. The first one will leave the station at 7.30 a.m, costing $25 per person. The second-class Oriente bus is the same cost, however a little less frequent.
You can breeze in, with no tour bus queues in attendance, and enjoy the site without a limit on your time. If you leave between 7.30 - 8.00 a.m. , you will actually beat the the majority of souvenir sellers to the site, thereby reducing your usage frequency of 'no, gracias' into double, rather than triple, figures on the day.
To return, there is no set timetable, but a collectivo or bus will usually be in the same parking area on or around the hour.
MONEY SAVING TIP
Bring your own bottled water and snacks for later on, especially if the early rise has necessitated a skipped or hurried breakfast. Also, avoid buying drinks from inside the main site, where a can of coke will set you back $28. Your better option is to go the number of stalls next to the parking area and buy a cool 'refresco' for the much more reasonable $15.
Transport: $50 pesos | Entrance fee: $180 pesos | Coke outside: $15 pesos | Total per person: $245 pesos
Avg. Tour group cost (inc. lunch and hotel pick-up): $1,000 - 1,300 pesos