My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Driving to the new wonder of the world: Chichen Itza

2012/08/20by Donna Hull

Are you a boomer traveler who enjoys visiting World Heritage Sites? Did you know that Chichen Itza in Mexico  has recently been named to the list? In today’s guest post, Elaine Masters of Trip Wellness takes us on a Chichen Itza road trip.


Chichen Itza

There was a sweet, warm breeze flowing over the deck on our ferry ride from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen. I watched the island slip away after four days spent diving through clouds of bright fish, caves and turquoise waters. The half hour ride took us closer to the Yucatan jungle with its underground rivers, cenotes, and the ancient trade site of Tulum. The southern end of the Mexican Riviera is also  dotted with modern resorts and the tourist diversions of Xcaret and Xplor, but I wanted the treasure buried deep in the jungle, the new World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza.

My partner and I planned two days exploring the ruins by driving and then flying home from Cancun. Within an hour along a nearly deserted road, we passed the entrance to the ruins of Copa. This lesser known park is a worthy site to visit but it was the hottest time of day and we decided to keep going.

Soon we were cruising through modest suburbs of small houses and stores. They gave way to the colonial neighborhoods of Valladolid. The historical city was the site of a bloody battle at the turn of the last century when the Maya rose up against the wealthy landowners. Today the graceful town square is surrounded by Spanish style banks, restaurants, shops and hotels.

Soon we saw signs to our lodging at Hacienda Chichen. It rests in a small hotel zone just steps from the southeast entrance to the archaeological site. We passed the Villa Archaeologico, which hosts a small Club Med, and the larger Mayaland hotel, then turned into our hotel driveway and time stopped.


Hacienda Chichen

Down a graceful, tree lined lane, we rode up to the wide stairway portico of the hacienda. A noble and ancient Laurel tree stretched its long limbs over the road. As we stepped out of the car, jungle sounds filtered through the late afternoon shade. The metallic call of cicadas heralded more dry weather to come, the Mayan concierge told us.

Our standard room was graciously appointed with wrought iron bed frames and mirrors. Dark beams were set into the arched ceiling. Outside on the veranda, two rocking chairs waited; but we quickly unpacked and slipped into the pool—a slab of cool, deep blue—simple and minimalist.

The hotel is committed to sustainable tourism and eco-friendly practices. Laid out over 300 acres, the current owners also foster the welfare of the community and children nearby with lessons in the village and a staff that is 99% Maya.  A Mayan Medicine Herbal Path was cleared by the J-Men Asuncion and Idelfonso (Maya Elder Healers and Shamans) to identify and teach the healing properties of indigenous herbs and plants on the property. We found that the Yaxskin Spa had a couple’s special and enjoyed a Mayan ritual massage with local fragrant herbs.


Breakfast on the veranda

The next morning, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the Hacienda veranda and then walked about five minutes to the formal entrance to Chichen Itza. At the ticket booth we hired a certified guide who spent hours walking us through the history, palaces, temples and educating us about the people who had built the stone buildings over centuries. I was so happy to have brought an umbrella for shade as hats provided poor protection from the intense heat.

That evening we returned for the nightly light show at the base of the pyramid of Kukulkan, the tallest construction at the site. While it was a beautiful spectacle, made more so for the full moon that rose as we watched, the narration was entirely in Spanish so we couldn’t enjoy the dramatic stories.

We walked back by a stone path and stopped at the Mayaland hotel for a drink. It was a large western style set of buildings and gardens. While beautifully laid out, we were very glad to return to the more petite, historical grace of Hacienda Chichen.

The next morning, we left via the sleek toll road to Cancun. While I was sorry to leave the gentle Mayan people and re-enter modern life,  I’m determined to return for a longer exploration of the many delights within the Yucatan region.

Elaine J. Masters is a travel write, blogger on Trip Wellness and the award-winning author of Drivetime Yoga and Flytime Yoga. When she’s not scuba diving through kelp forests in Southern California or exploring tropical waters, she speaks and teaches travelers to lower their stress, avoid pain and get where they’re going feeling great. Elaine hosts the popular podcast, the Gathering Road, on the Women’s Radio Network and is building a community of travelers in San Diego with Travel Well meetups monthly.  Join her on Facebook and Twitter: @tripwellness

Have you traveled on a Chichen Itza road trip? Post a comment to share your experience. Alan and I enjoy visiting World Heritage sites.

A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Just One Boomer (Suzanne)
August 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I visited Chichen Itza twice. The first time was as part of a college course in 1975. Cancun had not yet been developed. Indeed, we were briefed by the Mexican Minister of Tourism in Mexico City who showed us the plans for Cancun. I returned about 25 years later on a cruise that spent two nights at Cozumel because of overly high seas at Cancun. My then 70-something father who had a heart condition wanted to go to Chichen Itza. I recalled having to do a lot of walking there, so I accompanied him because he was not going to be dissuaded from making the trip. He took a few steps up the steepest, tallest pyramid, but fortunately reconsidered. That pyramid was so steep, there was a chain to hold onto. Coming down was scariest. Donna, if you are afraid of heights, you definitely would not like it!
We also took a ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, except we met our cruise bus and guide there. I was glad we weren’t traveling independently because there had been some unrest in the area and there were checkpoints manned by Mexican soldiers with very serious looking weapons.
The Mayan empire was amazing. In addition to Chichen Itza, I also visited the ruins at Uxmal twice which is even more impressive. There are so many Mayan ruins that still haven’t been excavated. I have two books to recommend: “Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan” by John Lloyd Stephens. This illustrated account was published in 1843 and is a fascinating account of an early exploration of the Yucatan on horseback. The second is “1491: New Revelations of the Americas” by Charles C. Mann published in 2005. Mr. Mann is a journalist who explores all the archeological and anthropological theories and evidence concerning the native Americans of North, Central and South America.
Just One Boomer (Suzanne) recently posted..Independent Travel — Or Not (Gorgeous Photos Alert)My Profile


Gareth August 21, 2012 at 2:44 am

If you like Chichen Itza, I would hightly recommend Tikal. Its far less commercial and set in think jungle with amazing wild life all around.


Alexandra August 21, 2012 at 8:45 am

Sounds like a trip my hubby would go for. I liked the idea of an herbal massage and that you stayed at an eco-friendly hotel.
Alexandra recently posted..We’ve Moved!My Profile


Margaret August 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I have been to Chichen Itza…our guide said it is not “chicken pizza”…lol. Your hotel looks beautiful. Maybe the next time we go, we’ll stay there.


August 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm

The hacienda looks lovely – I’m glad to hear that you hired a guide as I really think that it adds to the experience to hear all the stories they can tell and also is a good way of puttig money into the local economy
Heatheronhertravels recently posted..The local’s guide to Cleveland, Ohio – Nine Cleveland Local FavoritesMy Profile


Mark H August 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm

The hotel looks wonderful. I bet it starts getting really crowded as the end of the Mayan calendar approaches later this year…
Mark H recently posted..Touring the Southern Scenic Route (Catlins, New Zealand)My Profile


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 3 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 3)

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

We're Donna & Alan Hull. We KNOW boomer travel.

Since 2008, we've published articles and photographs focusing solely on boomer travel: where to go, what to do and how to do it.

Partner with us

Did you know that baby boomers purchase 80% of luxury vacations and adults aged 55 + account for one-third of all trips in the U.S.? We can help you to reach an audience of active boomer travelers.

Learn more:

Have questions? Get in touch.

The fine print:

Media Mentions

We're the undeniable experts on boomer travel.

Need a boomer expert for your publication? Get in touch.