Chichén isn't my favorite site ever, but it was very cool. I do think getting there early is essential. Even though the site is large, dozens of tour buses fill it up. There is no climbing on anything, not surprisingly, but they signs are good and there is a lot to see. It was also nice to not use my tired steep-stair-climbing muscles for a bit. The Castillo is lovely.
It just was so very touristy. Not so much because of the vendors (there were a lot, but I didn't mind them at all), but because of hoards of people in cute clothes trooping around after tour guides. It just felt weird after spending a lot of dirty and fascinating days poking around.
We spent about three hours there and left as the place was really getting crowded. We zipped over to Valladolid, found a place on the north side of town where we could drop off the laundry (finally!), got some peanut butter at Chedraui, and went to Ek Balám. It's about 15 minutes north of town and we barely had time to make and eat our sandwiches.
I liked this site too. There were far fewer people, although most were tour groups, and the main pyramid was very good. There are several other smaller ones that have been excavated and you can see there are others that haven't been done yet. Standing on the top of the pyramid was perfect since you were up high enough to be over the jungle and see everywhere. It's an expensive site to visit, relatively speaking, but they've done some interesting restoration work on the pyramid and I at least agreed that the INAH fee was reasonable, but the Yucatan fee wasn't so much.
INAH, the Mexico anthropology people, run most of the archaeology sites in the country. Many are free because they're small or not popular enough to make it worth collecting a fee, or they're hard to get to. $35 pesos is normal for a smallish site, and large sites are around 65 (around five dollars). You don't pay for children under 13. But Yucatán state has added on a separate fee at Uxmal, Chichén, and Ek Balám that's quite a bit more- as much as $150 pesos. It makes those sites a lot more expensive. I thought it was too high for Ek Balám, but that's one that some tour buses go to so I can't fault them for that. A higher fee is necessary at Chichén since they have to provide so many more facilities. I'd pay just about anything to go to Uxmal.
Then we went back to Valladolid, picked up the clean laundry (paying $5 for five kilos of clean laundry that someone else washes, dries, and folds for you? Lovely) and went in to check out the center of town. There's a nice church and we stopped in a little fonda for some good food (my husband and I shared a plate filled with all sorts of Yucatecan meat that was delicious), got some coconut ice cream, and paid our overdue phone bill that showed up the morning we were leaving.
Valladolid felt a touch weird too. There were tour groups being herded through the main square and so many tourists around. It felt like Valladolid was added to tours as a quaint Mexican town (and it even seemed to be a little more Mexican, rather than Yucatecan). I liked the place but was ready to move on, sadly.
We went to Cobá for the night. I wasn't sure if we wanted to stay here because the guidebooks weren't very optimistic about the choices, but this has been one of my favorite places we've stayed during the entire trip. The hotel is cheap ($30), clean, and quiet. It has wifi and air conditioning. There's a store just down the road with Atalufo mangoes! And toothbrushes, which is nice since my husband forgot his and had been sharing with the little one (gross) and the little one dropped his in the toilet last night. Even grosser. I also got some achiote paste and seeds and some sour oranges. And some really fresh canela. And nice people to talk to.
There's also a lovely lake complete with crocodiles with a boardwalk, vaporcitos fritos which were really good, and this hotel has huevos al gusto and chilaquiles for breakfast. Perfect.