The Mayan Ruins of Tulum: Best Thing to Do in Tulum
When in Tulum, you cannot miss Tulum Ruins, a beautiful archeological site perched on the top of the cliff overlooking Carribean Sea. Despite the small size, it is for sure one of the most beautiful Mayan sites in Mexico. Read our guide with all the practical information you need to know before your visit.
Tulum is one of the most popular resort towns in Mexico, but to be honest, we had expected more.
Sometimes we think we are probably a bit spoiled by beautiful beaches of Raja Ampat or hard-to-beat turquoise sea of the Philippines. Either way, relaxing on the beach full of seaweed or exploring the overpriced town is not the reason why would we praise this destination for.
Fortunately, the Yucatan Peninsula still has its Mayan ruins and cenotes, and some of the most beautiful ones are close to the city of Tulum.
Tulum Ruins are for sure neither the largest ruins in Mexico nor historically the most important, but they have with no doubt the most eye-catching settings.
Standing on the 12 meters high cliffs above the rough sea, Tulum Ruins are stunning and very photogenic.
Because of its beauty, Tulum Ruins are a heavily-visited archeological site attracting crowds not only from nearby Tulum but from the whole Riviera Maya, especially from two other resort towns, Cancun and Playa del Carmen, from where people often visit Tulum Ruins on a one day trip.
Even when you arrive early, the site starts to fill up soon and taking pretty pictures becomes a daunting task.
Although enjoying the site privately is a fiction, nothing can change the fact that Tulum Ruins are picturesque, and apart from the archeological complex, you can see cactus flowers and palm trees growing around and iguanas lazing on the sun.
Simply put, you should never miss it while in the state of Quintana Roo.
TULUM MAYAN RUINS
Tulum was pre-Columbian Mayan walled city, built in the 13th century which was late in comparison with other Mayan sites in Mexico or Guatemala.
People living on the site called Tulum Ruins Zama alias city of dawn - it proved that Maya people realized the special position of their city from the very beginning. Despite its size and number of inhabitants (only prominent people lived in Tulum), the city was an important transportation hub with access to both land and sea.
The city of Tulum was abandoned in the 16th century when Spaniard arrived a brought unknown diseases.
HOW TO GET TO TULUM RUINS
Tulum Ruins are conveniently located less than four kilometers from the town's center, so if you are staying in Tulum, it is an easy task to reach the ruins.
Colectivo | Frequent colectivos leave Tulum when full as they don't operate on a fixed schedule. One way costs Mx 30 - Mx 40. Colectivos don't have designated stops you can wait anywhere along the main road leading to the ruins (vans usually have sign Tulum/Playa del Carmen behind the window).
Taxi | You can find many taxi drivers in Tulum, the biggest concentration of cars is around ADO bus terminal.
Bike | Cycling is a convenient way how to get to Tulum Ruins, and you can find bike rental throughout the town, and also many hostels and hotels in Tulum have their own bike rental shops. Price differs, it can be anything between Mx 80 to Mx 200, depending on a bike quality.
Walk or Run | From Tulum to Tulum Ruins lead a nice pavement, so we decided to jog from the town to the ruins. Not only we did something for our health, but we also got there for free.
Rental Car | It's a short ride with your rental car from the city to the Tulum Ruins.
ENTRANCE FEE TO TULUM RUINS
Entrance fee to Tulum Ruins is Mx 75 for foreigners.
You cannot buy individual tickets in advance, but be ready to wait in a queue because the line moves slowly, and we waited there approximately a half an hour because there was only one counter opened.
The site is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM, but try to avoid Sundays when Mexican residents have free entry.
HOW TO BEAT THE CROWDS IN TULUM RUINS
There is the only way how to beach the crowds in Tulum Ruins, but not every time it works.
Try to come as early as possible to be among the first people allowed to enter that day (at 8 AM).
Later on, many groups arrive, and the place gets really busy. You can also come later, an hour or two before closing time, but the heat can be unbearable.
IMPORTANT STRUCTURES OF TULUM RUINS
Unlike in Coba Ruins, you cannot climb any structure in Tulum Ruins, so keep your distance.
There are several well-preserved structures, but among the most important ones you should not miss belong The Temple of the Frescoes, El Castillo Pyramid, House of the Columns and Temple of the Descending God.
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VISITING INDEPENDENTLY VERSUS GUIDED TOUR
When possible, we always prefer to visit every destination independently, because we value freedom and possibility to take our time when somewhere nice, or on the other hand to skip some not that interesting places.
When staying in Tulum, visiting Tulum Ruins independently without a tour is a very simple task. Inside the archeological complex there are many boards with explanation in Spanish and English, so we did not have a problem to understand the meaning of structures, we would even say Tulum Ruins had one of the best signage systems in Mexico.
In case you are traveling on a budget, we think visiting Tulum Ruins without a guide, or a tour is perfectly fine.
However, we understand that many travelers prefer guided tours to get even more detailed information about places, and Mayan history is always entertaining. You can either find a private guide at the ruin's entrance, or you can reserve group guided tours in advance.
As Tulum and Tulum Ruins has been increasingly popular in the past few years, there are many travelers visiting the site on a one day trip either from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Although regular buses serve this route, we understand it is much more comfortable to take a tour directly to Tulum Ruins without taking care of transport.
It is possible to reserve a tour from Cancun , but you can also enjoy your day to the fullest and visit Tulum Ruins in combination with Coba Ruins and nearby cenotes .
When group service is not your thing, you can opt for a private tour as well.
SWIMMING WHEN VISITING TULUM RUINS
Tulum Ruins are exceptional for many reasons, but the location is probably on the top of the list of reasons why choose these ruins over many others on Yucatan.
Perched atop high cliffs, surrounded by the beautiful blue sea, we cannot deny that Mayan people knew where to build their prominent site.
Not many archeological sites can pride themselves with having a secluded beach, but Tulum Ruins are one of those few (if any others exist).
You can access the small beach via a wooden staircase but come early as the beach gets crowded.
Do not forget your swimsuit, though!
Unfortunately, we soon found out that the beach looks much better from a distance because in the past few years Riviera Maya has been experiencing a serious problem with seaweed.
When we visited the area in April 2019, it was actually so bad that we went swimming just once, because we found beaches and the sea full of seaweed unappealing.
WHERE TO STAY IN TULUM
Tulum is a favorite resort town on the shore of the ocean with many luxury all-inclusive hotels, but you can find here even small independent hotels and guest houses. Prices are a bit higher than in other parts of Mexico, and it pays off to reserve accommodation well in advance, especially in the high season.
Budget | Nativos Tulum Hotel Boutique - Perfectly-located hotel close to many bars and restaurants features an outdoor swimming pool, garden, shared lounge, stable wifi, and continental breakfast.
Mid-range | Azura Boutique Hotel - Beautifully appointed rooms with a kitchen and modern furniture, stunning rooftop, and helpful staff are the chief reasons why to stay in this moderately priced hotel.
Luxury | Dune Boutique Hotel - An exceptional boutique hotel offers the best, you can get for the price in Tulum. The hotel is situated right on the beach, the rooms are comfortable and spacious, there is a large selection of food at breakfast, and an outdoor swimming pool is lovely.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR TULUM RUINS
We've handpicked only a few essentials you need to bring when visiting Tulum Ruins.
Sunscreen | Sun in Mexico is strong, and you should not leave your room without it by no means.
Water Bottle | Staying hydrated is important under the scorching sun. To protect planet Earth, take your own bottle water - we did not have to buy a plastic bottle in Mexico at all, as the water was always provided in hotels or hostels where we stayed.
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