When you first hear the word “Tulum”, you’ll probably think of sun, sea, and beaches—and most definitely start to fantasize about visiting all the famous cenotes in the area. Perhaps you’ll immediately also dream of fruity cocktails and the yummy food from Mexico to go along with all that.
But another top attraction located right in the heart of Tulum are the Tulum Ruins. While, for some reason, they may not be quite as world famous as some other ancient sites, visiting this old and significant Mayan site will not only make for a picturesque self-made postcard to send to folks home, but can easily become one of your best memories from visiting Tulum.
So what exactly do you need to know about the Mayan Ruins in Tulum prior to your visit? I’ll let you know below!
Touring the Tulum Mayan Ruins and Archaeological Site in Mexico
What are the Tulum Ruins
The original purpose for the Tulum Ruins was to serve as a sea fortress of sorts, and a means of protection for the city’s people, which is why it was walled on three sides, the Caribbean Sea operating as its fourth wall. Back in the Mayan days, Tulum was a significant trading point, with especially trade with Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and Cobá, being of great importance to them. Especially once its biggest rivaling city, Mayapan, came to fall, Tulum became an incredibly powerful city and state throughout the 13th and 14th centuries. Sadly the Mayans abandoned the city once the Spaniards arrived in the early 16th century.
Interestingly enough, Mayans were not the ones who actually built these ruins, however. Based on the archeological finds made at the Tulum Ruins, there has been some form of habitation there even as early in history as 564 AD. From that moment on, until the arrival of the Spanish, the city was also occupied by some group of people, although never surpassing more than 1600 inhabitants at once. When the Spanish came, along with diseases, most of the inhabitants sadly passed away.
Tulum Ruins vs. Chichen Itza
The most famous ruins in the Riviera Maya and its nearby surroundings is the Chichen Itza, part of which has even been appointed as one of the 7 wonders in the world. It gives an amazingly comprehensive view into the history and culture of the Mayans, and just like the Tulum Ruins, it absolutely cannot be missed as part of your itinerary.
However, as amazing as Chichen Itza is, and deservedly is considered more magnificent than Tulum Ruins, the one aspect in which Tulum Ruins edges out is the time spent touring it. If you’re short on time, Tulum Ruins are absolutely the way to go, as tours to Chichen Itza take a full day out of your schedule.
Though if you have the time, here are the top tours that will take you to Chichen Itza:
- Cancun & Rivera Maya: Xcaret Plus & Chichen Itzá 2-Day Combo
- Cancun & RM: Xcaret Park, Xel-Ha & Chichen Itza 3-Day Combo
- Chichen Itza: Private Tour from Cancún and Riviera Maya
About Tulum Ruins Guided Tours
Perhaps in order to get the very best of Tulum Ruins, you may want to hire a guide to show you around. Most tours take around 2 hours to complete, which is a perfectly adequate amount of time to see the best parts of the ruins. Hiring a guide on-site costs around $30 USD.
There are even a couple of different options for tours to hop on, with them often combining the ruins with another attraction.
Here are some top tours that include a stop to the Tulum Archaeological Site:
- Tulum and the Mayan Jungle: Full-Day Tour
- Tulum and Coba: Full-Day Archeological Tour with Lunch
- Coba & Tulum Mayan Ruins Discovery Combo Tour
These are of course pricier, but can offer you an exceptional day of fun at the ruins, and beyond! For example, you can combine your tour of the Tulum Ruins with a visit to the massive and massively famous Xel Ha Eco Park where you can enjoy a variety of water activities and other fun in the jungle.
You can combine the visit to the ruins also with an excursion where you get to snorkel with the turtles in the gorgeous Caribbean barrier reef. You can even go on a more extreme tour together with the ruins, which will entail zip lining, rappelling, and more.
Where are the Tulum Ruins?
The Tulum Ruins are located right by the Caribbean Sea, on Riviera Maya in the Quintana Roo region of Mexico. It’s closest to Playa del Carmen, but easily accessible from Cancun as well. Besides the ruins, the city of Tulum is also popular among tourists especially for its beach life, not to mention its multiple cenotes.
In essence, the city of Tulum is divided into four sections: one for the archeological site which are the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, one for the main town part, one that has been labelled the hotel zone, and the fourth one is the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve.
Other Mayan Ruins near Tulum
Besides Tulum Ruins and Chichen Itza, there are other archaeological sites from the Mayan times close by for you to check out. There’s Muyil, which was one of the longest-occupied cities in the Mayan times. There’s Ek Balam, another incredibly significant Mayan ruins site. There’s Chacchoben, inside of which you can find the Mayan calendar.
There’s Cedral, which is a Mayan time fertility temple. There’s the Cobá Archaeological Site, where you can step on the region’s highest anciently old pyramid. There is also Xel Ha, which is better known as an ecological park now. In addition to these ruins, there are a couple of others, as well, if you’re interested in checking out all of them.
If you are a foreign resident, you can visit the site for free every Sunday. However, as most of us are probably only visitors to Mexico, we do have to pay some type of a fee to enter.
You can get off with paying 80 pesos ($3USD-$4USD) if you want to visit the site without a guide. With a hired guide, the price will end up being around 600 pesos ($30USD).
Additionally, there is a bit of a walking distance between the ruins and the parking lot, but there is a folkloric train you can take for 20 pesos ($1USD) – especially during the hottest times of the year, you may want to opt for the train rather than the 15 minute walk. Parking by the ruins will take an additional 120 pesos ($2USD-$3USD) out of your wallet.
How to Get to the Tulum Ruins from Playa del Carmen:
It takes less than an hour to get to the Tulum Ruins from Playa del Carmen by car. The route is almost entirely coastal, so already on your way there and back you get to enjoy scenic seaside landscapes. You’ll also pass by the Xel Ha Eco Park on your way. If you don’t want to rent your own car, you can of course join an organized tour, such as the ones recommended above.
Alternatively, it is also possible to reach the site by public transportation. In this case, your best bet is a colectivo. This is a kind of a minibus, and it’ll depart whenever the bus has filled up with people – which usually doesn’t take long! They all leave from Juarez.
Now that you know about these amazing Tulum Mayan Ruins, do not miss out on them on your trip to this part of Mexico! Especially if you love to visit historic and archaeological sites, this is a must visit for you. Even if you’re less of a history buff and prefer modern city life to ancient sites, you just may have a blast here.
In order to get the best of the ruins, you could combine it together with another site, such as the Xel Ha Eco Park mentioned above. And since these ruins are not as widely famous as some other similar sites in the Mexico and Latin American regions, you can add a unique attraction to your list of places visited. Diversify and complete your Tulum visit with these ruins!
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