Mexico’s Best Maya Ruins


Visiting The Ruins At Tulum

Mexico’s most photogenic archaeological site

Susannah Rigg
By Susannah Rigg

Located 80 miles south of Cancun and set against a stunning backdrop of the Caribbean sea, Tulum is one of Mexico’s most photogenic archaeological sites.

The city saw its peak later than Chichén Itzá, between the 13th and 15th centuries, and was an important trading point for jade and turquoise. Unsurprisingly, given its location right on the coast, the principal temples are dedicated to the gods of wind and rain, with offerings made to appease these deities in the hope of avoiding hurricanes.

Tulum’s most well-known structure is known as El Castillo (the Castle) and sits high up, overlooking the sea. Make time to check out the Temple of the Frescoes which houses murals depicting Maya gods and religious motifs that still retain their original colour—an impressive feat given the wind, rain and sunshine to which they have been exposed.

Visitors can combine history and architecture with a swim at one of the Riviera Maya’s most beautiful beaches just below the site, so come with your bathing suit.

Arrive early or just before closing time to experience Tulum with fewer people.

Mexico Tulummayan ruins El Castillo Temple at paradise beach

Tulum's El Castillo temple overlooking aptly-named Paradise Beach

How to get to Tulum

If you are staying in Tulum town there are plenty of ways to get to the archeological site, which is only three miles away. You can take a taxi or collectivo (shared taxi) or hire a bike and cycle there. If you have a car, there is ample parking. The carpark is slightly removed from the site but there is a little train that takes visitors the short ride from their car to the entrance of the site.

If you are traveling from Playa de Carmen, there is the option to take the ADO first class bus or a collectivo for a cheaper option. The journey to Tulum town takes about 45 mins. The ADO first class bus also runs the 1 hour 45 minute journey from Cancun to Tulum town.

Multiple day tours run from Cancun and Playa del Carmen to Tulum and start from about $40/£30.

You will want to spend about two hours at the site.

The entrance fee to Tulum’s archeological site is $80 Mexican pesos ($3.80/£2.80). Remember to take cash for the ticket. Guides, who are generally found waiting around the entrance charge around $600 Mexican pesos ($30/£20) but prices can rise with larger groups. A tour from Cancun starts at around $40/£30 depending on which other activities you would like to include. Many tours to Tulum from Cancun also offer visits to Cobá and it can be fun to see both in one day. Tours to both the ruins, plus a swim in a local cenote start at around $70/£50.

There is a small swimmable beach below the ruins. They are not always open, but if you would like to swim in the sea looking up at the site from below, then it is worth packing your bathing suit.

About the author

Visiting The Ruins At Tulum

Susannah Rigg

Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist based in Mexico City. Her work has been featured by Condé Nast Traveller, CNN, BBC Travel and AFAR among others. She has visited 26 of Mexico’s 32 states and is captivated by Mexico’s rich Mesoamerican history.

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