If you are planning to visit the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum, then you should be really looking forward.
Tulum is one of the most visited destinations in Mexico and it has many interesting spots. From heavenly turquoise waters to one of the most impressive Mayan temples. And exactly in Tulum, you can visit Mayan ruins with the most impressive view on the Caribbean sea.
Mayan ruins of Tulum is one of the most popular spots when visiting the eastern part of Mexico. During our 10 days in Mexico, without a doubt, we had to add the ruins of Tulum to our itinerary.
In this guide, we will let you know all you need to know about the spectacular ruins of Tulum, when to visit and the best things to do in the area.
ABOUT THE MAYAN RUINS OF TULUM
The area of Tulum started to be inhabited around 564 AD.
And what makes Tulum very special is that it was the only Mayan city that was built on the coast. If you will be visiting other Mayan ruins in Mexico such as Chitzen Itza, Coba, etc. you will notice that they are all located in the jungle and away from the ocean.
Tulum was home to around 1.600 Mayans and it was used as a religious and ceremonial site.
Also, Tulum is the only Mayan city that was protected by a wall. And that is why this place got the name Tulum, as “Tulum” in the Yucatec language means “wall.” The wall around Tulum was built as a fortress to protect the Tulum city from enemies (other Mayan city-states) while most residents lived outside the walls to them Tulum was known as Zama, which means the City of Dawn. Explorers from the early 20th century went with Tulum though.
From 13th till 14th, Tulum was one of the most important cities, connecting the Gulf of Mexico with Central America. At the height of Tulum’s power previous powerhouses such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal were already abandoned.
Sadly, when Spanish conquistadors came in 1518, they brought a lot of diseases and Mayans left Tulum and never came back.
With the arrival of Spanish, the majority of Mayans died and Mayan civilization got almost wiped out.
HOW TO GET TO TULUM RUINS?
If you are staying in Tulum village, then you can walk to Tulum ruins, or you can rent a bike. We were staying in Playa del Carmen and as we wanted to be flexible, we rented a car. You can also take a taxi, but this will cost more.
If you are wondering how was our experience with renting a car, then head to our guide on how to stay safe in Mexico.
If you are staying in Cancun, there are many tours you can take. If you are staying in Cancun, with this tour, you can see Coba, Ruins of Tulum and you will stop at the cenote. From Cancun, it will take you around 1 hour to reach Tulum.
HOW MUCH IS THE ENTRANCE TO MAYAN RUINS OF TULUM?
The official entrance ticket to the Tulum ruins is 80 pesos (US$4).
We definitely recommend coming in the early morning as the line for tickets can get long and standing in the hot sun for 45 minutes is not fun.
ENTRANCE FEE: MXN 35-40. If you would like to take some video footage you need to pay extra 30 pesos. If you coming with your own car, the Parking fee is MXN 30.
OPENING TIMES: 8 AM- 5 PM – EVERY DAY
IS TAKING A TOUR WORTHY?
You can also take a tour once you are inside of Tulum Ruins. We just got to the parking lot, and we were right away approached by a friendly local offering us a tour package for US$30 each. It included the entrance to the Mayan ruins, parking fees and short boat tour with the possibility to swim with turtles.
I think that it was a good value for a tour, although we think that we got a little bit overcharged.
SEE MORE: Are you thinking of spending several days in Tulum? In this guide, you will learn HOW TO SPEND 10 AWESOME DAYS IN TULUM.
You can watch our little teaser video from our time in Mexico. We had a blast and visited Tulum, many cenotes, Isla Mujeres and spent indefinite time in the ocean.
CAN I VISIT TULUM RUINS WITHOUT A TOUR?
You can definitely visit Tulum ruins on your own and get tickets at the entrance. You also have an option to get a professional guide. A hired guide will take you for around 600 pesos = US$30.
THINGS TO DO IN TULUM RUINS
If you think that there is not much to do in Tulum ruins, you will be surprised. Except for wandering around you, you can also go for a swim, learn about Mayan culture and just enjoy this magnificent place.
EXPLORE THE MAYAN RUINS
One of the best things to do is, of course, to walk around the Tulum ruins and admire the old structures of the Mayan civilization. The whole area – with the exception of the side that was protected by the ocean – was enclosed by a wall with lengths of 385 meters and 165 meters.
The area inside was occupied by low wooden dwellings, of which only plinth walls are still visible. The larger temple buildings are made entirely of stone, and therefore, the only buildings still visible today. The names were given by the Spanish and are by no means the original names.
HOW TO SEE TULUM RUINS
Once inside, you will follow a prescribed route to get around the compound. From the ticket booth, you can follow Tulum’s wall up north and enter the area through a breach in the wall. Once inside you will head to the Casa del Cenote. The name derives from a small pool next to the building.
Follow the path south to get to the Templo del Dios del Viento (English “Temple of the Wind God”). Built on an elevated area close to the sea, it provides beautiful views of El Castillo. It is built on a semicircular platform and has only one room. The semicircular structure suggests the worship of the wind and is a rare construction for the Maya culture.
The beach called Playita Tortuga that follows further down was closed during our visit as turtles nest here it possibly is never opened.
Next, you will get to the main structure of the Tulum ruins El Castillo (The Castle.) It is the tallest building and the upper level has two vaulted rooms with three entrances supported by serpentine columns that are Toltec-style and reminiscent of the ones at Chichen Itza.
North of El Castillo you will find the Templo del Dios Descendente (Temple of the Descending God) that got its name from the figure of the Descending God contained in the roof frieze. This deity is depicted several times in Tulum and was associated with the sunset, rain, lightning, and beekeeping and was called Ah Mucen Cab (bee god) in Mayan. Possibly, the building functioned as the ruler’s residence. South of El Castillo you can head down to Playa Ruina.
Before or after some well-deserved beach time you should head to the Templo de las Pinturas (“Temple of Frescoes”) which lies on the way to the exit. Its decoration is one of the most elaborate of all buildings shows numerous murals of snakes, fish, lizards and other sea animals. It was probably built shortly before the Spanish conquest.
SWIM AT PLAYA RUINA
After learning about Mayan culture, you can get down through the wooden staircase, to the beach called Playa Ruina. Days can be very hot HERE, and there is no better way how to end your adventures morning than to have a swim in turquoise waters. Similar to the Caribbean beaches of Cuba you can see many shades of blue when you are looking at the ocean.
EXTRA TIP: Please note that the Playa Ruina will be closed from October till the end of November as this is the time of breeding turtles. Green turtles come up to this beach to lay their eggs. And as we visited in November (2016), we couldn’t swim here. This is really okay because Paradise beach (Playa Paraiso) is just around the corner.
During certain months (often from March-May, but it varies) the beach can be also covered with seaweeds which makes it quite uncomfortable to swim and it can get smelly. Some hotels will clean up the beach from grass almost every day. Because of the rising temperature of the ocean, the waters are becoming warmer and that’s why there is also more seaweed. However, seaweed is a part of the natural cycle and for many animals, it means food. So some of the beaches are forbidden to clean as it would destroy the ecosystem.
We were lucky that during our time visiting Mexico, we didn’t see any see sea weed.
If you are looking for an awesome spot to snorkel with sea turtles, then definitely check out Akumal which is located only ca. 30 minutes by car from Tulum ruins.
If you are looking to visit one of the most beautiful Mexican islands, then head to Isla Mujeres. Check our guide on HOW TO GET TO ISLA MUJERES and the best things to do.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR TRIP TO RUINS OF TULUM
SUN LOTION: We definitely recommend you to apply sufficient sun lotion before you enter the Tulum ruins. We are in love with sun lotion from Raw Elements. In these times, we hear a lot about pollution and how we “humans” are harming the ocean and marine life.
If we are using safe and natural products without chemicals, we can help to preserve the ocean and still stay protected. If you are interested in doing something good for our oceans, and looking for new sun lotion, then you can head to their website and use Gigi10 for 10% off.
SWIMWEAR: Many people do not realize that when you are visiting Tulum ruins you will have access to the beach, so make sure to pack our swimwear and a towel.
CAMERA: Bring one. Duh.
WHEN TO VISIT RUINS IN TULUM
The best time to visit the Yucatan province is definitely from the end of October till the end of January. This is when the days are mostly sunny with average temperatures of 31 degrees Celsius. Perfect for sun-baking and enjoying beach life.
For visiting Mayan ruins of Tulum, come either early in the morning or in the late afternoon. This is when you can avoid the hottest time of the day and beat the crowds. If you can, try to avoid holidays and weekends.
WHERE TO STAY IN TULUM?
We definitely suggest staying in the small town Tulum. Tulum is a great hub for travelers with a great choice for accommodations fitting every budget.
HOSTEL BAMBU GRAN PALAS: Hostel Bambu has nice bamboo rooms with lovely decor only for US$39, it is also located close to South Tulum Beach and 10 km from Tulum Ruins.
CASA ABANICO: If you would like to stay in Tulum town, then this hotel has very nice and colorful rooms with a Mexican vibe.
IKAL TULUM: This hotel is located on Playa Paraiso and only 1.2 km from Tulum Ruins and has beautiful rooms.
UNA VIDA: One of our favorite hotels for sure, this places has beautifully designed villas with a bohemian style.
CHECK ALL HOTELS IN TULUM
If you do not want to stay in Tulum town, then there are many other places around. We stayed in BluBay Esmeralda Resort in Playa del Carmen.
You can also check AIRBNB if you would like to have your own apartment or even cook for yourself. With this code, you will get $37 off on your first stay.
We hope that you will enjoy visiting Mayan ruins of Tulum and in general in Mexico. We can’t wait to go back and explore more.
Do you wonder how do we plan our trips? If you answered yes, then make sure to read our 20 tips on how to plan an awesome travel itinerary.
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