Photo by Javier Sirvent
While not as large as other ancient Mayan cities in the region, Tulum draws in visitors for its stunning setting of centuries-old temples perched on a cliff by the Caribbean Sea. You’ll pass a large market with souvenirs, a casual Mexican restaurant, and even a Starbucks before reaching the entrance, where a train can take you to the site if you’re not up for the 10-minute walk. It’s advisable to hire a guide to fully understand each structure’s significance and the history behind the ruins; informative signage is all but nonexistent. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, as the site encompasses a white-sand beach with soothing waves and beautiful rock formations that’s reached by a long wooden staircase.
By Laura Winfrey, AFAR Local Expert
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Perched on a bluff above the Caribbean Sea, the enigmatic walled city of Tulúm was founded around 900 BC as the last major city of the Maya Empire – and the only known archaeological site located by the sea. Climb up to the main tower, El Castillo (the castle), sometimes referred to as the lighthouse, the tallest building here and the most noteworthy. Dedicated to Venus (Kukulkán), it stands on a bluff with commanding views of the ocean in both directions and once served as a sentinel for the ancient Maya making the pilgrimage from Guatemala and Honduras to the sacred Island of Cozumel where they paid homage to the fertility goddess Ixchel.
By Michelle da Silva Richmond, AFAR Local Expert
Explore Ancient Mayan Ruins and the Turquoise Waters of Tulum
The Mayan civilizations of Mexico, dating back to 1,000 years ago, serve as a mystery to many, as the majority of the records were destroyed by the Spaniards in the 1500's. Tulum is an ancient Mayan civilization in Mexico, a short hour and a half ride from Cozumel. I definitely recommend hiring a guide to learn more about the buildings and the Mayan culture-- and, definitely bring a swimsuit. After your tour, you can swim in the unreal turquoise waters that Tulum overlooks. The Mayans definitely knew how to pick a spot!
By Ashley Castle Pittman, AFAR Contributor
Blue Beach Beauty
From the Amansala Resort in Tulum, I rented a bike to go to the Maya Ruins of Tulum. It was about a 30 minute bike ride from the property. The ride itself isn't amazing because you are mostly riding along the road but was worth it once you got to the ruins. I enjoyed walking the grounds, but one of the best experiences while there is swimming at the beach. The water was warm and so clear + it was great looking up and seeing all the history.
By Katherine Kneier, AFAR Staff
The Mayan Ruins in Tulum are one of the main attractions to see. While staying at Amansala I rented bikes with a few friends and we rode to the ruins--it was about a 30 minute ride in the hot sun and definitely worth it. The ruins are built along the cliffs above the water so have amazing views. It was very interesting to learn more about the history and see the incredible architecture of the buildings.
By Katherine Kneier, AFAR Staff
Spectacular Beach Setting
This beach is only accessible by boat or by paying the entry fee to get into the Tulúm ruins. Once inside and walking around the ruins, you are sure to see people walking down the long set of stairs to go in for a swim. When we were there at 10am, it was relatively empty but by 11am it was packed with day trippers from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Definitely worth wearing your trunks if you are making it to the ruins and going in for a dip as it can get pretty hot there at mid-day. Close your eyes and imagine what it would have felt like in the days of the Maya... but you might need headphones to block out the background noise.
By Matthew Fenster, AFAR Staff
A pre-Columbian Maya site on the Caribbean Sea in Tulum Mexico.
By Kelly A
Mayan ruins on the sea in Tulum, Mexico
The Mayan ruins of Tulum Mexico are easily accessed by an hour long bus ride from Playa del Carmen. Once inside this pre-Colombian walled city you'll find craggy stone ruins centered inside squares of green grass and bisected by walkways, all with the groomed trampled feel of a local park. Push past the chattering teenagers and picnicking families and climb the cliffs for breathtaking views of the turquoise Caribbean Sea. Once there you can climb down the cliff to the white sand beach or you can stand at the lookout, stare at the sea and see the same view people have looked at for a 1000 years. It probably hasn't changed much in that time and there aren't many places left like that in the world. Enjoy it.
By Kaitlyn Barrett, AFAR Local Expert
While there are many impressive Maya ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum's beachfront location—perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea (and its fifty shades of blue)—is hard to beat. During my time there, I could not help but wonder how living in that walled city must have felt with such a million-dollar view at your doorstep. It is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, and its construction dates back to the years 1200-1450AD. Don't miss the buildings "The Castle" and "Temple of The Frescoes" and the "God of Winds Temple" (inset). In addition to exploring the ruins, you can also swim at the beach at the bottom of the cliff. To get here, drive about one hour south from Playa Del Carmen.
By Bao Lin C
Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Before I arrived, I had no idea Mexico had so much more to offer than just beaches and delicious food. My first taste of this other side of Mexico came from a side trip to Tulum where I visited some Mayan Ruins. While roaming the streets of Playa Del Carmen, I found a bus station that had routes to Tulum. I bought a return ticket and off I went into the unknown. Upon my arrival at the ruins, I bought an entry permit and set out to explore the area. It was very hot so I slowly walked down the gravel road towards toward the ruins. When they appeared, I was amazed; I didn’t realize the area of the ruins would be so large! I was able to walk inside and on top of some of the buildings, getting a real feel for what life must have been like when real people lived and thrived among them. I explored them for a few hours and moved on to the beach that was nearby. The small beach was surrounded by high cliffs and was not crowded, which provided a nice place to lay out my towel and relax to the sound of the waves crashing onshore. When it came time to head back to the bus stop, I got lost and found myself at a fork in the road with a sign indicating there was another beach in one of the directions. By that point, I didn’t really care if I missed my bus; I could catch a later one. I went in search of that beach and found it. Playa Santa Fe – completely deserted, surrounded by huge sand dunes and a sandy beach that stretched along the coast – absolute paradise!
Tulum, one of Riviera Maya’s most popular Mayan archaeological sites, is the only known Mayan city built on the coast. Tulum may look familiar: It’s no wonder that this dramatic location has been frequently photographed, with the stone buildings looking out over the turquoise Caribbean. Running along the ocean are a number of the Riviera Maya’s most inviting places to spend the night, from yoga retreats and eco-chic hotels to small inns there’s something here for every type of traveler. Just a little inland from the ancient Mayan city is the modern-day town of Tulum, a welcoming low-key place where you can check out locals’ favorite restaurants and stores. To start planning your escape to Riviera Maya, visit rivieramaya.com
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tulum is beautiful
one of the most beautiful places on earth.... if you go to cancun or playa del carmen,, this is a for sure place to put on your list to visit... its breath taking
By Dianna Wood
The Ruins of Tulum has a Gorgeous Beach
The ruins of Tulum are a beautiful walled Mayan city that overlooks a beautiful beach and the Caribbean. We enjoyed walking the ruins without being in an organized group, although we did pick up many facts from listening to the many guides along the way. The views were breathtaking and many of the visitors took advantage of having access to the beach.
Carretera Federal 307 Cancún - Chetumal Km 230, 77780 Tulum, QROO, Mexico
+52 984 802 5405
Sun - Sat 8am - 5pm