8 Tips for Visiting the Mayan Tulum Ruins

Mayan Tulum Ruins

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The Mayan Tulum Ruins are located in Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula. The Tulum Ruins have been around since at least AD 1200 when the ruins were said to be occupied. The Mayan Tulum Ruins are one of the best-preserved Mayan coastal sites drawing tourists from around the world to learn of the amazing Mayan civilization.

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Are the Tulum Ruins worth visiting?

Well, would you be here reading this post if they weren’t?

Anyways, they are most definitely worth visiting if you are visiting Cancun for sure. We visit Cancun almost regularly and until now, we had never gotten to see why the Tulum ruins are worth visiting. 

One of my favorite reasons the ruins are worth visiting is how you can almost see how the city was laid out. It was very easy to picture roads and how the community functioned in this high-class Myan city. Our archeology tour guide said that only 5% of the Mayan city of Tulum lived in this part of the ruins. 

Mayan Ruins

So, what even are Mayan ruins and how many are there? 

Mayan Home above cenote on the north side
Mayan home just above the cenote that provided fresh water for this part of the city

Mayan ruins are basically cities that archaeologists have found in correlation to the Mayan empire. The geographical area includes Guatemala and Belize, much of Honduras and El Salvador, and the southeastern states of Mexico, including the entire Yucatán Peninsula. 

The Mayan civilization spanned for more than 2,500 years. So, as you can imagine there are many archeological sites and we are lucky to get to experience some that are left in ruins. There are hundreds that have been documented in modern-day history, and some are preserved for our education and enjoyment. 

My favorite part of any kind of ruins is history. To be able to imagine and think about how civilization thrived hundreds and thousands of years ago. That is mind-blowing and I could read about it all day and do tours of the same places and never grow tired.  

Tulum Ruins History

To keep it brief and in context, I will hit a few points that I learned from Victor and the tour we took. The Mayan city of Tulum most likely used to be called the City of Dawn. This was likely because it faced east toward the Carribean Sea and provided an amazing sunrise.

Tulum actually means fence, wall, or trench. This makes sense when you visit because to get into the Tulum Ruins, you have to go through these little “doors” in the stone walls. When I say little, I mean it. I am short, and I had to duck to go through. 

Tulum

The was very important to the trade of the Maya. This port was major for the Mayan city of Coba in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which we all know for Cancun. 

They had two major exports from here. It wasn’t silver or even gold. The Maya weren’t interested in shipping that to their other cities. 

They were exporting feathers and obsidian. We know obsidian is valuable for its cutting properties, but feathers? I guess for headdresses or something! I didn’t actually ask why feathers. 

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Maya and the Tulum Ruins in specific, check out Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vols. I and II and Jungle of Stone

Tulum Ruins Map

Tulum Ruins Map
Map of the Ruins of Tulum

You can buy a map when you get there or just download one to your phone.. Or just pull up this page. The grounds aren’t really that big, but definitely big enough to get turned around and sunburned! 

I would highly recommend using a licensed tour guide if you are a history or geology nerd like I am. It is totally worth it. If you want to do your own thing, that’s cool too. There definitely some breathtaking views of the Caribean Sea. 

Some must-sees at the Mayan Tulum Ruins:

  • Tulum’s Wall- This is easy to spot, as you have to go through it to get into the ruins. On the north side, which is where our tour guide brought us through starting out, is a cenote, which is the source of fresh water for the city. Make sure to read about how we got to swim in a Xibalba Cenote!
  • Temple of the Frescoes- This temple was strategically placed to track the movements of the sun. You can actually still see some of the murals that were painted using minerals in the stucco before it dried, to make it longer lasting. 
  • Temple of the Descending Gods- The Maya had many gods that they served, this is one of the temples for the one of the gods
  • El Castillo- Probably the most recognizable structure in the ruins. This is the pyramid-like building that you see in all the photos of the Yucatan. 

How long does it take to tour the Ruins?

This is all dependant on you and how fast you walk and if you are into history or just the sights. Our tour lasted about an hour and a half.

I would be able to comfortably say that you can do it in about an hour and be able to see all the ruins and get some great pictures. 

If you plan on doing the beach at the ruins, then definitely plan for at least two hours. It can also be crowded based on what time of day and what time of year you go.  

Which Tulum is Which?

Some of you may know that when you say you’re visiting Tulum that it is not just the ruins. There are actually three different Tulum areas, and that is important to know when you are planning a trip.

Luckily, all three references to Tulum are in close proximity.

Tulum (City) 

If you are Mexican or live in Mexico especially in Quintana Roo, and you say you live in Tulum, this means you live in the city. Not in the Mayan Ruins, as cool as that would be to dance with the dead during the day of the dead. 

Tulum City is a municipality that is located on the Carribean coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is known for the amazing beaches and of course the Mayan Tulum Ruins. 

You can stay in the city, in fact as we were driving to the ruins, we saw countless beautiful looking resorts and neighborhoods. When you are doing your research, just keep mind when you look up Tulum that it could be directing you to the city. 

Tulum (beaches)

The beaches in Tulum are gorgeous. I saw the ones at the ruins, but there are many beaches to pick from. I would highly recommend finding a resort in that area to get the most out of the Tulum beaches  

The sand is soft, the water is bluer than you can imagine. And, it is home to the second-best coral reef in the world. This is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The sea life is amazing, we got to snorkel in this, and man have you got to try this!

For some more in-depth information about the Tulum, beaches check out Culture Trips Most Beautiful Beaches in Tulum

Tulum (the Mayan Tulum Ruins)

More than likely you are reading this because you are interested in the Mayan Tulum Ruins. Which is the goal of this article, and shortly I will be sharing some tips for visiting the ruins. 

This is the more popular “idea” so-to-say when you hear Tulum. Before I went, I honestly thought that is was just ruins. The ruins are thousands of years old and are beautifully taken care of. The Maya culture was so interesting and is explained by some of these buildings. 

You even see carvings and murals that have literally been on there for at least 1,200 years. I mean, holy shit. Who can say that they have seen a legitimate painting that is that old? I can, yep I have been there to see. 

8 Tips for visiting the Tulum Ruins

1. Get there early in the morning

If you want to have a pleasant visit, get there around 8 am. There are many reasons but mainly because this is before the big crowds, and before the heat of the day. The hours of operations for the archaeological site are 8:30-4:30 local time. 

2. Skip the Shops on the way in.

Again, there are many reasons why, not just because they are more expensive and touristy, but you will have to carry whatever you buy around the ruins, and you exit out of a different area than you enter. Be smart. And if you have been roaming the tourist parts of town you know that they are going to be trying to sell you something every 5 steps. 

3. Bring drinking water. 

The weather is intense and you will be walking a LOT. I would recommend using a refillable filtered bottle, but if all else fails, just stop at a service station and grab a liter or more. Believe me, you do not want to get dehydrated and ruin the rest of your day, or even your entire trip! Your trip mates will thank you as well. 

4. Wear Sunscreen AND Bug repellant. 

If there is one thing we regret about our morning at the ruins, is that we got eaten ALIVE by mosquitoes. This is no fun. Then if you are pale like I am, you find out at the end of the day that you also got sunburned from the CLOUDS! Again, save yourself from ruining the comfort of the rest of your trip and wear sunscreen and bug spray!

5. Bring a bathing suit.

There is a beach, and if you are not on a guided tour, then definitely plan on taking a dip in the beautiful Caribbean coast. It does get crowded from what I saw, so come early, and experience the amazing sand and water. You may even see some tropical fish!

6. Bring local currency (pesos)

To get in, and only if you haven’t pre-purchased a tour that includes the ruins, bring cash. Also, to buy your tickets, don’t buy them where you park, make sure to walk all the way to the entrance to buy them. This will ensure you aren’t dealing with any price inflation if you know what I mean. 

How much does it cost to get in you ask?

Good question, it is 65 pesos, which will likely be about 3-4 USD. 

7. Self-guided tour

This is definitely one of those tips you can take or leave. I have been on a tour that I like and tours I hated because there were so many people. This one, my friends, was TOTALLY worth every penny. I enjoyed learning about the ruins from a licensed, an English speaking person. I am only vouching for this tour, that I have linked to. 

8. Respect the Animals and Wildlife

This is a big deal to conserve our world. Not only can you get injured from wild animals and plants, but you can also cause them to die or be abandoned by their family. We saw some coatis and it was the first time I had ever seen one. They are so cute and you just wanna pet them. But don’t. We actually saw a lady with blood running down her arm because she tried. 

Can you climb the Mayan Tulum Ruins? 

The short answer is no. Apparently you used to be able to explore more in-depth the ruins, but the rules have changed. Please please please adhere to these rules so we can enjoy these wonders of the ancient world for longer. 

Can you bring cameras into the Tulum Ruins?

May sound like a silly question, but if you don’t want to pay an extra $4-$5 then make sure your GoPro is in your purse or pocket. They will try to charge extra for that and video cameras. Luckily we have mobile phones, and those work just as good! Don’t risk it unless you wanna spend the extra cash. 

Getting to Tulum 

There are a few ways to get there, make sure to only do what you are comfortable with (driving, for example)

  • Rent a car
  • Bus
  • Taxi
  • Colectivo (read about that here, but it’s basically a shared ride)
  • Tour (this is my recommendation) 

What to bring:

  1. Pesos
  2. Sunscreen 
  3. Bug spray
  4. Did I say bug spray?
  5. Swimsuit
  6. Sunglasses 
  7. Water 
  8. Hat

Make sure to get our FREE Tulum Travel Guide by filling in your info below!

In Conclusion

However you go about exploring the Mayan Tulum Ruins, be safe and have fun. Try out the 3 in 1 Tour that we did. I hope this guide helped a little. We had so much fun exploring here. 

If you have been let us know what you did and how much fun you had.

 If you have questions, please post below!

Make sure to read about our whole 3-day trip, and about our swim in a cenote and snorkeling with the amazing sea creatures and coral!