Visiting the Yucatan Peninsula without checking out the spectacular Mayan Ruins of Tulum (Tulum Archaeological Zone) or sometimes just improperly referred to as the ‘Tulum Pyramids’ is like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids. This area of Mexico is full of fantastic Mayan ruins to check out, and this one is certainly no exception.
Probably the second most famous site in the Yucatan Peninsula after Chichen Itza, the Mayan Ruins of Tulum is a pre-Columbian walled city that was built around 564 AD and was one of the last cities built by the Maya, and at its height around the 13th-15th centuries, it was a major port and trading site for the Mayans, once having a population of up to 2000 people.
The impressive ruins are perched precariously on a 12-meter tall (39 feet) cliff face overlooking the Caribbean sea. Tulum was originally known as Zamá which is Mayan for “Place of the Rising Sun” because it’s the perfect spot to welcome the sun every morning to the east.
Quick Overview & Tips
The Mayan Ruins of Tulum are open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day.
The cost to enter is 70 pesos ($3.50).
Bring a swimsuit and beach gear for swimming at Playa Ruinas.
Plan on spending 2 hours here, if you also want to swim.
The best time to visit is early in the morning to beat the crowd.
How to get to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum
Getting to the ‘Tulum Pyramids’ is actually very easy as it’s so close to the main town center of Tulum. In our opinion, the best way to get here is via bicycle if you’re coming from the town center. You can rent a bike at your hostel, hotel, or a bike shop for around 150-200 pesos per day, depending on the place. The ride is only around 15 minutes from the pueblo, but if you’re coming from further down the beach it may be farther.
The other way of course is by car. If you’re staying in Playa Del Carmen or Cancun, then renting a car might be your best option as you’ll get to stop and see sites on the way. From Playa or Cancun simply head south on the main highway and just before reaching Tulum, you’ll see a sign on your left side for Tulum Ruins, entering here you’ll be able to find parking.
Colectivo’s can be found in Cancun or Playa del Carmen which will drop you off right in front of the ruins. Just make sure to get the Colectivo’s going to Tulum, they only cost around 30-50 pesos. In Playa they can be found under the overpass near the Mcdonald’s on 50 Avenida Sur.
You can take a taxi from any of the main towns of course, but it’s going to be pricey. From Playa Del Carmen or Cancun expect to pay around 500-1000 pesos, respectively.
The final option is of course a tour. There are many tour companies offering different tours of the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, but in our opinion, it’s best to do it on your own. You’ll pay a lot more for a tour than what you would by doing it on your own.
Buying Tickets to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum
Make sure to buy tickets directly at the entrance of the Tulum Ruins, and NOT from the people trying to sell you tickets on the street or in the parking lot, they will scam you. The price of a ticket is 70 pesos per person ($3.50 USD).
If you’re going on a tour then you won’t need tickets as it would be included. You’ll also find “tour guides” outside of the entrance asking if you’d like a tour, this is up to you but we’d recommend visiting the site yourself as it’s pretty straightforward.
What to See at the Mayan Ruins of Tulum
The ruins are open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, so plan accordingly. We recommend going early in the morning to avoid the crowds and catch the early sun.
Of course, the main attraction in this archaeological zone is the Mayan Ruins, with the main site being “El Castillo” or The Castle. It was originally built as an ancient lighthouse to allow sailors and traders on the coast to navigate amongst this ancient port city.
House of the Columns
Nearby El Castillo you’ll find House of the Columns, which is exactly as it sounds, a wonderful complex with several columns supporting the structure with 4 rooms.
Temple of the Frescoes
Just in front of El Castillo is the Temple of the Frescoes, a wonderfully preserved site with ancient colorful murals still intact from centuries ago!
House of the Halach Uinic
A Halach Uinic is a high priest that used to rule every Mayan city in ancient times. This house was, of course, the high priest’s main shrine, it’s also a very well-preserved site.
One of the best things to do at the Mayan Ruins of Tulum is of course to wander down the cliffside and check out one of the best beaches in Tulum: Playa Ruinas. It’s a stunning secluded beach just below and off to the side of the main El Castillo structure. The beach doesn’t open until 10:00 am, but we recommend going around this time to beat the crowd.
You’ll of course see a wide array of flora and fauna, including iguanas, many species of birds, coatis (Mexican Racoons), and much more.