Tulum Mayan Ruins – Impressive or Not?

Escaping from Cancun we head down the coast to Tulum, the unassuming sibling to Playa Del Carmen. Tulum seems like an undiscovered paradise compared with some of the other tourist spots along the coastline. Set on the Caribbean Sea in the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is home also to the famous Tulum Mayan Ruins.

I’m impressed with the natural beauty and peacefulness that surrounds the town, the plentiful Mayan ruins, and locals with a real interest in preserving their culture.

You can never get enough of Mexico’s colourful art.

Let’s face it there’s so much to see and do on the Yucatan, it’s hard to know where to start.

From beaches to Cenotes, Jungles to Turtles, Adventure Parks to Mayan Ruins –  Tulum turned out to be another good base for more exploring in the Yucatan.

We had swum in the cenotes, swum at the beach, and swum with the turtles and now it was time to hit the world famous Tulum Mayan Ruins.

It was a pretty stormy day, but today was the day, raining or not.

We packed those hideous plastic poncho things that sweat like h**l and off we went to the steamy jungle and on down to the beach.

To my utter dismay everything at the Tulum Mayan Ruins was roped off from close viewing.  Not only could I not get close to view the details, it was hard to photograph.

It was hot, pouring with rain and packed with people. I could see this wasn’t going to be our best day.

Then I realised that not every day can be perfect when you travel, so best I get on with it.

About Tulum Mayan Ruins

Tulum Mayan Ruins was once a Mayan walled city that once served as a major port. It consists of  several temples, spread over a flat, grassy platform surrounded by tropical vegetation.
But what makes Tulum Ruins unique is El Castillo perched on the edge of a cliff, with the waves crashing below. Sadly you are no longer allowed to enter any of theses ruins, so bring binoculars if you want to see any details of the carvings.

El Castello perched on the hill faraway…

Unlike other Mayan cities Tulum has no pyramids.  It’s an ancient Mayan town where the ‘higher classes’ of society used to live and study the universe.  And as Tulum means ‘high wall’ in Mayan – this wall was used to to separate the classes.

It was a great day to shoot black and white photos…

I headed straight to the cliffs for a view of the beach and El Castillo, but it’s just too far away to see much.   For a few minutes the beauty of the jade-green, aquamarine, blue water and the white sand beach around us took my mind off the crowd and the rain. I found myself heading down the steps to get closer view of the beautiful beach where people were swimming in the gloriously tepid water in the rain!


The tepid ocean water is inviting even when its raining…

El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God are the three most famous buildings.

The main and most important god honored at Tulum is the “diving god,” or “Descending God,” It’s depicted on several buildings as an upside-down figure above doorways both here and at other sights around Mesoamerica.

The Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. Distinctly Mayan, the frescoes represent the Chaac the rain god, and Ixchel, the goddess of weaving, women, the moon, and medicine. Above the entrance on the western wall of the temple is another example of the “diving god”


“Temple of the Frescoes” – used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun.

Supernatural serpents are also common motifs. On the cornice of this temple is a relief of the head of Chaac the rain god. If you pause a slight distance from the building, you’ll see the eyes, nose, mouth, and chin.

Tulum wasn’t our first Mayan site – we’d  travelled to Tikal, Coba and Ek Balam and to be honest I found all of them more interesting and had a better time (less crowded and no roped off areas)

Perhaps our previous experiences had set our expectations too high but I just wasn’t super impressed with Tulum… or perhaps it was a combination of crowds, heat and rain, rope offs or maybe I was having an ‘off’ travel day!  
Or maybe I was just missing the Pyramids?
Tulum isn’t all about ruins though…
We had superb swimming and snorkelling in the cenotes, the sinkholes that allow you to explore fantastic underwater caverns.  We zip-lined through the jungle and rappelled into a cenote. Tulum like Valladolid is a very central location on the coast for loads of activities.
Grand Cenote Yucatan Mexico

Peeking underwater in the Cenotes

If all this, and the stunning Tulum beach isn’t enough for you, you can always drive the short distance north to Akumal Beach and meet with the turtles.  Not only is the beach here beautiful, the turtles that reside here and pop up for air are a spectacle to behold. Then snorkel and you’ll see them feeding on seagrass on the sea floor.  Almost as though they are tame, they’ll swim with you.

Spending a morning floating in the ocean watching these beautiful animals feed is certainly a morning made in heaven.

Tulum Mayan Ruins – Getting There

  • Location: It’s very easy to find. Just follow the signs, look for “Zona Arqueologica”. It’s 1 km from Highway 307 on the left hand side if you are coming from Playa del Carmen/Cancun and 2 km before the intersection of the highway and the Coba/beach road in Tulum.
  • Entrance fee is 64 pesos (less than $5 US dollars)
  • Parking: 70 pesos
  • Opening hours: From 8 am to 5 pm
  • Taxi from Tulum cost us 140 pesos return

Tulum Mayan Ruins – Traveller Info and Tips

  • Go early in the morning before it gets hot and all the tour buses arrive.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and drink plenty of water.
  • Bring your swimming gear for a cool off at the beach
  • Allow a couple of hours to wander the site
  • Bring your Poncho

Tulum Mayan Ruins Photo Gallery


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