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12 Things You Should Know About the Tulum Ruins
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(Last Updated On: September 15, 2017)

12 Things You Should Know About the Tulum Ruins

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The Tulum ruins of Mexico are one of the most well-known archaeology sites in the world.

The lone ruin overlooking the Caribbean Sea in our feature picture has become a symbol for the entire region.

The blue hues stand in stark contrast to the ancient construction, now worn down by time and the constant battering of the salt-laced sea breeze.

However, this incredible view only tells part of the story.

Who built these buildings to coincide with precision to the movements of the stars?

How long did they inhabit the site before abandoning it?

What does the name Tulum even mean?

Tulum Ruins: 12 Things to Know

Pictures may tell us more than a 1,000 words.

but…

Looking at the image of ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea tells us very little about this once important trading post.

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The image inspires wanderlust in me, provoking that ever present sensation of the need to go on my next road trip through the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan Peninsula.

Let’s be honest…

If you want to include a tour of the Tulum ruins as part of your Playa del Carmen activities, you also want to know the who, what, when, where and how much.

That way, you can decide for yourself whether the Tulum ruins are worth seeing.

To make it easy for you, we’re going to break it down into frequently asked questions:

#1 Where Are the Tulum Ruins?

Located 100 miles (62 km) to the south of Playa del Carmen and 80 miles (128 km) from Cancun, the ruins of Tulum are walled into the east and face the Caribbean Sea to the west.

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During its splendor, Tulum served as a major trading post for both neighboring city-states such as Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Cobá as well as to other communities and their entities to the south in what is now Central America.

Thanks to its strategic location, Tulum proved to be one of the most powerful city-states during the 13th and 14th centuries, particularly following the fall of a rival city of Mayapan.

Back in their day, the Mayan ruins surely presented an imposing figure for seafaring visitors to the walled city.

In fact, when the Spanish first arrived they in 1518 they considered Tulum to be as large as Sevilla.

However, shortly after the Spaniards began their occupation of Mexico, the ancient Mayas who once called this majestic site their home left it abandoned.

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#2 Who Built the Tulum Ruins?

The easiest answer here would be the Mayans.

Of course, that’s like saying that the French built the Statue of Liberty.

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According to archaeological findings at the Tulum ruins, the site began to be inhabited as early as 564 A.D.

Although with never more than an estimated 1,600 inhabitants, the site remained occupied until shortly before the end of the 16th century, when disease brought by the Spanish eliminated the majority of the population.

Over a period of seven centuries, rulers came and went, and the city we now as Tulum was transformed by each new generation of inhabitants and their respective styles and influences.

As a result, like in other Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula, many of the buildings fusion different architectural styles depending on the epoch in which they were built or expanded upon.

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#3 Tulum Ruins: 4 Fun Facts

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Here are some things you might like to know about the Tulum ruins:
  • Tulum means wall in Maya, however, the town’s original name, Zamá (pronounced zam-MAH) translates as “Place of the dawning sun.”
  • Tulum was one of the few enclosed cities built by the Mayas. With walls on three sides and the Caribbean Sea on the other, Tulum was built to be a fortress.
  • No more than 1,600 ever lived in Tulum at one time, meaning it was more of a religious and ceremonial center rather than a population center.
  • The town served as a major gateway for connecting the Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico with the Mayan peoples of Honduras and modern day Central America.

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#4 What Are the Hours for the Tulum Ruins?

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The Tulum ruins are open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Entrance is free to all archaeological sites on Sundays for Mexican citizens and foreign residents.

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#5 How Much do Tulum Ruins Cost?

The cost of your visit to Tulum will depend on how exactly you prefer to wander these ancient testaments to the amazing civilization of the Maya.

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If you prefer to go on your own with no guide, the cost of entrance is just 65 pesos. A hired guide will run you about another 600 pesos.

Because the ruins are a bit removed from the parking lot, a folkloric train is available to take you to the entrance is another 20 pesos per person.You can either take public transportation for 50 pesos per person or go by car and pay 120 pesos for parking.

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#6 Tulum Ruins Tours

Of course, another option is to go on a guided tour of this fascinating site. This is what we definitely recommend, as you can do a great combo tour of Tulum and Xel-Ha at 15% off with us, PlayaDelCarmen.com.

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In the end, about 2 hours at the park is enough to see everything, and combining it with one of Mexico’s most famous eco-parks is a great option for the entire family.

The cost of the tour is $149 USD for adults and $74.50 USD for children and includes all entrance fees, professional guide, and entrance to the all-inclusive Xel-Ha Park.

If you prefer to snorkel with sea turtles or do some zip lining, you can also combine a visit to Tulum with snorkeling with sea turtles or going full-on with Tulum Xtreme.

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#7 Are the Tulum Ruins Worth Seeing?

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Yes, yes, and yes they are worth seeing.

But it depends….

  1. Are you interested in learning more about the people and history of the places you visit?
  2. Do you enjoy the opportunity to see pyramids like you can only find in this region of Mexico and Central America?

Then, by all means.

However, if you’re looking for a more in-depth experience into the fascinating world of the Maya, you may want to consider either combining a visit to the Tulum ruins with a trip to other archaeological sites or visiting some other ruins altogether.

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#8 Tulum Ruins vs. Chichen Itza

Which ruins would we recommend that you visit?

As mentioned above, Chichen Itza offers a more holistic view and history of the ancient Maya.

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You also have the chance to visit the most famous pyramid in the entire region: the great Kukulkan Pyramid.

The only problem with the Chichen Itza tour is that it is very long.

Expect to spend about 11 to 12 hours between round-trip transportation, visiting the site, lunch, and a trip to a beautiful cenote.

If that’s your thing, we definitely recommend the Chichen Itza tour at 15% off.

However, if time is of an essence and you would like to have a light version of the history and architecture, then Tulum offers a great alternative.

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#9 Other Mayan Ruins Near Tulum

Of course, there are also several other great archaeological sites to visit in the surrounding region.

A tourist looks out at the Ek Balam Mayan ruins from atop a pyramid

The 2 that we would recommend in addition to Tulum and Chichen Itza are the Coba ruins and Ek Balam.

For more information on their location and a bit of background information, be sure to read our article on where are the Mayan ruins.

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#10 Where to Eat Near the Tulum Ruins

If you’ve decided to visit the Tulum ruins on your own, in all likelihood your next destination is Tulum for some beach and a bite to eat.

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The Tulum beaches are stunningly beautiful.

But before you go, make a stop in town and get a bite to eat.

For seafood, be sure to visit El Camello, located on the southern outskirts of town.

If you’re wanting some more Mexican or international fair, don’t miss a stop at Don Cafeto’s. Not only is this a great place to sit and people watch, they have strong coffee and great food (be sure to try a drink called Chiagra!).

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#11 Tulum Ruins from Playa del Carmen

The route from Playa del Carmen to the Tulum archaeological site is about a 50-minute drive and 38 miles south of your fabulous home away from home.

You can either take the ‘combi’ or ‘colectivo’ mentioned above, which depart Playa del Carmen from 2nd Street between 10th and 15th Avenues, go by car or simply go on an organized tour and let everything be organized for you.

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#12 Tulum Ruins Map

As you can see in the map below, the Tulum ruins are not as extensive as they are fascinating.

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Several of the buildings to the west provide stunning views (and backdrops for those selfies) of the Caribbean Sea.

All are full of history and wonder and are worth the time spent learning about them.

Be aware, however, that there is little signage to help you understand the importance of each building without the help of a professional guide.

Time to Go?

Ready to don that Indiana Jones look and set out on your next adventure?

Our ever savvy travel consultants at PlayaDelCarmen.com can guide you through the jungle of choosing the right hotel and activites

Call us toll-free today at 1-888-537-9797 or email us for help booking your next vacation.

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Lisa Wright Lisa is a travel expert who lives and works in beautiful Playa del Carmen. A native Montrealer who has successfully escaped winter for 15 years straight, she's all about helping people organize awesome vacations as a travel agent for PlayaDelCarmen.com.

Comment(2)

    1. Hi Cherise,

      Thanks for getting in touch. The Tulum Ruins are quite small. I would save paper and download a screenshot of the ruins on my phone 🙂
      There will be guides and sellers with souvenirs and maps in case you do decide to purchase something once you get there. Feel free to check out the tours we offer that head to Tulum. One of our awesome Travel Gurus will contact you shortly, with some information 🙂

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