Tulum Ruins: A Complete Guide [2021]

Visiting the Tulum Ruins soon? Here is a complete guide to these Mayan Ruins – how to get there, best tours, what to visit + prices and practical info!

If you’re visiting the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, you can’t miss the Tulum Ruins, a Mayan archaeological site perched on a cliff that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. The ruins at Tulum offer views that will make you believe you’re in paradise (or your favorite Pirates of the Caribbean scenery!), and they’re definitely one of the best Mayan ruins in Mexico.

And if you thought the view couldn’t get better…Did you know that Tulum’s original Maya name, Zamá, means ‘place of the dawning sun’? There’s a really good reason for this, and it’s worth the early start! In fact, visiting the ruins is one of the best things to do in Tulum, and one of the best day trips from Playa del Carmen and from Cancun.

But there’s much more to the ruins of Tulum than their stunning surroundings, and in this complete guide, you’ll find everything you need to know before you visit the Tulum Ruins and the best way to get there. Check it out!

Best Tours to the Tulum Ruins

Taking a tour is one of the best ways to visit the famed Mayan Ruins at Tulum. You won’t have to worry about transportation or parking, you’ll enjoy a guided tour around the site and get to experience some cool activities afterward! 

I researched the best tours to the Tulum ruins in Mexico, and here are the ones that I believe are the absolute best ones.

3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour: Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling Plus Cenote and Cave: This comprehensive tour is perfect to explore the best of the Yucatan Peninsula in one day. Besides visiting the Tulum archaeological site you’ll snorkel through a coral reef, swim in a cenote (highly recommended!), walk in the jungle, and explore a limestone cave.  The 3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour includes pick up from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum, so it’s a great option no matter where you’re coming from.  ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Tulum and Cenotes Tour: This option is more affordable and great if you’re short on time. You’ll visit the Tulum Mayan Ruins with a guided tour and go to the beautiful cenote Kin Ha afterward. Transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum is available. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

Full-day tour to Tulum and Jungle Maya Native Park with Ziplines & Cenotes: If you’re feeling adventurous, this full-day tour is for you. After exploring the Tulum Ruins you’ll head to the jungle, where you’ll spend the day snorkeling, rappelling, ziplining, and be witness to a Mayan blessing ceremony. It’s one of the most complete tours to the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, and this option also offers transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

Tulum, Coba, & Cenote: Full-Day Tour: In this Tulum and Coba tour you’ll explore the astounding ancient ruins of Tulum, climb the pyramid at Coba, and round up the visit to these archaeological sites by swimming in beautiful cenotes, near the Tulum Ruins. This Coba, Tulum Ruins, and Cenote tour includes a buffet lunch, Coba and Tulum Ruins entry fees and round-trip transportation from either Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Riviera Maya. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

How to Get to the Tulum Ruins On Your Own

Getting to the Tulum Ruins on your own is fairly simple, and there are many options depending on where you’re coming from. 

How to get to the Tulum Ruins from Tulum

The Mayan ruins are near Tulum Town (about 3 Km), and there are several ways to get there if you’re visiting the Tulum archaeological zone on your own. 

▶ The cheapest option is to take the colectivo (shared mini-van) at the Tulum town’s main street and tell the driver where you’re headed (Tulum Ruins!) The Colectivo departs regularly and you’ll be there in no time!

▶ Another option to get to the Tulum Ruins is to rent a bike. Yes, you heard that right! There’s a great bicycle path that connects Tulum Town with the ruins, and the ride only takes about 10 minutes. While you can leave your bike at the bike racks outside the site during your visit, remember to take a bike lock just in case!

▶ A good alternative is to take a taxi directly to Tulum Ruins. This is slightly more expensive than the other options, but more convenient if you want to be independent and don’t fancy riding a bike. 

▶ Of course, you can also drive to the Ruins. There’s a parking site close by, or you can park in Carretera Tulum Boca Paila street, alongside the public beach, for free. 

How to get to the Tulum Ruins from Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is 64 Km (40 miles) from Tulum. If you’re driving you can take the 307 Highway straight to Tulum Ruins, and you’ll be there in about 45 minutes.  

Other options to get from Playa del Carmen to the Tulum Ruins include: 

▶ Colectivo, which you can take in the Colectivo Stand located on Calle 2 between the 15th and 20th Avenue. It costs around 40-60 Mexican Pesos (2-3 dollars) at the time of writing and it departs every 10 minutes, which is great for flexibility. 

▶ Take a bus for about 80 Pesos (4 dollars). Be sure to ask the ticket office if the bus stops at the ruins; while some may stop at the historical site, others will leave you in Tulum Town only. ADO has regular buses from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, and you can take the bus from the ADO bus station in Playa del Carmen (5 Av. Nte. LTE 2, Centro). 

▶ Though more expensive, you can take a taxi to the ruins. If you’re going in a group and share the expense it could be worth it and it’s definitely the most comfortable option! 

READ ALSO: How to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum

How to get to the Tulum Ruins from Cancun

Cancun is 131 Km (81 miles) from Tulum, and the Tulum Ruins are some of the Mayan ruins near Cancun that are most easily accessible.

▶ Even though there are no direct colectivos between them, don’t panic! It’s really easy to get from Cancun to the Tulum Ruins through Playa del Carmen if this is your means of transport of preference.  

You can take a colectivo from Cancun to Playa del Carmen (they depart every 15 minutes) and then switch to a Colectivo from Playa to Tulum. Prices for the Colectivo from Cancun to Playa del Carmen range between 20 and 35 pesos (about 1 to 2 dollars).

▶ If you’d rather make a single journey, you can take the ADO bus directly from Cancun to Tulum. Prices are around 200 pesos (10 dollars) at the time of writing, and the trip takes close to 2 hours.

▶ Otherwise, of course, you can always take a taxi!

▶ If you’re coming straight from the airport, check out how to get from Cancun Airport to Tulum.

Practical Info for Visiting the Tulum Ruins, Mexico

Where are the Tulum Ruins located?

The Tulum Ruins are in the Mayan Riviera, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, barely 3 Km (1.8 miles) away from Tulum Town.

If you’re driving to the site, the Tulum Ruins address is Carretera Federal, Cancun – Chetumal Km 230, 307, Tulum.

How much does it cost to visit the Tulum Ruins?

The entrance fee to Tulum Ruins is 80 pesos (4 dollars) without a guide at the time of writing. If you want to hire a guide on the site it’ll cost you around 600 pesos (30 dollars).

Be aware that if you want to take pictures with a device other than your smartphone you’ll have to pay a photography fee of less than 2.5 dollars (45 pesos).  

⚠️ At the site they only accept Mexican pesos for the entrance and any snack or beverages you may want to buy, so don’t forget to have some pesos with you!  

Tulum Ruins Opening Hours

The Tulum site is open from 8 AM to 5 PM daily. 

Can I buy the ticket online?

Yes, you can buy your Tulum Ruins tickets here

Parking at Tulum Ruins

Parking in the Tulum Ruins costs 160 pesos (8 dollars) and since it’s a bit far from the site itself you can take a small train for 1 dollar or walk the ten-minute distance. 

If you don’t want to pay for parking, you can park your car for free along the public beach Playa Santa Fe and walk a similar distance to the Tulum Ruins.

A Brief History of the Tulum Ruins

Tulum is a town in the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico. It’s part of the Yucatan Peninsula and is best known as the site of the pre-Columbian Mayan walled city. It’s home to the popular tourist attraction, the Mayan ruins of Tulum, which is the last remaining vestige of what was once a thriving civilization.

The town of Tulum used to be known as Zamá, a name selected by the Mayans (which translates to City of Dawn, or Place of Dawning Sun) because of the geographical location of Tulum facing the sunrise. The location of the town did more than just influence its name – it also served an important role during the time of the ancient Mayan civilization.

During the Classic Period, the Mayan people built temples and pyramids to showcase their incredible power. They were known for their excellence in the field of arts, astrology, and mathematics and this knowledge enabled them to construct elaborate causeways and structures, some of which remain standing until today.

The walled city was built by the Mayans during the 1200 to 1450 CE and it was abandoned by the late 16th century. During that period, this place represented a prosperous civilization that served as a crossroads for trade from land or sea.

Tulum is a colonial town and the term literally means “wall”. When Juan de Grivalja landed in Mexico during the 1800s, he stumbled upon the walled city of Tulum. Ever since then, tourists from all over the world have been making their way to Tulum to experience first hand the contact with an ancient civilization, in an effort to discover the mystery behind the fortified walls of the city, and to understand life during the time of the Mayans and the years that came after.

What to Visit at the Tulum Ruins

The Mayan Ruins in Tulum are a magnificent seaport fortress if you consider that they were built on a steep ocean cliff. The archaeological site is surrounded by thick and large limestone walls that enclose the city from all three sides; these amazing walls provided protection for the Mayans during the height of their civilization.

While walking around the ruins, you’ll also see iguanas and coatis (an animal similar to a raccoon), which will make the visit more fun if you’re traveling with kids.

This Mayan archaeological site is also home to a number of old stone structures, each worth checking out when you visit the site.

El Castillo (The Castle)

The El Castillo structure is the main Tulum pyramid. It’s also the largest and most prominent structure on the site so it’s definitely one of the must-see structures when you visit. This ancient pyramid served as a lighthouse during the time of the Mayans. It has a couple of small windows at the top that helped sailors to navigate the bay during dusk.

The pyramid was originally covered in stucco and painted red but most of the paint has come off by now. If you examine the structure closely, though, you can still see smears of red paint. There is a wide external staircase that will lead you to the top of the pyramid where you’ll see that the central niche features a sculpture of a descending god.

The Temple of the Frescoes

This Mayan temple in the Tulum Ruins is easy to find because it’s right in front of El Castillo pyramid. During the time of the ancient Mayans, this structure served as an observatory where the Mayans could track the seasons and monitor the sun’s movement.

It’s the best preserved of all the structures on the Mayan archaeological site. If you peer inside this structure, you’ll see that there is a colored mural still intact! Unlike El Castillo, though, this is a rather small building.

The Great Palace

The Great Palace, called also the House of Columns, is another can’t-miss structure when visiting the Tulum Ruins. It consists of several rooms that are supported by columns. This place served as a residence for the Great Lord or ruler and his family. On top of that, there were also numerous religious ceremonies performed on the altar at this structure so, as you can probably imagine, it has a lot of historical importance. 

House of the Halach Uinic

When exploring the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, be sure to check out the House of the Halach Uinic. In the ancient Mayan civilization, the halach uinic was the supreme leader for the government of Mayan Kuchkabal and this great lord was responsible for appointing administrative officers. This building served as the official residence of the halach uinic and his family.

Relax at the Tulum Ruins Beach

The Tulum Ruins not only consist of actual ruins and archaeological constructions; climbing down a wooden staircase along the cliff you can get to one of the most beautiful beaches in Tulum, with the added charm of it being below the ancient ruins and somewhat hidden.

The beach at the Tulum Ruins opens at 10 AM and it’s a fantastic idea to swim in its incredible blue waters to cool off after visiting the historical site. The Tulum Ruins can also be seen from the water, so it’s quite a unique experience!

➤ And if you’re still craving some water experiences after relaxing at the Playa Ruinas beach, head to one of the many cenotes near Tulum. I personally suggest visiting Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Calavera, my two favorite ones.

Best Time to Visit the Tulum Ruins

The Tulum Ruins can get really crowded, with 2000 tourists visiting each day, so here are a few tips on the best time to visit: 

➤ Get there first thing in the morning. Tourist buses usually arrive at 10 AM so it gets really packed at that time. Since the Tulum Ruins beach opens at 10 AM, you can escape the crowds after your visit to the ruins by taking a dip in the azure waters. And once you’re done for the day, make sure to visit one of the many great cafes and restaurants in Tulum!

➤ Visit late in the afternoon. After the hectic hours of the late morning and noon, the site gets quieter an hour or so before closing, so it could be a good idea to visit the last couple of hours. 

➤ Avoid going on Sundays. This day the entrance is free for Mexicans and foreign residents, so it gets more crowded than usual.   

Tulum Ruins vs Chichen Itza

Visiting the ancient Mayan ruins while in Mexico is on everyone’s bucket list, period. But which ruins to visit, when there are so many? If you’re wondering which of these archaeological sites is worth your visit, this information will help you decide. 

While Chichen Itza is definitely more impressive and is home to the most famous pyramid in the area, the Kukulkan Pyramid, the drive to Chichen Itza is much longer, and if you’re visiting with a tour expect it to last about 12 hours between transportation to the site, visiting and lunch.

If spending long hours on the road is not a problem and you really want to see this iconic landmark with your own eyes, then, by all means, you should visit. Expect it also to be more crowded than most historical sites due to its popularity (5 thousand visitors a day on average!)

The Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico, even if smaller and not so well-known, are still pretty impressive; the Tulum Ruins’ history is really interesting and not many archaeological sites have a backdrop of the sea like this one. And trust me, this alone is worth your visit. 

If you want to prioritize your time and don’t mind getting a lighter (though complete!) version of the Mayans history and the architecture of the ruins, then the Tulum Ruins tour is one you won’t regret. And if you’re really into history, then you should consider combining a visit to the Tulum ruins with one to the Coba ruins, one of my favorite ruins in Mexico.

Tulum Ruins FAQ

Are the Tulum ruins worth seeing?

Yes! The Tulum Ruins is a historical site worth visiting even if you don’t enjoy history that much. The location in itself is breathtaking, the ruins are impressive and the view from the cliff is awe-inspiring to say the least. 
The Archaeological Site is a fabulous way of traveling in time and learning about the people and ways of life of the ancient civilization.   
Also, this kind of ruins can only be found in this region of Mexico, so you shouldn’t leave Tulum without visiting them. 

What should I wear to Tulum ruins?

The Tulum Ruins are situated on the coast of the Caribbean sea, so it’s probably going to be humid and hot regardless of the time of year in which you visit. That said, you should wear light and comfortable clothes to confront both the heat and all the walking around. Take a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen as well, especially if you visit late in the morning or in the afternoon, and don’t forget to take your swimsuit! You’ll definitely want to jump right into the water once you see the beach.    

How much time do you need at Tulum Ruins?

You can spend from two hours to half a day in the Tulum Ruins.
After you explore the archaeological site and relax for a bit at the beach, you can visit the Bazaar, a nearby craft market (beware of the pushy vendors, be polite but firm when saying ‘no, gracias’) and get something to eat to wrap up your excursion. 


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