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Tulum Ruins: A Complete Guide For Visiting in 2022

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.

Woman with red dress standing in front of the Castillo at the Tulum Ruins.

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 plenty of tips for visiting the Tulum Ruins, including fantastic tours (or self guided tours), the best time to escape the crowds, and how to get there. Check it out!

Make sure you have travel insurance before leaving for your trip to Mexico! Unexpected things can happen and you want to be covered when you need it the most.

SafetyWing is the insurance I’ve been using for the last 3 years. It costs USD 42 for 4 weeks (and much less if your trip is shorter!) and provides coverage for COVID-19. For a more comprehensive, but pricier, coverage you can check out WorldNomads, which is another excellent choice.

Best Tulum Ruins Tours

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.

➤ The 3-in-1 Discovery Combo Tour: Tulum Ruins, Snorkeling Plus Cenote and Cave is a fantastic excursion. Besides visiting the Tulum archaeological site you’ll snorkel through a coral reef with sea turtles, swim in a local cenote (highly recommended!), and explore a limestone cave. 

The 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

➤ The Cenotes and Tulum Mayan Ruins Tour is affordable and a great option if you’re short on time. You’ll visit the ruins with a guide who’ll tell you about the Tulum Ruins history, and you’ll also visit the beautiful cenote Kin Ha. Transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum is available. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

➤ With this Full-day tour to Tulum and Jungle Maya Native Park you’ll head to the jungle after exploring the ruins, where you’ll spend the day snorkeling, rappelling, ziplining, and witnessing a Mayan blessing ceremony.

It includes transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum. ➥ BOOK IT HERE 

➤ In this Cenote, Tulum and Coba Tour you’ll explore the astounding ancient ruins of Tulum, climb the pyramid at Coba, and round up the visit by swimming in beautiful cenotes, near the Tulum Mayan Ruins.

The Coba, Tulum Ruins, and Cenote tour includes a buffet lunch, entry fees, and round-trip transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Riviera Maya. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Tulum Ruins Private Tour offers the ultimate personalized experience to discover this magnificent site. Your private guide will be ready to answer all your questions, and you’ll share the transfer with the members of your own party.

Transportation from Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Akumal is available. ➥ 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 Tulum town’s main street and tell the driver where you’re headed. The Colectivo departs regularly and you’ll be there in no time!

▶ Another option is to rent a bike. There’s a great bicycle path that connects the nearby town of Tulum with the ruins, and the ride only takes about 10 minutes. While you can leave your bike at the bike racks outside the site, 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 the most comfortable one.

▶ Of course, you can also drive to the ruins. The closest Tulum Ruins parking lot is a 10-minute walk away, or you can park in Carretera Tulum Boca Paila street 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, in the city center. It costs around 40-60 Mexican Pesos (2-3 dollars) currently and it departs every 10 minutes. 

▶ Take a bus for about 150 Pesos (7 dollars). Be sure to ask the ticket office if the bus stops at the ruins; as some buses will only leave you in Tulum Town. ADO has regular buses from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, and you can find the bus station at 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! 

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.

▶ There are no direct colectivos between them, but don’t panic! It’s really easy to visit the ruins from Cancun city center 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 range between 40 and 60 pesos (about 2 to 3 dollars).

▶ If you’d rather make a single journey, you can take the ADO bus directly from Cancun to Tulum. Prices are around 350 pesos (17 dollars) currently, and the trip takes a little over 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

Woman in front of one of the structures of the Tulum ruins.

Where are the Tulum Ruins located?

The ruins are in the Mayan Riviera, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, barely 3 Km (1.8 miles) away from the nearby Tulum Town. If you’re coming from the hotel zone in Tulum Beach, it can take double the time.

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 Tulum Ruins entrance fee in 2022 is 85 MXN (4 dollars) without a guide, perfect to explore it at your own pace. If you want to hire a guide on site, it’ll cost you around 600 MXN (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 (around 45 MXN – 2.5 dollars)  

⚠️ 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 4 PM daily. Arrive early to avoid the crowds.

Can I buy the ticket online?

Yes, you can buy your Tulum tickets online to visit the ruins.

Parking at Tulum Ruins

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

If you don’t want to pay for parking (and this is one of the best tips for visiting the ruins!) 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, Central America. 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.

El Castillo in the Tulum ruins overlooking a beautiful beach (Playa Ruinas) in Tulum, Mexico.

The town of Tulum used to be known as Zamá, a Mayan name that means Place of Dawning Sun, because it faces 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 ancient Maya 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 today.

The ancient walled city was built by the Mayans between 1200 and 1450 CE and it was abandoned by the late 16th century, after the Spaniards arrived with the fatal Old World diseases. During its golden period, it 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 Mayan city of Tulum.

Ever since then, tourists from all over the world have been making their way to Tulum to experience firsthand the contact with an ancient civilization, in an effort to discover the mystery behind the fortified walls of the city, and to understand life in the Mayan world.

What to Visit at the Tulum Ruins

The Mayan Ruins in Tulum are a magnificent seaport fortress built on a steep ocean cliff. It is surrounded by thick and large limestone walls that enclose the city from all three sides, providing 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 that are worth checking out.

El Castillo (The Castle)

El Castillo at the Tulum ruins in Tulum, Mexico.

El Castillo structure is the main Tulum pyramid. It’s also the largest and most prominent structure of the Tulum settlement so it’s definitely a must-see.

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.

Woman looking at the Tulum ruins and Playa Ruinas in Tulum, Mexico.

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 the diving god.

The diving or descending god got its name from the position in which he is always depicted.

The Temple of the Frescoes

Iguana in front of the Temple of the Frescoes at the Tulum ruins in Mexico.

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

It’s the best preserved of all the Tulum pyramids. If you peer inside it, you’ll see that there is a colored mural still intact! Unlike El Castillo, though, this is a rather small building, and it also features representations of the descending god.

The Great Palace

The Great Palace, called also the House of Columns, consists of several rooms that are supported by columns.

This place served as a residence for the Great Lord and his family. On top of that, there were also numerous religious ceremonies performed on the altar, so it has a lot of historical importance. 

House of the Halach Uinic

House of the Halach Uinic in Tulum.

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 in the settlement of Tulum appears to have served as the official residence of the halach uinic and his family.

Relax at the Tulum Ruins Beach

Tulum Ruins beach from above.

These Mayan ruins not only consist of archaeological constructions; if you climb down a wooden staircase along the cliff you’ll get to one of the most beautiful Tulum beaches, which is below the ancient ruins and somewhat hidden.

Tulum Ruins beach.

The beach 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

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

➤ Arrive early! Tourist buses usually arrive at 10 AM so it gets really packed at that time. When that happens, you can escape the crowds by taking a dip in the beach or go visit Tulum. 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 Tulum ruins while in the Yucatan Peninsula 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 between Tulum and Chichen Itza (or convince you to visit both!).

Woman standing in front of Chichen Itza pyramid.

While Chichen Itza is definitely more impressive and is home to the most famous pyramid in Central America, 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, then you should definitely visit Chichen Itza. Expect it to be quite crowded though, as it’s a major tourist destination (5 thousand visitors a day on average!)

The Mayan ruin in Tulum, Mexico, even if smaller and not so well-known, is 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 Mayan history and the architecture of the ruins, then the Tulum Ruins tour is one you won’t regret. 

Other Mayan ruins that are worth visiting are the Coba ruins, one of my favorite ruins in Mexico.

Tulum Ruins Guide FAQ

Are the Tulum ruins worth seeing?

Yes! The ruins of Tulum are 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 Archeological Site is a fabulous way of traveling in time and learning about the people and ways of life of the ancient civilization. Also, these kinds of ruins can only be found in this region of Mexico, so you shouldn’t leave Tulum without visiting them. 

What to wear to Tulum Ruins?

These Mayan 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, 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 the ruins in Tulum?

You can spend from two hours to half a day in the ruins.
After you explore the 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. 

Are the ruins of Tulum in Central Mexico?

These ruins are situated in Quintana Roo, on the east coast of Mexico. If you’re looking for sites in Central Mexico, the Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan are the best in the area.

What is the best beach in Tulum near the ruins?

There are plenty of spectacular Tulum beaches near the ruins, but the best one is Tulum Beach, which can only be accessed by climbing down a ladder from the ruins.

Where can I buy the Tulum archaeological site tickets?

You can get your tickets online here, or else visit with a tour.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you book something through one of my links I might get a commission, at absolutely no extra cost to you

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