The must-visit Tulum Ruins


July 31, 2020

Visiting the ruins in Tulum is an experience that allows you to learn more about the Mayan history and culture.

There are several reasons why the archaeological site of Tulum is one of the places you should visit: it is very well preserved, each of the constructions has a unique history, the wall that surrounds the whole area and the beautiful beach.

This is a magical place that is a must for anyone who wants to learn something new in the Riviera Maya.

So if you are planning your vacation in Tulum - or if you are thinking of moving here - here is the list to make sure you get the most out of your visit.

The archaeological site of Tulum

As mentioned in 20 things to do in Tulum, this archaeological site is one of the main tourist attractions of the beach town since the Mayan ruins are just a few steps from the beach, something out of the ordinary.

That's why many people who visit these ruins take swimming gear with them so they can spend the afternoon on the beach right after doing the tour.

Besides the beach, another characteristic of this place is the ancient walls well preserved. And in fact, Tulum means "wall" in Mayan.

The archaeological site of Tulum.
Thanks to anthropological research, we know that the original name of this site was Zama, which means "dawn", which is precisely something you can admire from the ruins.

And where are these ruins located? How do you get there?

The archaeological site of Tulum -as its name suggests- is located in Tulum, Quintana Roo. To get there from Cancun you have to take the Chetumal-Cancun highway. If you are traveling from Valladolid, you take highway 180 and then the Chemax-Cobá highway.

The entrance fee is 80 Mexican pesos per person, and access is from 8:00 to 17:00 for the ruins. The access to the beach is until 16:00 hours.

How to get ready?

For any adventure in the Riviera Maya you have to prepare yourself. Our first recommendation is that you use sunscreen as there is not much shade and you will be exposed to the sun.

To complement the look, wear a hat or cap. This way you won't have to worry about the sun and you can even enjoy the sea breeze.

Beach of Tulum.
Remember to wear swimwear for swimming at the beach. It's an opportunity not to be missed.

Visit the place as early as possible to find a good spot in the parking lot and to have enough time to explore the ruins in Tulum and go to the beach.

These are the must-visit Tulum Ruins:

1. Casa del Cenote

Casa del Cenote, or Cenote House, is a Mayan ruin that, as its name suggests, was built at the entrance to a cenote.

Cenotes in Tulum are very important natural attractions for the Mayan culture. According to their beliefs, these sites represented the connection with the spiritual world.

It is believed that the Casa del Cenote used to be a kind of mausoleum, since Mayan remains were found inside it.

Unlike the most popular cenotes in the Riviera Maya, it is forbidden to swim in it since it only fills up with water in the rainy season and it also does not have the right conditions for water sports.

2. Temple of the God of the Wind

In the ruins of Tulum you will find several temples dedicated to the gods.

The Temple of the God of the Wind is the only construction in the area with a circular base. This geometric shape is associated with the god Kukulcan, lord of the winds, because the circular shape offers less resistance to the wind, an allusion to the god.

Temple of the God of the Wind.
This temple is located near the Casa del Cenote. Here you can appreciate the view of the sea. Inside you can see a small Mayan altar.

3. Grand Palace

This place is also known as "House of the Lords" or "House of the Halach Uinik" because this was the home of the Tulum nobility.

House of the Halach Uinik.
This structure is large and has several rooms. In addition, in several areas of this house the god Kukulcan is carved.

4. House of the Columns

Very close to the House of Halach Uinik is the House of Columns, which is also a palace.

This construction is on an L-shaped platform and got its name precisely because of the columns that are still preserved.

House of the Columns.
The interior has two main rooms and a shrine in the centre.

5. Temple of the Frescos

If you want to see pre-Hispanic Mayan murals in Tulum, then you must visit the Temple of the Frescos.

This ruin is also known as the Temple of the Paintings, since it has several murals of the Mayan deities, painted with the colors blue, green and black.

Temple of the Frescos.
The Temple of the Frescoes has two floors, and it is known that it was built in several stages. Without any doubt it represents the Mayan art and religion.

6. Temple of the Descending God

The Descending God is represented as a winged entity who falls from the sky with his face facing forward, and who appears to be contorted. It's a very easy image to distinguish.

In fact, very little is known about this god, and one of the few places where he is represented is precisely here in Tulum, where it is thought that he was the main center of worship. That's why this place is so unique in terms of history and culture.

Temple of the Descending God.
If you want to appreciate the image of the Descending God in the ruins of Tulum, just go to the temple we mentioned and look at its entrance.

7. Temple of the Initial Series

The Temple of the Initial Series is located very close to the Castle of Tulum.

It is a small building that has only one room but the importance of this temple lies in the fact that a stelae from 564 AD was found here. Historians conclude that the stelae was moved to this temple at a certain time in Mayan history.

8. The Castle of Tulum

With a height of 12 meters, the Castle of Tulum is the highest and most emblematic building in the entire archaeological site.

The Castle of Tulum was built on solid rock at the edge of the beach; a strategic point that -according to historians- also served as a lighthouse for Mayan navigators.

Although it is believed that this was its main function, rituals were held at the top of the Castle.

The Castle of Tulum.
Like many of the Mayan buildings, the castle was decorated with paintings representing their culture and religion, but due to the passage of time these paintings are not in good condition.

9. Temple of the Sea

Away from the other ruins to the southeast, is the Temple of the Sea, and from this place you can see the beach.

This temple is a little bit small and there is only one altar inside. However, going to visit it will allow you to admire the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

10. The walls

The walls surround the entire central part of the complex, which is the area where the ceremonial and political things were held.

The Mayan walls have 2 watchtowers and 5 entrances. They are approximately 4 meters high and 6 meters wide. They extend 380 meters and 170 meters wide throughout the complex.

You should not miss the opportunity to take pictures on the wall, as it is one of the main attractions of the archaeological site of Tulum.

The walls of Tulum.
The archaeological site of Tulum is home to the iguanas, so you may find some of them on the wall or throughout the complex.

Where else to go?

The Tulum archaeological site has a lot to offer, and although it is possible to explore it in a few hours in the morning, it is best to take a whole day to visit it.

There are even more tourist attractions in and around Tulum that will allow you to learn more about the Mayan culture, such as the archaeological sites of Coba, Muyil and Xelha.

The archaeological site of Coba

The archaeological zone of Coba is located near Tulum.

As mentioned above, Coba is a site that retains its original name and means "choppy water" because it is surrounded by 5 lakes.

Coba is in the middle of the Mayan jungle and it is believed that there are ruins to be discovered. Visiting this place is your best option if you want to feel like you are on a Mayan exploration.

Due to its size, one of the ways to explore this site is by bike or walking. Another of Coba's main tourist attractions is climbing the pyramid of Nohoch Mul, which is 42 meters high and has about 120 steps.

The archaeological site of Coba.
At the top of the pyramid you can take amazing pictures to publish in social media.

Don't forget your sunscreen, mosquito repellent, hat, comfortable clothes and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

The archaeological site of Muyil

South of Tulum, in Sian Ka'an Reserve, is Muyil, the hidden gem that has several very interesting Mayan ruins.

Unlike Coba, the original name of Muyil is not known, and the current name alludes to the two lagoons that accompany it: Muyil and Chunyaxche.

If you go to visit the Sian Ka'an reserve you will be able to visit these ruins since they are inside the reserve. Muyil's main ruin is called El Castillo, not to be confused with the Castle of the archeological site of Tulum.

The archaeological site of Muyil.
The Castle of Muyil has a structure that is not common in the region. It is about 17 meters high, has two altars and at its top there is a temple in the shape of a tower.

Visiting hours are from 8:00 to 17:00, and we suggest the same thing you should do when visiting Coba: apply sunscreen, repellent, wear a hat, comfortable clothes and carry water.

The archaeological site of Xelhá

The archaeological site of Xelhá is located about 20 minutes from Tulum on the way to Playa del Carmen.

Xelhá -or Xel-Há- means "entrance of water", and it honors its name since it is very close to the Caribbean Sea. It is known to have been a very important place for the Mayans.

Today there is a water theme park with the same name, where you can snorkel, zip-line, walk along the river, enjoy food and drinks, and even climb up to its lighthouse to admire the nature surrounding the park.

Banner of real estate developments in Tulum.

The main ruin you can admire is the House of the Birds, which contains several wall paintings representing birds of the region.

This is a visit that will allow you to learn much more about the Mayan culture while you are in Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

Tulum has a lot to offer

The Mayan ruins in Tulum are a tourist attraction that should not be missed but it is not the only thing you can do in this beach town.

As mentioned in Everything you need to know about Tulum, Quintana Roo, besides the archaeological sites, you can visit the beautiful beaches, swim in the cenotes and walk in the Sian Ka'an Reserve.

So, when we talk about vacationing in the Riviera Maya, the best thing to do is to take several days or even weeks, so you have enough time to visit all the tourist attractions you can.

And if you want to live the ultimate experience, your best option is invest in Tulum to experience the local culture every day. Whether you are moving to your new home or to a vacation home.

If visiting the Riviera Maya is an unforgettable experience, then living here is turning your dream into reality.

To know more places of interest, we recommend you read our article about things to do in the Riviera Maya.

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