Tulum is a Mayan word that means wall. This city was the most important in the region and was known by the name of Zamá, which translates as dawn. Tulum received this name because its location was the place that the sun’s rays kissed first in the early hours of the morning. This is not random, because for the Maya everything should have a logical sense, within its cosmogony: the city is a quadrilateral, corresponding to the cardinal points and have its own order in which gods and humans have a place.
If you plan a trip to the Riviera Maya, you cannot miss the opportunity to know the archaeological zone of Tulum. Strolling through the ruins is a simple way to be part of that universe in which the mundane and the sacred intermingle, is a great chance to understand more deeply where the magic that belongs to Mexican culture comes from.
How to get to Tulum
The archaeological zone of Tulum is located on the Federal Highway Cancun Chetumal, specifically in the hotel zone of Tulum, and the state of Quintana Roo. If you stay in the town of Tulum, the ruins are 4.5 km away and can be reached by car (10 minutes), by bicycle or by public transport. If you go by bus, you must take it in front of Supermarket 7 Eleven, on federal highway 307.
If you stay in Playa del Carmen, you can rent a car and make the 1-hour trip on your own. If you want to take public transport, the ADO company buses can be taken on Fifth Avenue, while public buses are taken on 2 North Street with Av 20. If you are in Cancun, you must first go to Playa del Carmen by bus and then take another one for Tulum. In case you are in Mérida, the journey will last 3 hours if you go in your own car and about 4 if you go by bus. Once again, you can take the ADO bus at the terminal.
There is always the possibility of doing a tour, which may include transportation, tickets, guide and meals. You can also hire a taxi to make the trip. This is a bit more comfortable and you won’t have to worry about the car or the route.
The parking lot of the archaeological zone of Tulum is about 3 km from the center of Tulum. It opens at 7:30 am and closes at 5 pm. They charge a flat rate, which is about 100 Mexican pesos and you can leave the car there all day. From the parking lot you can walk to the entrance or take a little train that leaves you at the door. The trip is short, about 400 meters, but if you go with children it may seem fun to take it.
Tour of the archaeological zone of Tulum
The tour of the archaeological zone is done in about 2 hours. It is possible to hire a guide to explain more details about the buildings you will see during your walk. If you do not have a digital guide or prior knowledge, it is a good idea to hire this service, as you will have a better understanding of your surroundings.
The buildings of the Tulum ruins correspond mostly to the Mayan post-classical period and the engravings and other pictorial samples indicate that the city was consecrated to the Descending God. This archaeological zone is one of the most preserved in the area, so you will find many interesting constructions, with almost intact details.
There are many ways of doing the tour, but because of the way the city was built it is better to go from north to south, instead of starting with El Castillo, which is the most imposing building. If you go with a guide, they can show the most efficient way to make the tour, but if you go on your own we recommend you start on the north side, to the North House. From there you can go to the House of the Cenote and then move to the House of the Wind God, a tower that overlooks the sea.
Then you can look for the Grand Palace, the House of Columns and the Temple of the Descending Sun. From this temple it is easier to go to El Castillo. If you go through the back of this building, you will find stairs that will take you to a beautiful beach. If you wish you can cool off on the sea and rest in it before continuing with the tour.
When leaving the beach, do not forget to go through the miradores. Then, head to the Temple of the Frescoes and the House of Chultún. You can then travel along the Great Avenue, or exit directly along the road that leads to the main road.
Tips to make the most of your visit to Tulum
Try to arrive very early if you want to take advantage of the cooler weather and enjoy the ruins almost by yourself. Guided tours begin arriving at 9:30 am and the place can be a bit crowder.
Dress in comfortable and fresh clothes. Wear comfortable shoes with good grip, so you don’t slip. Do not forget hat, umbrella and sunscreen. If you want, you can take a bathing suit and towel if you want to bathe on the beach.
Bring a good amount of water. You will be walking, it is very hot and inside the ruins there is nowhere to buy water. It is not allowed to enter food.
Tickets have a cost of 70 pesos per person. The parking costs about 100 pesos. There are those who prefer to leave the car in open spaces or in nearby parking lots, which may be cheaper.
It’s better to exchange some pesos. Tickets must be canceled with this currency.
At the entrance there are several shops where you can buy souvenirs, in addition to restaurants and coffee shops, in fact there is a Starbucks, in case you need your dose of caffeine before you start walking.
If you have done the tour on your own and early, you can take the opportunity to visit the town of Tulum and eat there, visit the cenotes and other ecological attractions in the area.