Mayan ruins in the Yucatan
Most likely if you are reading this you are either planning a trip to the Yucatan peninsula or you are already there and you are most likely wanting to visit the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan.
Tulum is located on the coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which is known for its great preservation of Mayan ruins.
The Yucatan is full of archaeological and historical sites, beautiful beaches, great culture, and mouth-watering food.
Tulum and the whole Yucatan peninsula was once an ancient Mayan port and walled city in Quintana Roo which is how it got its Tulum got its modern-day name, which means walls in Mayan.
- About the Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan
- Originally, Tulum was named Zamá in Maya which means “a place of the dawning sun.”
- Main Mayan Structures in Tulum
- El Castillo
- Temple of the Frescoes
- House of the Halach Unic
- House of the Columns
- Visiting the Mayan Ruins
- Swimming at the Mayan Ruins
- Other Mayan Ruins in the Area
- Chichen Itza
- Coba Ruins
- Ek Balam
- Other Things To Do While in Tulum
- Cenote Exploration
- Ocean Swimming
- Explore The City
About the Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan
The Mayan ruins in the Yucatan are some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ancient sites in Mexico.
With some of the ruins near Tulum sitting on fifteen-meter-high cliffs that overlook the turquoise blue ocean.
These sites are worth seeing not only for its important history but also because it occupies one of the most gorgeous waterfront spots, making it quite picturesque.
It’s enjoyable to imagine what the Mayan city might’ve once looked like thousands of years ago. The Mayan ruins make for a great day trip to explore and wonder at what might have occurred during this important piece of history.
The Mayan ruins near Tulum were once a major trading port and religious center from the 11th to 16th centuries.
The reason behind the strategic location of this ancient site was because the cliffs provided protection to the east while limestone walls covered the other 3 sides of the city.
The limestone walls are 784 meters high and had just a few entrances to get inside the city which allowed it to fully be enclosed from outsiders. It was once a seaport fortress and popular trading center for items such as jade, cacao beans, turquoise, cotton, food, etc.
Originally, Tulum was named Zamá in Maya which means “a place of the dawning sun.”
Only around 1,600 people once lived in the walls of Zamá. Which most likely hints that it was more of a religious and trading center than a populous residential community.
There are still mysteries today as to why it was walled. Some think that only priests and nobles, or holy people were allowed to live inside the walls. While the rest of the other inhabitants were forced to live outside the walls.
Even without the walls, Zamá was once a very powerful city due to its location and trading relevance.
The structures of the Tulum ruins have different architectural styles depending on when they were built throughout the years that the Mayans inhabited Tulum.
Today, the stone structures of this site are covered in palm trees, cactus flowers, and other beautiful greenery.
It can be busy with tourists but it’s a big archaeological site so it’s easy to find a quiet spot to enjoy the magnificent history.
Once you enter the walls, your imagination will be sparked and you’ll start to wonder what might’ve occurred so many years ago.
Main Mayan Structures in Tulum
There are many archaeological structures at the site throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, with some of the main ones being in Tulum.
The Tulum Mayan ruins are some of the most well preserved in Mexico.
These specific types of pyramids and historical structures can only be found in Mexico and Central America.
Enjoy learning about the history of the Mayan civilizations? Then you will find that visiting the ruins takes you back in time. The four structures below are some of the most prominent structures near Tulum.
The most prominent structure is El Castillo, meaning the castle and it’s perched on a 12-meter cliff. You can climb to the top of this pyramid-like structure for amazing views of the ocean and the rest of the ruins.
It was once a lighthouse to help sailors navigate the bay at night so they wouldn’t crash into the reef just below the water.
Temple of the Frescoes
This ancient structure is located in front of the castle and it’s the most well-preserved ruin.
There is still a mural with colored paint inside the structure that has survived thousands of years. It has three sections that represent the Mayan world of the dead, the living, and the creator of rain and gods.
House of the Halach Unic
The Halach Unic is the High Priest which every Mayan city was ruled by and this structure was the house for that priest. This was where the Mayan Kuchkabal lived and ruled the city. In this case, it was the Quintana Roo.
House of the Columns
This structure is a large building with 4 rooms and many large columns that hold up the roof, which is how it got its name. It has also been referred to as the “The Palace” as it was once the place where the Mayan leaders lived.
Once a three-story building it was one of a kind during the Mayan Empire.
Visiting the Mayan Ruins
The Tulum ruins are the most popular ruins attraction in the Yucatan and can get very busy.
Visiting first thing in the morning or before closing is the best time if you want a quieter and more serene experience.
You can comfortably visit these ruins and see everything in about two hours but give yourself some extra time if you want to go swimming.
The ruins near Tulum are located just under two miles from the city center. It’s roughly a 1 hour and 45-minute car ride from Cancun or a 45-minute car ride from Playa del Carmen.
You can arrive at the ruins in many ways including by bus and taxi. If you plan on bring your own car and parking, it will cost roughly $5.
From the parking lot, it’s about a 10 to 15-minute walk to the ruins but there is a folklore train that will take you to the entrance for $1.
The ruins are open every day of the week from 8 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is free on Sundays for Mexican citizens and residents, so not the best day to visit as it’s usually very packed.
You can visit the ruins on your own and explore by yourself or take a Tulum ruins tour. If you plan on exploring the Mayan ruins on your own the entrance fee costs about $3.50 where a guided tour will cost about $30.
I highly recommend doing a guided tour if you are a history buff and want to learn more about the structures.
Swimming at the Mayan Ruins
You can swim at the beach of this historical Mayan Ruins site. Below El Castillo is a secluded beach that you can access by wooden and winding stairs that lead to the water.
The walk itself is picturesque and worth doing. The beach opens at 10 am and can get busy so it’s best to go first thing in the morning or right before closing.
Swimming in the water gives you amazing views of the ancient ruins atop the cliff above.
It is the perfect activity to do to break up your day at the ruins site.
Other Mayan Ruins in the Area
If you enjoy the Mayan ruins in Tulum, you will want to check out the many others in the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. You could take a day trip to experience these ancient pieces of history.
This is one of the most popular ruins in the Yucatan Penisula. The Kukulcan Pyramid being the most popular and magnificent structure at the Chichen Itza ruins. It is roughly 30 meters tall one of the tallest in the area.
About two hours from Tulum, so it’s a bit of a trek for those not wanting to spend the day in a car. However, it is totally worth it if you have the time.
Chichen Itza was a major Mayan location and home to around 35,000 people at its time.
The Coba Ruins are located about 50 minutes from Tulum by car. These ruins are not as popular with tourists due to their location but are worth the trip.
With fewer tourists, you can climb the pyramids which gives you a new perspective. It’s known for its stone roads that once connected the residences to the main center area. You can explore some of these “white roads” by walking or renting a bike.
This site is also less excavated than others so the overgrown trees and greenery allow you to feel like you’re walking in the jungle rather than a tourist destination.
These Mayan ruins in the Yucatan are about a 1 hour and 45-minute car ride from Tulum. The site is surrounded by two defense walls and the interior of the city has several smaller walls as well.
The site has temples, palaces, and a large pyramid called El Torre. The historical site itself is very large but most of it has not yet been excavated. The major structures that have been excavated are within a 1-mile radius that can be toured.
Other Things To Do While in Tulum
Tulum would be a great place to spend some time relaxing or adventuring. It’s full of authentic culture and food, a beautiful coastline, and magnificent cenotes.
Bike The Coast
It’s easy to rent a bike in Tulum and explore the area. The coastline is a small walk from downtown making renting bikes easier to get to and from the beach.
Ola Bike Tulum is a great bike rental option and you can even ride out to the Mayan ruins.
What is Mexico without visiting a cenote? These sinkholes of fresh groundwater are some of the most magnificent natural creations in the world.
Not only that they can only be found on the Yucatan Peninsula. Cenotes are created when limestone rock collapses exposing fresh gound water underneath.
Tulum has many great cenotes including Gran Cenote, Car Wash, Cenote Dos Ojos, and Cenote Calavera.
They’re all a short distance so feel free to take your rented bike to check them out.
Tulum has one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world called the Sal Actun System which means the “white cave system.”
You’ll be able to find great cenotes in the area as there are hundreds in Tulum.
The ocean is beautiful everywhere in Mexico. However, Tulum has extra special beaches full of soft, powdery white sand and beautiful turquoise blue water.
You can always find a great spot to relax on the coast in between adventures at the Mayan ruins.
Explore The City
Tulum is a great vacation spot and has some authentic Mexican restaurants and quaint shops. The food is inexpensive and tasty.
Some great restaurant include Taqueria Honori, Don Beto, and Antojitos la Chiapaneca.
Tulum is truly a special place. Not only does it have some of the greatest Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan, but it’s also a great city to visit in general.
It’s beautiful and full of new experiences and adventures. Visiting Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan for the first time is an amazing opportunity.
Relish in the historical importance of these ancient artifacts.
Tulum is a beautiful city and truly worth visiting. The ancient Mayan ruins are a phenomenal archaeological and historical site. If you love history and ancient civilizations, visiting ruins for yourself is a great experience.
Tulum is in a beautiful location right on the water so it’s the perfect place to relax, vacation, and tour a unique piece of history. You’ll definitely leave the ruins feeling a sense of admiration and appreciation for the structures the Mayans created with such early technological advances.
Before you depart on your trip be sure to you are packing right for Mexico so you don’t leave anything behind.
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