July 17, 2024

The Most Spectacular Mayan Ruins in Tulum You Must Visit

If you plan to visit Tulum soon, make sure to include a visit to some of its most spectacular archaeological sites in your itinerary. The Mayan ruins of Tulum hide corners of adventure, mystery, and history that will make your trip to the Riviera Maya unforgettable. Here are the four best options you cannot miss.

Tulum is one of the most attractive locations in Quintana Roo. In the Mayan culture, its name means "wall," as it is one of the few ancient walled cities in Mexico. It has even been considered one of the best cities to live in Mexico. Its combination of nature and tourist attractions makes it an ideal destination for those who want to enjoy the best Caribbean beaches without the chaos of other cities like Cancun.

In our article about the best things to do in Tulum, you’ll find that this town is a small paradise with thousands of interesting spots to explore.

The archaeological sites in and around Tulum can be toured in approximately three hours. We recommend visiting early in the morning to enjoy cooler weather and prepare for a cultural experience with the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop. You will learn fascinating things about the Mayans and then enjoy swimming in Tulum's crystal-clear beaches.

1. Archaeological Site of Tulum

Also known as the Tulum archaeological site, these are the most important Mayan ruins in the area, located in Tulum National Park. The structures date back to 1000 AD. Here, you will find the famous “Castle of the Sea" (esp.: Castillo del Mar), which adorns almost all postcards of Tulum and served as a compass for navigators.

Archaeological Site of Tulum
The "Castle of the Sea" structure is perched on a cliff, offering the best views of the Caribbean.

Next to the castle, you will see the “Temple of the Descending God", a religious site where the god of wind was worshipped.

Visiting early gives you more privacy as tourist buses start arriving after 10 am.  Be sure to explore all areas, from the "Castle of the Sea" to the "Temple of the Descending God" for a complete experience.

For an even richer experience, consider exploring the surrounding area within the new Jaguar Park (esp.: Parque de Jaguar). This ecological and cultural project aims to preserve the natural and archaeological heritage of Tulum. It integrates the Mayan ruins and the surrounding environment, providing an enhanced context to your visit. The park focuses on conservation, education, and sustainable tourism, offering nature trails, wildlife conservation efforts, and cultural exhibits about the Mayan civilization.

Temple of the Descending God at Archaeological Site of Tulum
Temple of the Descending God at Archaeological Site of Tulum

2. Coba Archaeological Site

Coba means “waters stirred by the wind", highlighting the numerous lakes surrounding this ancient city. Here, you will find one of the most significant Mayan attractions: the 42-meter-tall Nohoch Mul pyramid.

A great plan when visiting Tulum is to climb to the top of this pyramid and watch the sunset, enjoying the most pleasant temperatures of the day. This archaeological site is just 40 km from Tulum, and the entrance fee is 65 Mexican pesos. Don't forget your camera to capture the spectacular views of the Riviera Maya from the top of the pyramid.

Coba Archaeological Site with one of the tallest pyramids in Yucatan
It is one of the tallest pyramids in Yucatan, which gives you spectacular views of the Riviera Maya.

3. Muyil Mayan Ruins

This archaeological site is located in the magnificent Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Here, you can discover and explore an ancient Mayan village situated in the heart of a tropical jungle filled with swamps and mystical lagoons. The Muyil archaeological site is surrounded by mangroves and vegetation.

You will receive a guided tour from local inhabitants who have inherited all the teachings of the Mayan culture over several generations. This makes your visit a historical journey into one of the world's ancient civilizations.

You will marvel at the architecture, with buildings constructed for religious rituals, sacrifices, and worshiping Mayan deities. One of the most attractive is the "Castle" pyramid, built in honor of the Mayan goddess of fertility, Ixchel.

Legend has it that the Mayans abandoned Muyil due to drought and a lack of resources. It is said that the gods were used by the Mayans to kill their enemies, angering the deities, who then abandoned the people of Muyil, ceasing to provide food, rain, and medicinal plants.

To fully enjoy this visit, we recommend bringing mosquito repellent and long pants. Being in a tropical jungle, the climate is humid, and mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Make sure to follow the local guides' instructions and prepare for a unique experience amidst nature and history.

Mayan Ruins in Muyil
The pyramid "Castle" is the most important structure in this archaeological area of Muyil and has a height of 17 meters.

4. Xel-Ha Archaeological Zone

The name Xel-Ha means "entry of water", as it is one of the most important coves on the coast of Quintana Roo and was a major commercial port in Yucatán between 250 and 600 AD. In this archaeological zone, you will find temples, palaces, and a wall that defended the city from maritime attacks.

Archaeological Zone of Xel-Ha in the Riviera Maya

This area reflects the devastating effects of European colonization. With the arrival of the Spaniards, Xel-Há was abandoned. Most of its inhabitants fled or died from new diseases brought by Europeans.

You will also find many mural paintings that show the influence of Teotihuacán on the Mayan sites before colonization.

Xel-Ha archaeological zone is 16 km north of Tulum and can be reached by public transport. The entrance fee is 75 pesos, and it includes parking and restroom facilities. Explore every corner of this archaeological zone to better understand the region's history and be amazed by the mural paintings reflecting Teotihuacán's influence. You can also take a dip in one of its cenotes or visit some of the iconic cenotes of Tulum.

To enjoy your tour more, remember to wear comfortable shoes for walking around the archaeological zone, carry water to stay hydrated, and apply sunscreen.

Many visitors fall in love with Tulum and its archaeological and tourist spots, leading them to consider buying property in Tulum. Besides its heritage appeal, our article on reasons to invest in Tulum highlights the potential of this Quintana Roo gem. Don't forget to explore real estate in Tulum, as it's an opportunity to take a piece of this Mexican paradise with you!

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