The archaeological site of Tulum was the most important Mayan city in the state of Quintana Roo. It was one of the largest centers inhabited at the arrival of the Spaniards in 1518, and today it is undoubtedly the main tourist attraction on the entire east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Tulum was in ancient times one of the most important cities of the Mayan civilization as it was an essential stopover for merchants. In addition, Tulum is one of the most mystical places for the Mayan culture, which built the city with surprisingly advanced cosmological knowledge. The ruins are located atop tall cliffs, in front of the sea, so they have unique and incredible views.
Over the years, Tulum has become so popular that you will find crowds daily, especially on Sundays. The Tulum ruins are open to visitors from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day (hours may vary), and even before they open, you can expect a queue of tourists already waiting. But you will be better off arriving at this time because you will practically have the place to yourself for at least an hour before the caravan of tour buses starts to arrive. You can drive there by yourself renting a car, there is plenty of parking or hire a tour with transportation. If you want to avoid the hassle of driving and parking, you might consider a shuttle from Cancun to Tulum.
Bring pesos to pay for the entrance fee ($80 pesos per person), parking is between $50 to $180 pesos, depending on location, and you can also pay for a shuttle from the parking lot to the entrance area. No other currency is accepted and only in cash, so bring enough to spend, or you’ll be pressed to look for an ATM on site. There are a lot of shops at the entrance, including a Starbucks in case you skipped breakfast.
Remember, you are in the Caribbean, and it’s usually hot and humid. The hottest months are from May to September, but the humidity in the air makes it feel hot all year long. So bring a hat, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes. Don’t forget to bring water and hydrate throughout the day. Keep in mind that the site does not have many shaded areas, so you will be exposed to the sun for most of your tour.
Touring the Site
Tulum is the most iconic site on the coast of Quintana Roo due to its privileged location and the excellent preservation of its buildings and wall paintings. You can visit on your own; there are guide books you can purchase there or hire a guide, it’s your choice.
Tulum is well known for its wall, limiting the main complex to the North, South, and West sides since the Eastern sector faces the Caribbean Sea; it has five access points and two watchtowers. El Castillo or Castle heads the site, and it’s the highest base in Tulum, which preserves a temple with three access points ornamented with serpentine columns and two zoomorphic masks in the corners. In front of the Castle, there is a platform for dance rituals, and to the Southwest is the Temple of the Initial Series, where the earliest date documented in Tulum was found: 564 A.D.
In front of this complex is the main road, with several buildings. The most important is the Temple of the Frescoes, whose wall paintings portray a series of supernatural beings residing in the Underworld. To the north is the Temple of the Descending God, with a small base on which a building decorated with the image of that deity was constructed, the main iconographic element of the city. Along the roadway, you can see the palaces known as the House of Columns and the House of Halach Uinik. In the northeast access, the Casa del Cenote documents the importance that the Mayans gave to the aquatic cult linked to the cenotes, and from there, you can see the Temple of the God of the Wind, named for its circular base, related to Kukulcán, god of the winds.
Pescadores and Paraiso Beach
After you have finished touring the archeological site and taking the most amazing pictures, you will want to cool off on the ocean after your visit. Pack your bathing suit and towel and head to the Pescadores or Paraiso Beaches close to the archeological site. This stretch of beach translates to Paradise Beach and is located farther North and South of the Tulum ruins. Paraiso Beach is a fairly wide, long sandy beach, and if you walk along the coast, you can even admire the ruins of Tulum from a distance.
Along with Chichen Itza, visiting the Mayan ruins of Tulum is another must on your to-do list if you’re traveling to the Mayan Riviera. Just plan to avoid the crowds and enjoy this incredible archeological experience with the best ocean view in the world.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com