The Tulum archaeological zone is a mandatory stop for almost every visitor, one of the biggest attractions of the Riviera Maya. Tulum is the postcard of this magnificent Mexican Caribbean, the most visited archaeological zone in Quintana Roo.
Tulum is one of those images that remain engraved in our retinas, the ones that make you want to visit the place. This happens with those places that have a particular charm, icons such as the Blue Hole in Belize, the Eiffel Tower in France or Pisa in Italy are the tourist flag of their countries.
It may not be what you remember most about the country once you've visited it, but it's part of what made you dream of going there.
HOW TO GET TO TULUM
Tulum is located on federal highway 307 that connects Cancun with Chetumal. This highway is parallel to the Mexican Caribbean, it is the highway that connects Cancun with Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Bacalar and Chetumal, the capital of the state of Quintana Roo.
From Cancun it is located 130 kilometers, and from Playa del Carmen 65 kilometers
- HOW TO GET THERE BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT Buses pass from Tulum on the main street. If you go from Cancun (the collective you leave near the ADO terminal) you must get off at the last stop Playa del Carmen and from here take another collective towards Overall (they leave 2 street between 15 and 20 avenues). You must get off at the entrance of federal highway 307. From here there is a small pay train that takes you to the entrance of the enclosure, just 1 kilometer away. The train is paid separately, it is not necessary to go by train.
- HOW TO GET TO TULUM BY BIKE: The archaeological zone of Tulum is only 4 kilometers from Tulum town. The shoulder of the road is wide, so one option is to rent a bike and pedal there. That they give you a bike lock, it is important.
- HOW TO GET THERE BY TAXI: official taxis must carry their rates in the car, so ask what it costs from any point to get to the archaeological zone.
- ON TOUR: The agencies offer tours to Tulum with another visit, either to Cobá, beaches, recreational parks or a cenote in the area.
BRIEF HISTORY OF EXPLORATION OF TULUM
In 1518, during Juan de Grijalva's second expedition to the Mexican coast, Juan Díaz, chaplain and chronicler of the expedition, wrote that he had seen a city “as big as Seville”, which could well have been Tulum.
Two of the most famous explorers of the Mayan world, the adventurers Stephens and Catherwood, undertook a first expedition between 1839 and 1840 where they visited various regions. They reflected their trip in the book "Incidents of travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan": written by Stephens and illustrated by Catherwood, published in 1841.
Tulum the rediscovered completely abandoned and in ruins. The time of conquest and colonization made a dent. Catherwood dedicated himself to drawing those Mayan archaeological zones that they explored together, aided by a camera lucida.
His prints are true jewels that we can enjoy today thanks to that effort and curiosity of these mythical travelers who toured Mayan lands for years.
In Mérida you can visit the Catherwood Museum with all the sheets of the Mayan world.
In the year 1847 the Social Revolution began in the territory of the Yucatan Peninsula. This war lasts until 1901, it is known as the Caste War. The Mayan population, tired of the abuses suffered for years, decide to rise up against the established power.
Tulum remained in part of the territory defended by the Mayans. Since 1871, the archaeological zone has been the sanctuary of the Talking Cross, a sacred symbol for the Mayans of this revolution. The Maya Cruzo'ob were guided by these Talking Crosses which were intermediaries between them and the gods.
After the Social Revolution, Tulum continues to be a focus of interest for many archaeologists and onlookers who pass through here. From the 70s, the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) guards the place.
In this photo from 1940 we can see "men sitting outside a building in Tulum, group portrait".
The highway from Cancun to Chetumal began in the early 70s. This area has been developing at an urban and tourist level. Currently, the Riviera Maya destination is well known worldwide for its wonderful Caribbean beaches and culture.
OUR OPINION OF TULUM
When we came to live in Cancun in 2007, Tulum was one of the first things we went to visit. The Tulum archaeological zone is the postcard of the Mexican Caribbean, the icon of the place? It's just too hard to say NO to this beauty.
For us, Tulum became a usual getaway to go with friends, those from here and those from there. It is one of those places that you want to share with those you love. I have visited it dozens of times, as an accompanying guide, with friends, alone... and I have always loved the place, its history and brutal location.
At the same time, the number of visitors who come to Tulum makes me very heavy, it is something that goes with the place, you cannot avoid it. We recommend you go very early in the morning.
HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT MAYA IN TULUM
Tulum is the most important ancient Mayan city on the Caribbean coast. It was part of a larger complex next to the Tancah archaeological zone that is located 3 kilometers to the north. It was a port city where various merchandise came from different points, a strategic point of trade. Its location on a limestone elevation of 40 meters is vital.
Tulum was one of the few ancient Mayan cities that were inhabited at the arrival of the Spanish conqueror. The Mayan civilization was in its decline, and most of the cities were uninhabited, with the Mayans distributed throughout the territory living in a not so organized way.
- APOGEE: There is graphic evidence for a date that was found on one of the Tulum stelae, which refers to the year 564 AD At present, all the buildings that we see in Tulum belong to the last stage of the ancient Maya, to the Middle Postclassic period and Late (1250-1520 AD). In this period we place the heyday of Tulum.
- WHAT DOES THE NAME OF TULUM MEAN?: Tulum means wall, fence, palisade, in reference to the wall that surrounds the city. One of its sides is guarded by the spectacular natural wall of the Caribbean Sea. Some have pointed out that its original name was Zamá (dawn), although there are discrepancies.
- ARCHITECTONIC STYLE: several ancient Mayan architectural styles are considered. Tulum is the greatest example of Eastern Shore, which belongs to several cities of the Caribbean coast of this last stage of the Maya. It is a simpler architectural style in itself.
THE HIGHLIGHTS OF TULUM
The highlight of Tulum is precisely what is not in sight. These are the mural paintings found inside the Temple of the Paintings. These wall paintings are among the most important in the Mayan world, among the best preserved examples.
The graphic representations are direct windows to the ancient world, they provide fundamental knowledge.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION TO VISIT TULUM
Tulum is so visited that around it there are several nearby parking lots that charge cheaper than the official parking lot, which is around 100 pesos. You will see several people offering to park elsewhere.
From the parking lot of the archaeological zone of Tulum there is less than 1 kilometer to the entrance to the site. They offer transportation service with a little train that costs about 20 pesos per person.
The walk is almost all for shade.
1-TULUM ARCHAEOLOGICAL ZONE SCHEDULES
They open every day of the year, from Monday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 16:30 p.m. Last access 15:30.
2-TULUM ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREA PRICE
85 pesos per person.
On Sundays the entrance to the INAH is free for Mexicans and permanent residents. Access to the archaeological zones is free every day for children under 13 years of age, students, teachers and seniors with valid credentials.
Extra cost for video and professional camera, drone, food, large backpacks, alcoholic beverages, and pets are not allowed.
You can enter with a swimsuit and a towel for access to the beach, but not in a large backpack.
3-SERVICES ARCHAEOLOGICAL ZONE TULUM
Almost all services are concentrated in the parking area. Tickets are paid at the entrance of the enclosure, which is located 1 km from the parking lot.
- bathrooms (in the parking area and at the entrance of the enclosure)
- souvenir shops
- facilities for disabled access
- accredited guide service
- ATMs and exchange houses
INAH Quintana Roo Center. Insurgentes 974, Colonia Forjadores, Chetumal, Quintana Roo. ZIP 77025.
Tels. 01 (983) 837 24 11 and 837 0796, ext. 318002 and 318003.
Archaeological zone of Tulum. Tel. 01 (984) 802 5405
Discover the other unmissable 4 archaeological sites of Quintana Roo
DO NOT MISS THIS CURIOSITY IN TULUM?
When you walk around the back of the Castillo building facing the sea, don't miss this: the El Castillo building was a beacon for ships arriving at night. So its two back windows, which lit up with fire, coincide with an open stretch of coral reef, where ships must turn to enter. This channel is not natural, the ancient Mayans made it.
MAP OF TULUM
We show you the most important structures on the map of Tulum.
The itinerary that we propose is the following: once you have seen the Casa del Noreste, continue towards Casa del Cenote, pass through the Shrines, continue through the Casa del Halach Uinic and the Casa de las Columnas, to visit the area of the Castle and the Set of Palaces, to finish in the Temple of the Frescoes.
TIPS FOR VISITING TULUM
Tulum is the most visited area of Quintana Roo, and the second most visited archaeological zone in the Yucatan Peninsula, after Chichen Itza.
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: To avoid the masses of tourists who disembark every day from the Riviera Maya, I recommend you visit the ruins first thing in the morning, you will enjoy the place much more.
- WHAT TO BRING: It is best to go with light and comfortable clothing (the heat can be tremendous), it is not necessary to wear closed shoes (the area is flat and you walk along trails) and very important: sunscreen and water. You can also go in a swimsuit and bring a towel, as swimming is allowed on the beach.
- VISIT TIME: the enclosure is small, so you can go through it in an hour, although the times of each one are so particular. Calmly 1 hour and a half long. And if you bathe in the little beach, then longer, of course.
The precinct of Tulum has a beach where you can bathe
NEARBY PLACES TO VISIT
- OTHER NEARBY ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREAS: Muyil, Xel-Ha y Cobá they are the closest.
- NEARBY CENOTES: we leave you the 9 best cenotes around Tulum
For today's travelers, it still retains its charm intact. It will not be the most interesting of the archaeological zones, but without a doubt its location and its relevance is one of the essential visits within the Mayan world.
It is priceless to be able to peacefully tour Tulum, a visit that no one forgets. Tulum is where you go with friends who come to visit, a gift of a place. And we all took our photo of that magical place that made us dream of visiting the Mexican Caribbean.
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