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Riviera Maya Sights

Tulum

  • Carretera 307, Km 133 Map It
  • Archaeological Site/Ruins
  • Fodor's Choice

Updated 03/07/2013

Fodor's Review

Tulum is one of the few Mayan cities known to have been inhabited when the conquistadores arrived in 1518. In the 16th century it was a trade center, a safe harbor for trade goods from rival Mayan factions who considered the city neutral territory. The city reached its height when its merchants, made wealthy through trading, for the first time outranked Maya priests in authority and power. But when the Spaniards arrived, they forbade the Maya traders to sail the seas,

and commerce among the Maya died.

Tulum has long held special significance for the Maya as a symbol of resistance and independence. A key city in the League of Mayapán (AD 987–1194), it was never conquered by the Spaniards, although it was abandoned by the Maya about 75 years after the conquest of the rest of Mexico. For 300 years thereafter it symbolized the defiance of an otherwise subjugated people, and it was one of the last outposts of the Maya during their insurrection against Mexican rule in the War of the Castes, which began in 1846. Uprisings continued intermittently until 1935, when the Maya ceded Tulum to the Mexican government.

At the entrance to the ruins you can hire a guide for $25, but keep in mind that some of their information is more entertainment than historical accuracy. (Disregard that stuff about virgin sacrifices.) Although you can see the ruins thoroughly in two hours, you might want to allow extra time for a swim or a stroll on the beach.

The first significant structure is the two-story Templo de los Frescos, to the left of the entryway. The temple's vault roof and corbel arch are examples of classic Mayan architecture. Faint traces of blue-green frescoes outlined in black on the inner and outer walls depict the three worlds of the Maya and their major deities, and are decorated with stellar and serpentine patterns, rosettes, and ears of maize and other offerings to the gods. One scene portrays the rain god seated on a four-legged animal—probably a reference to the Spaniards on their horses. Unfortunately, the frescos are difficult to see from the path to which visitors are restricted.

The largest and most-photographed structure, the Castillo (Castle), looms at the edge of a 40-foot limestone cliff just past the Temple of the Frescoes. Atop it, at the end of a broad stairway, is a temple with stucco ornamentation on the outside and traces of fine frescoes inside the two chambers. (The stairway has been roped off, so the top temple is inaccessible.) The front wall of the Castillo has faint carvings of the Descending God and columns depicting the plumed serpent god, Kukulcán, who was introduced to the Maya by the Toltecs. To the left of the Castillo, facing the sea, is the Templo del Díos Descendente —so called for the carving over the doorway of a winged god plummeting to earth.

A few small altars sit atop a hill at the north side of the cove, with a good view of the Castillo and the sea. To avoid the longest lines, be sure to arrive before 11 am.

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Sight Information

Address:

Carretera 307, Km 133, Tulum, Tulum, Quintana Roo, 77750, Mexico

Map It

Phone:

983-837–2411

Sight Details:

  • $5 entrance, $3 parking, $4 video fee, $1.50 shuttle from parking to ruins
  • Daily 8–4:30

Updated 03/07/2013

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Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By avi2014

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Jan 1, 2014

The ruins were disappointing

A second rate site, no pyramid, remarkable structure or interesting Maya artifact. The ruins were disappointing compared to those I saw elsewhere in Mexico. You can't see the ruins which have been closed to tourists. If you enjoy cheated by the admission ticket booth clerk who doesn't return change go here. The place is overcrowded and the staff unpleasent

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Aug 8, 2005

Fantastic!

Don't miss them!

By Arturo

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Jun 22, 2005

Beatiful place , take your swiming suit with you

Tulum is 2 hour drive from Cancun & is worth exploring. The view is great. After doing the exploring , jump into the beach and have a great time.

By Jim

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Jun 25, 2004

One hot property!

The ruins at Tulum are a "don't miss" experience if you are anywhere in the area. We were staying at the Sunscape Tulum which is about 5 km away and walked it. First suggestion, don't walk, it's hot! The ruins are the only Mayan ruins overlooking the ocean and they are gorgeous! Tulum is not big, but it's well worth a visit. Some suggestions. Take water, a camera, an umbrella (for sun or rain), comfortable shoes, and a bathing suit. It opens

at 7 AM so if you are there early, you will beat the crowds. Entrance fee is 38 Pesos per person and a 30 Peso fee if you have a movie camera (still cameras are free). If you are in Playa del Carmen you can get a collectivo to the ruins for 20 pesos per person each way. This is an inexpensive and great way to travel.

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By Barb

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Jun 13, 2004

The Tulum Experience!!!

Visiting the Tulum Ruins was great! Swimming was rough with the waves being so high.Otherthan that, great! Shopping at the markets outside the entrance was very good. I notice alot of Mexicans don't barter down much. It was annoying.The selection in one place was very good.

By Jill2

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Aug 23, 2003

Go Early!

Don't sleep in on the day you plan to visit Tulum. We had been there 20 years ago but on this trip we didn't get to the ruins until 11 a.m. and it was packed with folks, which not only lessened the mystical impact but also made it hard to take pictures!

By Erin

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Nov 16, 2002

Tulum Is For Anyone

To see ruins overlooking the Caribbean Sea, visit Tulum for a view you won't soon forget! This was definitely one of the most amazing things I have ever seen, and I recommend it to everyone who is interested in a bit of history and plenty of gorgeous scenery. All of my pictures turned out like postcards, and I can't help looking back through them on cold days when I miss Mexico! Also, take the time to swim in the sea beneath the ruins. There is a

great little beach at the site, and the swimming is fabulous, especially when you look up to see ancient Mayan structures. The only downfall of the visit were the crowds at the ruins, but if you can ignore that, the experience will more than make up for it!

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