Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

July 25, 2024
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Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

Take note of this mega guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone! Here you will find all the information you need to visit one of the most influential Mayan cities in the state of Quintana Roo.

How to get to Tulum Archaeological Zone

The Tulum Archaeological Zone is located just 5 kilometers from the center of Tulum (town), one of the places chosen by many travelers who visit Quintana Roo attracted by all inclusive packages. I will tell you the different options you have to get to the Tulum Archaeological Zone:

  • Car: Possibly your visit to the Tulum Archaeological Zone is part of a route through Yucatan on your own. If you are going to move around the country by rental car, as we did, you should know that the access to the complex is located at kilometer 230 of Federal Highway 307 Cancun-Chetumal. In the next point I tell you where you can park and in section 7 of the preparations for traveling to Yucatan I leave you everything you need to know to rent a car in Mexico.
  • Bus: ADO is the main bus company in Mexico. They cover routes between the most important cities in the country. You can get to the Tulum Archaeological Zone by ADO from many places in Yucatan. You have all the routes, schedules and prices on their official website. In the map at the end I leave you the exact location of the bus terminal of the Tulum Archaeological Zone.
  • Colectivo: They are very economical minivans for passenger transportation. They leave from Playa del Carmen and from the center of Tulum towards the ruins. You can ask for the exact address where these minivans leave at your lodging.
  • Cab: In this case you will have to negotiate with a cab driver for your ride. You can reduce the price by sharing a cab with other travelers. You can also rent a car with driver in Riviera Maya.
  • Bike: If you are in Tulum (town) you can rent a bike to get to the ruins since both points are perfectly connected. It will take you about 20 minutes to get to the archaeological site.
  • Organized tour: One of the most comfortable options. Here are the best excursions to Tulum with pick up at your hotel:
  • Excursion to Tulum and Mayan village
  • Excursion to Tulum and Coba
  • Tour to Tulum, Akumal + Snorkel in cenote
  • Two days tour to Chichen Itza + Valladolid + Tulum + cenotes.

Tulum Archaeological Zone Parking

If you come by car, there are several paid parking lots located a few meters from the entrance to the complex.

As soon as you leave Federal Highway 307 Cancun-Chetumal, you will enter the ruins and you will be pressured to enter one of the different parking lots in the area. All of them have a fixed price of 50 MXN (2.5€) per car. You can choose the one you want, but don’t let yourself be pressured by the employees who will force you to park in their own.

If it helps you, we left it in the andreas Tulum parking lot and, from the first moment, as they stopped us to convince us to leave the car in their own parking lot, we were very clear that we were going to the andreas Tulum parking lot. That is how we got them to stop insisting. I leave you the exact location of the parking lot also in the map at the end.

Entrance to the Tulum Archaeological Zone

750 meters separate the parking area from the entrance to the Tulum Archaeological Zone. A distance that you can perfectly walk.

When you park your car, the very moment you set foot on the ground, they will start offering you dozens of tours, guided visits and they will even try to trick you -sorry to say so- to sell you, supposedly, official tickets. Be careful! If you are not interested in hiring any guided tour, don’t pay attention to any of these people and keep walking directly to the “INAH Ticket Office” where they DO sell tickets at the official price: 85 MXN (approx. 4€) per person. I leave below a photo of the ticket office, for your reference, and in the map at the end the exact location of the ticket office.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

Schedule and estimated time of the visit

The Tulum Archaeological Zone is open every day of the year from 08:00 to 17:00 hours, being the last access at 16:30 hours.

The time it will take you to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone is approximately 1h 30 min.

Brief history of Tulum

As I mentioned in the introduction, the ancient city of Tulum was once the most influential Mayan city in the state of Quintana Roo. It is also considered one of the most recent, reaching its maximum splendor after the fall of some important cities such as Chichen Itza.

Formerly, Tulum was known as Zamá, which means morning or dawn, a name it receives for its privileged location, next to the sea, where you can perfectly see the first rays of the sun. Later it was called Tulum, which translates as “wall”, in allusion to the fortress that protected the city and is still preserved.

Tulum was for many years an important seaport for trade. It was inhabited by the Mayas between the 13th and 15th centuries and abandoned in the 16th century, many years after Mexico was conquered by the Spanish.

Today, Tulum is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico, after Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan.

What to see in Tulum Archaeological Zone

Here you have, in order of visit, everything to see in the Tulum Archaeological Zone:

Outer Wall

After buying your tickets and crossing the ticket booths, you will see a path that you will have to walk to the end. Once there, we will cross the wall to access the interior of the complex.

The Tulum wall has five entrances and four watchtowers and is in a perfect state of preservation. These protected the city on its north, south and west sides. The east side was naturally protected by the steep cliffs that lead to the crystalline waters of the Caribbean.

1. Northwest House

The first building we will see inside the archaeological zone is the Northwest House, located at the north end.

The Northwest House has a rectangular floor plan and is believed to have been the residence of an important Tulum official. This is known thanks to the stone platform on which the building is built, something that was only available to the upper class.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

2. Cenote House

If we continue along the trail, leaving the Northwest House behind, we arrive at the Casa del Cenote. As its name suggests, it is believed to have been built over a cave that once contained drinking water.

The Casa del Cenote is a rectangular building with two rooms and a tomb in the center. This was normal in Maya times, as they considered cenotes to be portals or windows to the world of the dead.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

3. Temple of the God of the Wind

The next building we will see on our tour, located on top of the hill and next to the sea, is the Temple of the God of the Wind.

The sanctuary is associated with Kukulkan, the god of the winds, or Ehecatl, the equivalent Mayan deity of central Mexico.

The base of the temple is cylindrical, without corners, to offer less resistance to the wind. Inside is a small altar.

Legend has it that when hurricanes approached Tulum, a sound very similar to that of a whistle could be heard thanks to a small hole in the upper part of the temple. When this happened, the Maya knew they had to leave the city and seek refuge on dry land.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

4. Tortuga Beach

Below the cliff where the Temple of the God of the Wind is located is Playita Tortuga. This small cove is protected and it is not possible to enter it because it is a turtle nesting area. That is, the place where turtles lay their eggs. They bury them underground and at a prudent distance from the sea.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

5. Temple of the Descending God

Leaving Playita Tortuga to our left, we will continue along the path that runs between several buildings and temples on both sides. For the moment we will only look at the ones on our left.

The first one we will see is the Temple of the Descending God. It highlights the niche located at the top of the entrance door where you can see the sculpture of a character, upside down and with bent legs, which seems to be descending from heaven: the Descending God.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

6. El Castillo, the main building in this guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone.

El Castillo is the largest and one of the oldest buildings in the city of Tulum. It is located on a platform that houses the Temple of the Descending God (which we saw in the previous point), the Castle and the Temple of the Initial Series (which we will see next). These temples, in turn, are delimited by a second interior wall.

Because of its privileged location, and being 12 meters above sea level, the Castle not only served as a strategic surveillance point to prevent possible attacks, but also as a guide for Mayan navigators, that is, it served as a lighthouse for friendly ships.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

7. Temple of the Initial Series (or of the Stele)

On the other side of the Castillo is the Temple of the Initial Series, where fragments of a stela with an inscription dating to A.D. 564, the earliest documented date of the complex, were found. It is believed that the stela was brought to Tulum from Tankah, a nearby Mayan settlement. The stela is currently housed in the British Museum in London.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

8. Ruinas Beach

Very close to the Castillo complex is Playa Ruinas. This small beach is open to the public, unlike Playita Tortuga. At the time of our visit, as you can see in the following photo, it was full of sargassum and we only saw it from above. Still don’t know what sargassum is? In section 2.2 of the preparations for traveling to Yucatan (Mexico) by yourself I tell you about it.

The image of Playa Ruinas with the Castle on the top of the hill is one of the most photographed pictures of this guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

9. Temple of the Sea

If we continue towards the southwest end of the site, after passing Playa Ruinas, we will arrive at the Templo del Mar (Temple of the Sea). Its façade is facing the ocean. Inside there is a small altar but it is not possible to enter it.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

10. Temple of the Frescoes

Retracing our steps, and in front of the Temple of the Initial Series, we find the Temple of the Frescoes, which receives its name from the remains of a mural painting found in the back room of the second floor with representations of deities, snakes and offerings dedicated to the gods.

If we look at the facade of the second floor, we can see that it has four monolithic columns with capitals. On these columns there are three niches with the figure of the Descending God in the center and two standing figures on both sides. In the corners of its frieze can be seen large stucco masks representing the God Itzmaná, the god of wisdom, sky, night and day. One of the most important gods of the Mayan cosmogony.

The second floor is a kind of sanctuary decorated with handprints of reddish color and at the top of the temple we can see, in turn, another niche with the figure of the Descending God.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

11. House of the Chultún

In front of the Temple of the Frescoes is the House of the Chultún, which owes its name to the cistern in its interior whose function was to collect and store rainwater.

The temple is built on a rectangular platform and was intended for residential purposes.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

12. House of Columns

If we continue walking along the path that runs between the House of the Chultun and the Temple of the Frescoes, we will see, on our right, the House of the Columns.

The House of Columns is an L-shaped building. It has two main chambers and two others attached on the west side. Both at the entrance and in the main hall some of the columns that give this place its name are still preserved.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

13. House of Halach Ulnic

Behind the House of Columns is the House of Halach Ulnic, the residence of King Halach Uinic, the ruler of Tulum. This palatial building had three rooms and a sanctuary. Above the door of the sanctuary, under the thatched hut, we can see a niche with the sculpture of the Descending God and remains of its original painting. Although it is not possible to access it, in its interior, we can still see the stone beds that are believed to have been used as beds.

Definitive guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone

Where to eat near the Tulum Archaeological Zone

Very close to the Tulum Archaeological Zone, exactly on the other side of the Federal Highway 307 Cancun-Chetumal, 1 minute drive from the Tulum parking lot, is the Rincón de la Tia Tulum. We ate here after our visit to the Tulum Archaeological Zone and it was a great choice. We ordered to share: Natural Nachos, Quesadilla and Burrito, everything was amazing! Especially the nachos, one of the tastiest we tried on our entire trip.

9-15€ per person
Carretera Federal 307 Cancun-Chetumal 77760 Tulum

Guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone: Map

Here you have the map with all the stops and information of interest of this guide to visit the Tulum Archaeological Zone:

We finish this complete guide to visit the Archaeological Zone of Tulum! I hope it has helped you to get to know what was, in its day, the most influential Mayan city in the state of Quintana Roo.

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