Visiting The Mayan Ruins Of Tulum In Mexico

Tulum Ruins at Sunrise

Mayan Ruins of Tulum

Tulum, Mexico

The beautiful Mayan ruins of Tulum are found on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Here’s how to beat the crowds & see them on your own.

Visiting the Mayan ruins of Tulum during the day can be a bit hectic. It’s a very popular attraction in Mexico. Tulum is quite different from other Mayan sites in that the ruins are situated on steep cliffs overlooking the ocean.

During the day, there are hundreds of other tourists milling about.

Not a very enjoyable experience at a stunning ancient site like this. Wouldn’t it be much nicer to have the whole site to yourself? If you arrive early enough, right before they open at 8am, you can be the first one in line.

Tulum Pyramid Castle

El Castillo Pyramid

Ancient Mayan City

Getting to Tulum is an easy day trip from Playa del Carmen via bus or Colectivo, or you can spend the night in the town of Tulum like I did. If you spend the night in town, you’ll be able to wake up early and arrive before they open.

Walking around alone in the ancient Mayan city during early morning light was pretty surreal. I visited the ruins on two different days, and decided to sneak in early before they opened to get some better photos.

Mayan Ruins of Tulum

Mayan Ruins at Sunrise

Mayan Ruins Of Tulum

The site’s main structure, El Castillo (the Castle), was actually used as an ancient lighthouse! Two small windows at the top allowed sailors to navigate the ocean reef at dusk. If the captain could see daylight through both windows, that meant they were on the correct course.

Below the castle is a secluded beach that you can actually swim at while you’re visiting the site. Make sure to bring your swimsuit! Swimming under the old ruined castle on the cliff above you is a pretty cool experience. ★

More Information

Location: Tulum, Mexico [Map] Cost: $3 USD
Accommodation: Posada los Mapaches
Useful Tips: If you want to avoid tourists, visit Tulum as soon as it opens at 8am. The site is about 1km away from the parking lot, but it’s an easy walk.

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Do you enjoy visiting ancient Mayan ruins?

21 Comments

  1. HI Matthew, I was wondering if there is free access to this cliff lookout or the beach near the Tulum ruins in the evening somewhere around sunset? So you could do some photos without entering the site itself?

  2. These are amazing photos. I’m working on some short fiction set in a place like this, so your pics are great for my research.
    Great job beating the crowd to be alone there. I’m enjoying your blog and envious of your travels.

    Steve

  3. I went to Tulum in 1996. I was overwhelmed by its beauty & ‘potted’ history.
    Unfortunately, being on a day-trip, I didn’t have as long as I would have liked to explore, or get a proper ‘feel’ of how it would have been when it was first built. I’d love to have seen it as you did.
    I did climb El Castillo in Chichen Itza, but I do understand the need to stop that now.

  4. You know we love your sneaking habit (psstt.. Masaya Volcano!)
    And your photos taken during sunrise have been amazing! Motivate us to wake up earlier (and sneak around), huh… I’ll consider it for real! We are changing continent soon (will be in Europe/Africa in 2 weeks), great opportunity to manipulate our sleeping time…

    1. Thanks Andrew, Tulum’s ruins are pretty cool as long as you get in before hundreds of other people get there. I’m also heard that the afternoon can be less packed because everyone goes in the late morning.

  5. I don’t think it’s the fear of a lawsuit or someone getting hurt,if you went to chichin itza you are allowed to go to the top and it’s much more dangerous.me thinks the damage is the thing.

    1. It’s a combination of both I’m sure. They only close them to climbing once they become major tourist attractions. The damage isn’t going to be caused by a few people, it’s due to thousands of visitors each week. That many people will create damage.

      Having the rules in place is fine with me, I’m all for protecting these sites from the masses. I count on the fact that most people follow the rules. I watched the workers at Tulum climb all over the structures to watch the sunset when I was scoping it out the night before…

      Not sure when you went to Chichen Itza, but you can’t climb most of the ruins anymore. Reason? Too many people now! The same process gets repeated over and over. It’s about large numbers of people doing it, not the occasional individual.

  6. I really find that interesting. Been following your blog for a couple days now and I truly like what I see. Keep up the great work!

  7. Mission accomplished, but careful you don't blow your travel budeget by getting arrested in Mexico. Congrats on going deeper!

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