Tulum, the Maya Ruins are south of Playa del Carmen and can easily be reached by everyone staying at the Riviera Maya as well as the Cancun farther north. Because of this, these ruins are a real hot spot on the Mexican peninsula Yucatan. The old Maya port has an extremely pretty location on a high ground, overlooking the ocean, combined with its high number of well-preserved buildings that makes the area well worth seeing.
Tulum: South of Playa Del Carmen
Tulum is, as well as Chichen Izta (see article on Chichzen Itza here) one of the most frequently visited Maya ruins. The former Maya port is located on a rock about 12 meters above sea level. Tulum can be reached easily from all the hot spots around: it’s only 60 km from Playa del Carmen (45 km), twice as much from Cancun (120 km, 1 h 45 min). Because of this, a high number of visitors are coming every day. For us, it was a bit unfortunate to go there in the Christmas Week, it was extremely crowded. Lawns and ruins are blocked; crowds need to walk on the walking paths in front of the buildings and lawns. At times, these ways were so crowded there was not even enough space to walk anywhere.
Three Areas: Hotel Zone, Village and the Maya Ruins
You reach the ruins by walking from the parking area to a little village. In the end, the village is nothing more but a chain of tourist shops selling all kinds of necessary and unnecessary stuff. From there, it’s a 10-Minute-walk to the ruins. Another area in Tulum is the hotel zone.
We did take the Collectivo from Playa del Carmen. Even though, we left really early in the morning, we still did not manage to reach before the crowds were there. It was hot and overcrowded. Chichzen Itza was also crowded but things were smoother here, we had enough space to circle the pyramid and walk around. In Tulum, things were more difficult. The Maya Ruins consist of many smaller and bigger ruins, in order to see all of them you need to take a walking tour.
I understand that these ruins need to be protected. The area is very busy, many visitors and it makes sense to have everyone just walk in front of the ruins on the trail. But, every now and then we could not even stop on the way without blocking another 20 people. The buildings are really beautiful, I wanted to have more time to see them. What we had was basically a run along the ruins.
Eye catcher of the area is definitely the “Castillo”, a temple in the center and biggest building of Tulum.
All in all: it was too crowded. The walking paths in Tulum are too narrow for all the visitors. Next time, I would book a hotel in Tulum and come very early in the morning (or maybe late in the evening) before the tour busses arrive.
One of Tulums’ two beaches is open, you can swim here. If you are interested in that, bring some swimming clothes with you. With all the heat and all the walking, this is a nice way to cool down. The beach, right in front of these ancient ruins is beyond compare, even though (as already mentioned) a bit crowded.
How To Combine A Trip to Tulum: Sian Ka’an, Coba and Several Cenotes
A forth zone in Tulum is Sian Ka’an: a big nature-protected area south of Tulum. Tulum is worth staying several nights: one day Tulum Ruins, at least one more for Sian Ka’an and also the Coba ruins (about 50 km from Tulum) can be reached easily.
Moreover there are several cenotes around Tulum (Maya Blue, Temple of Doom, Tortuga, Vacaha, Grand Cenote, Abejas, Nohoch Kiin, etc.).
I could easily spend several days here. It’s a nice are with many attractions and lots of things to do.