Tulum in the south of Mexico’s Riviera Maya is world-renowned for its beautifully preserved Mayan ruins. But the past is just the beginning of the fun you can get up to in this special part of the world. Here’s your ultimate guide to Tulum, with tips on what to see, what to do, where to eat and more.
Guide to Tulum fast facts & travel tips
A few need-to-know details, tips and info about Tulum.
- Tulum is located about 80 miles south of Cancun and about 38 miles south of Playa del Carmen. It’s a perfect off-resort daytrip option.
- Tulum is both an active town and a series of ancient Mayan ruins!
- The ancient Mayans called Tulum “Zama” or City of Dawn, likely because it faces east, toward the sunrise. Its current name means “fence” in French, referring to the thick wall that surrounds the town to this day.
- Tulum’s ruins are one of the most iconic attractions in all of Mexico – the third-most visited site in the country. The destination is the most popular tourist attraction in Quintana Roo.
- The ruins are accessible from 8am to 5pm daily.
- Since Tulum is so popular, it is recommended that you get to the ruins early. That way, you’ll avoid the crowds and be able to enjoy this marvelous historic spot.
- There is about a 550-yard walk from the Tulum entrance to the ruins themselves. An easy walk, but if you need it, you can take a shuttle for a small fee.
- Bring your own water and sunscreen! The sun can be unforgiving as you explore Tulum, so you want to stay hydrated and protected from those UV rays.
- Also be sure to bring along pesos – you may have trouble finding an ATM in the area.
- The ruins of Tulum aren’t occupied by people anymore. But they are the home to a diverse array of wildlife, from sunbathing iguanas to tropical birds. Be respectful and keep your distance from these creatures.
- Pack your swimsuit – you don’t want to miss a chance to go swimming in the beautiful waters of Playa Tulum!
- You can get more details at tulumruins.net.
The amazing history of Tulum
Visiting the ruins of Tulum is like a trip back in time to Mexico’s pre-Colombian era. Archaeologists believe that the Mayans began building the city as early as the sixth century AD as an important port and trading hub. Tulum reached its height during what is known as the postclassic period of the Mayan civilization – roughly 1200-1520 AD. Tulum wasn’t quite as grand as the other major Mayan cities – Uxmal and Chichen Itza. But its location on a gorgeous bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea has made it one of Mexico’s most iconic destinations.
In addition to Tulum’s status as an important economic powerhouse for the Mayans, it was also a spiritual destination, which is the reason for the many temples you’ll discover during a visit to Tulum. These include such magnificent structures as the House of Chultun, the House of Columns, the Great Palace, the House of Halach Uinic or Great Lord, the Temple of Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God. The most famous of all is the Castle, which overlooks the sea. The Castle was not just a temple, however. It also is believed to have served as a lighthouse for boats attempting to navigate Tulum’s treacherous coral reef. The Castle is possibly one of the most famous ruins in all of Mexico – don’t miss a chance to pose in front of it for your Instagram feed!
Tulum offers & packages
Get to Tulum in comfort and style with these great Vacaciones Barceló experiences.
- Tulum Explorer: You’ll be driven to Tulum in a comfortable vehicle, where an expert guide will introduce you to the history of this city and the Mayans who inhabited it. You can also bathe in the Caribbean Sea, facing the main pyramid. This trip includes: Roundtrip transportation from the hotel; Professional guide, tickets to the ruins; Taxes and insurance.
- Xel-Ha Tulum Tour: Get a fascinating two-hour tour through Tulum in the morning. And then, journey to Xel-Ha, a snorkeling paradise with various fun-filled outdoor activities – swimming, tubing, biking and much more. This trip includes: Roundtrip transportation; professional guide; tickets to the ruins and Xel-Ha; and more.
Beyond the ruins at Tulum
- Where to eat in Tulum: Don’t miss the out-of-this world tacos in Tulum! Taco Paco. Taco Paco is well-known as one of the best places for fish tacos in Riviera Maya, while Taquería Honorio’s specialty is slow-roasted cochinita pibil, a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish. For the ultimate beachside restaurant, get a table at the laid-back Chamico’s, located right on the sand.
- What to do in Tulum: There are many things to do in Tulum beyond the ruins. Take a swim in the famous Aktun Chen cenote, a natural swimming pool located in a spectacular cave. Go on a shopping spree! Tulum has become well-known for its unique fashion boutiques, such as Josa Tulum, Hacienda Montaecristo and Mr. Blackbird.