During our road trip along Quintana Roo and Yucatán, one of the first stops was Tulum. The archeological site of Tulum, which means “enclosure” or “wall”, was a very important city for the ancient Mayans, functioning too as an observatory. Now, the ruins of Tulum are inside a natural reserve, not far from the modern town of Tulum and the hotel zone— the whole area goes by the same name.
Our first stop in Tulum, after a one-hour drive from Playa del Carmen was, of course, the ruins. The entrance to the ruins. We parked in the archeological site for $100 mxn, then we walked through some kind of shopping/food court area, and finally made it to the entrance. You can either queue to buy the tickets from a booth or buy them from a ticket machine, which is faster. We were there on a Thursday in July, and even when there were many people, it was nowhere near as crowded as some other places in the Mayan Riviera. The tickets cost $70 mxn per person.
Once there, it took about three hours to walk around the ruins. The day was sunny and very hot, and there are not many shadowy spots, so water and appropiate clothes for walking are a must. Although they are not the most impressive Mayan ruins, they are the only ones that overlook the sea. The sights of The Castle, the most famous building in the archeological zone, facing the sea, are unbeatable. The variety of the vegetation is also a distinctive trait of Tulum, because the ruins are surrounded by grass, palm trees and other tropical plants. Also, iguanas abound in the area and they’re not afraid to go near people.
For those interested in history and prehispanic culture, a guided tour might be the best option, although for me it was enough to read some information about the uses of each structure from the signs on the grass.
About 15 minutes away by car from the archeological zone, there is Tulum’s most famous area, the hotel zone along coastal highway 15. This is really just a narrow street along which there are shops, restaurants, cafés and hotels on both sides. Most of the restaurants sell organic food and many of the hotels are small, eco-friendly huts. Finding a good place to have lunch or dinner is just difficult because there are too many options. However, when it comes to dessert, I believe you should go to Matcha Mama, a nice hawaiian-like hut that has one of the best matcha ice-creams I’ve had. They also have matcha tea in different presentations, as well as other dishes and juices.
The hotel zone in Tulum was one of my favourite places in Quintana Roo. Not because of the shops or restaurants, but because of the vibes. Everybody, locals and tourists alike, seemed chill and friendly. Highway 15, surrounded by palm trees and surfboards is a small hippie paradise, specially tranquil during sunset. However, it is one of the most expensive areas in the state, so be prepared for overpriced meals. Also, as much of the Riviera Maya this time of the year, Tulum’s beaches are being badly affected by sargasso, a recent problem in the Caribbean, caused by climate change.