Do you want to visit the best Mayan Ruins near Tulum, Mexico? You’ve landed on the right blog because you’re about to discover all the coolest ancient sites to check out — including the Tulum Mayan Ruins, located right in Tulum.
For travelers who want to see more ancient ruins located just outside of town, the easiest way is to rent a car and drive or take a tour. No matter how you go, with a group tour or on your own, no visit to Tulum is complete without seeing some of the Mayan Ruins.
Ready to see the Mayan Ruins you must add to your Tulum itinerary? Let’s get to the list!
Table of Contents
5 Best Mayan Ruins Near Tulum Mexico
1. Tulum Ruins
The Tulum Ruins are located in Tulum itself, so you must check them out while traveling to Tulum, Mexico. These ruins are located right on Tulum Beach, not far from many of the best resorts in Tulum in the Tulum Hotel Zone.
Compared to other Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum Ruins is on the smaller side. However, many consider it one of the most beautiful ruins thanks to this beachfront location.
Inside, you’ll see the Wind Temple, Temple of the Descending God, El Castillo (The Castle) and Temple of the Frescoes. There’s a roped-off pathway here, and if you follow it, you won’t miss anything.
You can see the entire Tulum Ruins in about 1-2 hours, but you’ll want to arrive early because there’s no shade and it gets very, very hot. The Tulum Ruins opens at 8am, which is the best time to visit.
One of the coolest things about the Tulum Ruins site is you can access the beach right from it. There’s a staircase from the ruins to the beach cove below, so you can walk down and jump in the sea after your visit. It is known as Playa Ruinas, or Tulum Ruins Beach. (The last time we were there the beach had washed away.)
The Tulum Ruins Entry cost is just $80 pesos, or about $4 USD). You can tour it on your own or hire one of the guides at the entrance gate to have a professional take you around.
2. Chichen Itza
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza Ruins probably doesn’t need a lengthy introduction! It is one of the most-visited Mexico ruins and sees an average of two million visitors each year.
To get to Chichen Itza from Tulum, you can drive your rental car if you have one, or take the bus from Tulum to Chichen Itza. The drive takes about 2.5 hours in normal traffic. You can also join a tour to Chichen Itza.
While some ruins are fun to explore without a guide, Chichen Itza is definitely a great place to hire a guide. You can hire one at the entrance if you aren’t going by tour, and a guide will cost about $50+ USD.
It is one of the best places in Mexico to learn about Mayan culture and symbolism. At Chichen Itza, there are several large Mayan pyramids to see, like El Castillo (The Castle) and the Temple of the Warriors, and smaller structures, like The Observatory and The Nunnery
At about four square miles (10 km2), Chichen Itza is a large site. If you want to see it all, plan to be there for at least three hours. In total, there are 20 groups of buildings, each with several things to see.
Want to climb some Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula? Then you must head to Coba. This ancient site is located deep in the jungle, about one hour from Tulum in normal traffic.
Coba Mayan Ruins has the tallest pyramid that you can climb in the Yucatan. It stands 137-feet-tall (42 m), and is called Nohoch Mul Pyramid (AKA Ixmoja). There are 120 steps to the top of it, and the views of the surrounding jungle from the top are spectacular.
Located within the Nohoch Mul Group of structures, Ixmoja is one of several things to see in this area of Coba. There are also other groups of buildings throughout Coba in the Chumuc Mul Group, Coba Group, and Macanxoc Group.
If it sounds like a large site, you’re right! Many visitors rent a bike at the entrance gate to see it all in a day. Bike rentals are about $5 USD for two hours. You can also walk around Coba, or hire a taxi bike at the entrance for a bike tour.
4. Ek Balam
Meaning “black jaguar” in Maya, Ek Balam has a beautiful jaguar temple that you won’t want to miss. The temple is located atop the top of the Great Acropolis, which is the tallest pyramid at Ek Balam Ruins.
After climbing to the top, you’ll have spectacular views of the entire Ek Balam site and the jungle below. Though it may be a scary climb for some, it is worth the effort to see the jaguar temple and take in the views.
To get to Ek Balam from Tulum, the fastest way is by driving your rental car. The drive takes about 1.5 hours in normal traffic. You can take public transportation, but your travel time will likely double because there are no direct buses.
If you’re going by rental car, consider making this a day trip. After heading to Ek Balam Ruins, go visit the nearby town of Valladolid, Mexico. This is one of the pueblos magicos, which means “magic towns.”
Valladolid is a charming, colorful, colonial town, and fast becoming one of the best things to do in Yucatan. Walk around, eat lunch and you go for a swim in one of the Valladolid cenotes (jungle pools), like Cenote Zaci and Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman.
Though located five hours by car from Tulum, Uxmal is the second-most important Mayan site in the Yucatan (second to Chichen Itza), so it made this list. For culture trravlers and history buffs who are truly fascinated by the Maya, you must visit Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mall).
Like Chichen Itza Ruins, Uxmal Mayan Ruins is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sitel. Unlike Chichen Itza, it’s pretty much never crowded! In short, Uxmal offers much of the same majesty and history of Chichen Itza — but with smaller crowds.
Travelers who want to see Mayan architecture and experience Mayan history in an authentic way should opt for Uxmal. As you enter, you’ll see El Adivino (The Pyramid of the Magician), which is the tallest Uxmal pyramid.
Just next to it, there’s the Great Pyramid of Uxmal which you can climb; you can’t climb El Adivino Pyramid. You can also climb the other structures at Uxmal, like the House of the Birds, Nunnery Quadrangle, and House of the Turtles.
While exploring, take note of the intricate stone carvings on these buildings, known as the “Puuc” esthetic. You’ll also see it at other ruins near Uxmal, like Kabah Ruins and Sayil Ruins, both on what’s called Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route).
Conclusion: Best Mayan Ruins Near Tulum
There’s no shortage of Mayan Ruins to check out in the Tulum area, or in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. In fact, some might say there are actually too many options.
If you’re overwhelmed, here are the cliff’s notes in a bulleted list to help you decide where you want to go while you’re visiting Tulum, Mexico.
- Closest Ruins to Tulum: Tulum Ruins, which are actually located within Tulum city limits.
- Must-Visit Ruins: Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
- Mayan Ruins You Can Climb: Coba’s Ixmoja Pyamid, the tallest pyramid you can climb in Yucatan.
- Off the Beaten Track Ruins: Ek Balam, located between Tulum and the popular Valladolid pueblo magico
No matter which of these sites you choose, it’s an unforgettable experience to visit ancient Mayan Ruins in Mexico. Which places on the list caught your eye? Which ones made your Mexico bucket list? Let us know in the comments down below!
Guest Author: Shelley is a former Miami magazine editor who ditched the office for the world. She settled down in Mexico full-time in 2018 and owns several Mexico travel websites, as well as TravelBlogging101.com to help people finally start the travel blog they’ve always wanted to.