Exploring the Mayan ruins of Tulum

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
4
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
7
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
3
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
3
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
6
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
47 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
Mexico
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 20
Time of year visited
June
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RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
281st/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Bottom 20% SUMMARY RATING: Ok if passing through

Summary

The coastal Mayan ruins in Tulum are worth checking if you have a spare morning / afternoon – an early morning wander through the complex with their often dramatic positioning on the cliffs is really pleasant.  But, if you’re in this part of they world, they really are small fry compared to the far more impressive Chichen Itza (see an entry Best way to see Chichen Itza for more details on visiting); Tikal in Guatemala (the #1 Mayan site of them all, see Mayan Ruins of Tikal for tips on how best to enjoy); or, if more adventurous, exploring by helicopter the (relatively) newly-discovered El Mirador from an earlier period of Mayan history and buried deep into the jungle north of Tikal (more details Helicopter trip to El Mirador)

Again, the Tulum ruins are pleasant, but there are world-class Mayan ruins  to be seen not too far away

highlights

#1 An early morning wander through the complex and to marvel at engineering of the Mayan as some of the temples hang from the sharp cliffs

#2 Seeing some of the local wildlife chilling (steaming) in the early morning sun

#3 Walking through the large forum area, spread out across a chunky site just off the coastline

#4 Finding a beautiful beach . . . hopefully without the dreaded Sargassum

Travel Tips

For Tulum the town:

    • Make sure to try the outdoor restaurant spot of Taqueria Honorio restaurant – super local place that just does the most amazing tacos
    • We stayed at Hotel Panacea Tulum, which was nice and with a lovely pool area in the courtyard
    • Diving – you must try the Cenotes.  If you are a diver (or even if not and keen for just snorkelling), be sure to check out the Cenotes (sinkholes) just outside of Tulum – 30 of them in total are part of a 83km cave system that is one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world.  A unique and genuinely otherworldly experience that is a must for if you’re a diver in this part of the world.  See Scuba Diving in the Cenotes of Tulum for detailed tips of diving the Tulum Cenotes
  • Broad points for this Yucatan part of Mexico:
    • Safety – we felt safe at all times.  The violence that is happening in so many other unfortunate areas of the country has thankfully not spread to this part of Mexico.  The same as in your home country cities, use common sense and you should be fine
    • Note on the sargassum (seaweed) – unfortunately the beaches in this part of Mexico have been hit hard over the past years by strong blooms of sargassum (with varying theories as to why).  Have a quick research before you go as to how strong the bloom is and the approach the place you’re staying has to dealing with it because it really does change the vibe of the place.  The large hotels have armies of staff removing it from their beaches, but the surrounding areas don’t and so the mounds of sargassum will dominate your beach experience both in terms of visually and the smell
    • Ubers were abundant and the easiest way of getting around
    • Don’t expect everything to be dirt cheap.  This part of Mexico has some world famous attractions and is a natural destination for many tourists from the US, so prices reflect this

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone