Tulum offers easy access to many ancient ruins from the mysterious Mayan civilisation that help tell the storey of this lost world with elegant architecture and astounding art. The Mayan civilisation was one of the great North American societies, with the most sophisticated writing system of the ancient world. 

    The Mayans were mathematicians, astronomers, scientists, and so much more. Their advanced civilisation, sadly, is noted for its extinction more than for its accomplishments. Today all that remains are the stunning remnants left behind in the form of archaeological ruins. See some of the best Mayan ruins near Tulum.

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    Archaeological Zone of Muyil

    Visit one of the longest-occupied Maya cities

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    The Archaeological Zone of Muyil looks at one of the earliest and longest-occupied cities of the ancient Mayan civilisation, with artefacts dating 350 BCE. This site was occupied as late as 1500 CE, and the ruins form an iconic example of Peten architecture.

    Here you can see steep-walled pyramids and explore the importance of the trade route along which this city served as an important waypoint. It's situated on the shores of a lagoon, and it's believed that it had strong connections to the empire's centre in the region. It's located about 20 minutes to the southwest of Tulum.

    Location: Reforma Agraria-Puerto Juárez km 25, 77710 Chunyaxché, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +52 983-837-2411

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    2

    Archaeological Site of Ek Balam

    Explore the ancient seat of a Mayan Kingdom

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    The Archaeological Site of Ek Balam offers the opportunity to explore 45 different ancient structures from the seat of the ancient kingdom. These include the city walls, the palace, an entry arch, a carved stela, a chapel, and many others dating from around 770 CE and are amongst the best-preserved ruins known.

    The largest structure, known as the Acropolis, is believed to be a temple containing the tomb of an important ruler of the city, Ukit Kan Le'k Tok'. The ruins are about an hour and 45 minutes northwest of Tulum and make an enchanting day trip.

    Location: Ekbalam, Yucatan, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

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    3

    Chichén Itzá

    See a Mayan ball court, temples, and more

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    Chichén Itzá is a Mayan ruin complex that offers the opportunity to see a massive, complete ziggurat pyramid with graphic stone carvings and nightly sound and light shows. The various stone carvings can be found at places like a preserved Mayan ball court, a Temple of the Warriors, and the ominous-sounding Wall of the Skulls. These illustrate the daily lives of the Mayan civilisation.

    Nightly, the ruins are lit with enchanting sound and light shows that highlight the incredibly sophisticated geometry of the structures, unlike anything other civilisations were doing at the time. The ruins can be found just over 2 hours' drive inland from Tulum.

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    Open: Daily from 8 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +52 985-851-0137

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    4

    Archaeological Zone of San Gervasio

    See a Mayan worship hub in a wildlife preserve

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    The Archaeological Zone of San Gervasio offers a look into a former worship hub dedicated to a Mayan deity of childbirth, fertility, weaving, and medicine. It's believed that women in the Pre-Columbian Mayan civilisation would make a pilgrimage there at least once in their lives. The ruins are not well preserved, with most lacking roofs and upper walls, but the park is also a wildlife refuge.

    The ruins are a vast sprawl covering 4 districts and a few square miles of space, but only a single district is open to the public. Accessible buildings include the home of a ruler, several residential homes, the main entry arch, and a central plaza. It's about a 2 hour trip from city centre Tulum, north and across the water via ferry.

    Location: 77684 San Miguel de Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +52 983-837-0796

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    5

    Archaeological Zone of Chacchoben

    Explore a massive step pyramid with a Mayan calendar

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    The Archaeological Zone of Chacchoben is amongst the largest Mayan settlements south of Quintana Roo, with a massive step pyramid once used as a religious temple. Inside this temple, you can see one of the amazing ancient Mayan calendars marking the important dates of the equinoxes and solstices.

    At the south end of the site, you'll find ancient homes with artefacts like jugs, basins, plates, and more. It's a fine example overall of the daily and religious life of the ancient Maya people. The temple can be found about 2 hours to the south of Tulum.

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    6

    Tulum Archaeological Zone

    Explore an ancient centre of commerce

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    The Tulum Archaeological Zone offers a chance to see a Mayan watchtower, ziggurat pyramids, and panoramic jungle views, all in the heart of a jungle-filled national park. It's amongst the most important archaeological zones in the region, as it faces the Caribbean Sea. 

    In ancient days, Tulum was a vital centre of commerce on land and sea for the Mayan empire in the region. Today you can see for miles from the watchtower and explore more than 60 restored ancient temples to get a look into the life of these ancient people. It's just 16 minutes east of city centre Tulum.

    Location: Carretera Federal, Cancun - Chetumal Km 230, 307, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +52 984-802-5405

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    7

    Archaeological Zone of Xcaret

    See a once-thriving pre-Columbian coastal city

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    The Archaeological Zone of Xcaret offers the remains of an ancient pre-Columbian city right on the coastline of the Caribbean, which once functioned as an important trading centre. Portions of the ruin are located within a privately owned park that is open to the public. The oldest buildings on the site date from 200 CE, with the newest dating to circa 1550 CE. 

    The city was walled and built to withstand assaults from the sea. Documents indicate this was one of the most significant and active economic Maya ports on the coast. It's located about 45 minutes to the north of Tulum.

    Location: Colonia Forjadores, 77025 Chetumal, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +52 983-837-2411

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    photo by AMAPO (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    8

    Archaeological Zone of Cedral

    Witness an ancient Maya fertility temple

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    The Archaeological Zone of Cedral, locally called El Cedral, is a small Maya ruin the size of a small house serving as a fertility temple. It is believed this temple was once a vital ceremonial site to the ancient Maya, and even today a small church stands next to it, indicating its continued spiritual significance.

    It's all in the middle of a quaint and small village with great local restaurants, small shops selling arts, crafts, souvenirs, and a friendly local population. It's 2 hours away from Tulum on an offshore island, requiring a drive and ferry ride, but it is worth the day trip.

    Location: Sur de la Playa San Francisco, 77600 San Miguel de Cozumel, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

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    9

    Cobá Archaeological Zone

    Climb the highest ancient pyramid in the region

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    Cobá Archaeological Zone offers the opportunity to climb Nohoch Mul, the highest pyramid in the area, as well as the nexus of a vast network of ancient stone causeways. What marks this as an important archaeological site is the engraved stelae that document the Mayan civilization's important celebrations and ceremonies from 600 to 900 CE. 

    It sits adjacent to a modern village called Cobá and is situated around 2 lagoons with stone and plaster roads criss-crossing the region. This ancient city once held 50,000 people and today is an astounding site just about 45 minutes northwest of city centre Tulum.

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    Location: Carretera Federal Tulum 307, 77793 Cobá, Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +52 984-206-7166

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    photo by Gennaro Conte (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    10

    Archaeological Site of Xel-Há

    Visit an ancient cultural hub near a lagoon water park

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    The Archaeological Site of Xel-Há offers the chance to visit a coastal pre-Columbian site sitting adjacent to a lagoon-shore waterpark known as Xel-Ha Park. This site was once a key port to the major nearby Maya city of Coba and was believed to be an intercultural exchange hub with seafaring peoples of the early Middle Ages. 

    Today, it's known for the ruins of its palace and the ruins of the columns therein as well as the mural paintings in places like the House of Birds. This site can be found just 19 minutes north of the city along the coast.

    Location: México 307, 77774 Q.R., Mexico

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +52 983-837-2411

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    photo by Guillermo Isaac Huesca Solis (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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