The Yucatan Peninsula is packed full of picturesque places that look like they should be on postcards or the set of a new Corona beer commercial. But, one of the most beautiful spots in the region can be found in the small town of Tulum, which is roughly two hours south of Cancun. The prettiest place in Tulum is the archaeological site of Mayan ruins.
Tulum is an ancient, walled city that sits on a hill, high above the warm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The Mayan people called the ancient city Zama, which means "city of dawn." Presumably, it was called this because the city faces the east, where the sun rises. The views from the site of the ruins are so breathtakingly beautiful that you'll have to pinch yourself to make sure you aren't dreaming.
The view from the ruins in Tulum — Photo courtesy of lecates
To get to Tulum you can drive yourself, take a taxi, or take an ADO bus from downtown Cancun. The bus will drop you off in the small town of Tulum, but you can take a taxi to the ruins from there for very little money. You can also rent a car for the day, hire a private driver, or sign up for a tour that will take you to the ruins of Tulum. Once at the park, you can hire a guide to take you through the park and tell you about the history of the ancient Mayan city that was once a major port for the Mayan people.
If you hire a private driver or rent a car for the day, you can take your time at the ruins and leisurely sunbathe on the beach below. Afterwards, you can visit the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a nature reserve that has over one million acres and is home to countless species of birds, plants, and wildlife. Inside the reserve, you can go fly fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, or scuba diving. Tours must be booked in advance.
Tulum was known by the Mayan people as Zama, which means City of Dawn — Photo courtesy of chriswsn
In addition, the magnificent archaeological site of Coba is a short drive (approximately 30 miles) from Tulum. Combining a visit to Tulum with a visit to Coba is a great idea and allows you to see two of the most popular and most important archaeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Organized tours (both group tours and private tours) give people the option to visit only the ruins of Tulum or add on a visit to Xel-Ha ecological park. Since it only takes a couple of hours to see the Tulum ruins in their entirety, most people choose to add the stop at Xel-Ha.
Most Cancun hotels have tour desks that can book excursions to Tulum (with or without the stop at Xel-Ha). Regardless of which tour you book, or how you get there, just make sure you take the time to see Tulum on your next trip to Cancun or Riviera Maya. It is definitely one of the area's "must-see" attractions.