The Mayan Ruins of Tulum

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 16th, 2011

While I was in Mexico last week, I had the chance to visit Tulum. Tulum is an ancient Mayan city located right on the beach. In fact, a popular thing to do here after working up a sweat from walking around is to go swimming in the ocean. There’s nothing like swimming in the shadow of some ruins, right?

Tulum was a thriving capital and trading city until the Spanish came and destroyed it in 1518. After that, the city was abandoned and left to the jungle. Now, it’s one of the most popular and largest Mayan ruins in Mexico. It’s incredibly beautiful, especially given its location near the ocean. This is one of those places where my words could never do it justice, so I’ll let my pictures talk for me:

The Observatory

The Observatory and a beautiful backdrop.

The Cenote House

El Castillo

The beach where everyone goes swimming

Imagine this as your view. The Mayans had great beachfront property!

A protected area for turtle nesting.

For more information on travel to Mexico and the Mayan Riviera, plan your trip using my guide.

Editor’s Note: My trip to Mexico was sponsored by Riviera Maya tourism.

comments 26 Comments

Great photos! Its incredible to think how much those ancient civilizations accomplished without modern tools!

They didn’t need tools. They had slaves.


“They” had both and “we” shouldn’t be throwing stones in our enormous glass house.


Your pictures really did the talking! The Mayan beach is incredible.



I was there earlier this year, and to be honest I didn’t find it all that fascinating. I’m guessing though that has something to do with the fact that I spent a couple days at Tikal in Guatamala, as well as a few other Mayan Ruin sites in Belize. My suggestion though is that if you do go, make sure to get a guided tour, as it will make what you’re seeing come alive.


I enjoyed Tikal better too. But Tulum was still nice. I agree with you on the guided tour too.

Absolutely stunning pictures Matt…I can imagine how wonderful a swim would be in those waters below :)


Unless you’re a complete ruin buff, a variation in backdrop very quickly becomes important if you are to maintain interest in visiting different sites. I went to Tulum in 1992, early on during my first proper trip in Latin America, and it remains a vivid memory. These pics explain why but you really do have to be there to appreciate! Definitely worth a visit if in the vicinity.

Great pics, Matt! If you ever get a chance, I HIGHLY recommend exploring the ruins at Coba, in the Riviera Maya. The backdrop isn’t as beautiful, but the ruins are far more extensive than Tikal and are still in the process of being excavated. Because the area is still surrounded by the native vegetation, exploring it feels a little like an Indiana Jones expedition (without all the guns, poison darts and massive boulders trying to crush you before you getaway with a priceless artifact).


I got to Coba too! I climbed the big ruin there and almost freaked out. I hate heights and it took me about 2 hours to go up and down the temple as I crawled up and went butt first down.


yesssss I loved Tulum, but was amazed at Coba!! Right in the jungle, shaded, interact with more locals, taxi (cart service) around the ruins if you get tired and more intact ruins only downfall is that it didn’t have the amazing beach of Tulum

Beautiful pics Matt! The place looks just special! :)

These pictures are beautiful, Matt! Thanks for sharing. We never made it to Tulum when we were in Mexico… I almost wish we had now.


All more reason to go back.

That beach looks amazing! I would kill to not be at work right about now :-p


WOW whoever took this picture must be great photographer !!!


That would be me!

I visited Tulum this year and found it to be stunningly beautiful, especially the beach!

Oh, how much I enjoyed Tulum. Arriving there from Isla Mujeres, I had an awesome time there. Slept in one of the hammocks, got killed by mosquitos, yet still loved it.

The Mayan ruins in Tulum were some of our favorites of all of Central America – not as spectacular as Palenque or Tikal in Guatemala, but the setting by these bright turquoise Caribbean waters is just stunning. Like you say – the Mayans did well finding the perfect ‘beach front property’ 😉

Tulum is one of my favorite places in Mexico! Just wish it wasn’t that hot there!

Really wonderful photos.

I visited to Tulum while on a cruise about 5 years ago. It’s a beautiful place view a great view of the ocean. We had a great tour guide who was of Mayan descent so he took a lot of pride in the history and he did a great job of sharing that with us.

Beautiful Photos! I’d love to see the ruins on the beach!

The beach at Tulum is amazing however I think Chichen Itza and Palaenque offer far more comprehensive examples of Mayan history. They’re lacking a crystal clear beach with fresh cocktails though..

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