A local's guide to Tulum: a jewel of Mexico's Riviera Maya
September 27, 2019
by Giulia Uccheddu
What the greatest moment of your life? It is not a difficult question, but to answer may not be easy. In my case, this is a moment that lasted 4 months, at 7 time zones away, in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
The Erasmus program and the desire to put myself to the test took me on a plane to the Mexican east coast, where Tulum stands out for its unparalleled beauty, with its important Mayan archaeological complex overlooking the sea.
I spent 4 incredible months in Tulum, and during the day, as an archaeologist, I studied the ancient Mayan people of Tulum, at night, under the Mexican moon, I enjoyed a lighter and more exotic version of my life, between a Mexican beer and a Latin dance. I could not know that this would have been the most memorable experience of my life (or at least, until now), that Mexico would teach me to get by on my own, to appreciate myself and always be myself.
City Of The Dawn
Originally its name was Zama, in the Mayan language it means “city of the dawn”; the current name, Tulum, means “wall”, is a clear reference to the mighty walls erected to protect the city.
Tulum was built with a strategic position on the Caribbean Sea, to control commercial ships and possible invasions by sea. Visiting the archaeological area allows you to discover the history and traditions of the ancient Mayans.
When I travel, I always look for advice and recommendations from locals, out of the usual tourist guides. Let’s face it! who, better than locals, could show the city?
My List Of Favourite Places And Things To Do:
Visit the Mayan ruins on the sea
There are many excursions to do and things to see in Tulum, but undoubtedly the main attraction is represented by the ancient Mayan ruins. The beauty and magic of the place are given by the particular position of this complex. Just above the sea! The Mayan buildings were the first to be sighted by the Spanish coming from the sea in 1517; And today, as then, they leave you breathless. The entrance ticket costs 70 Mexican Pesos (about 4 Euros). For those who have a photographic camera or GoPro, there is a surcharge on the admission price but do not worry, it is just a few euros.
For a completely different experience, you can travel to the Coba ruins, situated right in the jungle, where you can climb ‘El Castillo’ and enjoy the views.
Discover eden in Paraiso Beach
Paraiso means Paradise… a name, a guarantee!
Cenotes – one of the greatest Mexican wonders
These natural freshwater pools are where rainwater collects, and are typical of the Yucatan area. in the Tulum’s nearby there are many, the main ones are Cenote Dos Ojos and Gran Cenote.
Cenote Dos Ojos (two eyes) is so named because of its conformation, consisting of a series of underground channels and two distinct caves, like two eyes. This cenote is perfect for diving, it has a depth of 500 meters to explore! admission costs 350Mxn $, so if you intend to do some diving and snorkeling my advice is to go elsewhere.
The Gran Cenote is undoubtedly the most famous. The entrance fee is 200Mxn $ (plus 80 if you want to rent snorkeling equipment).
The Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve
Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the south of Tulum Town. It is a biosphere reserve, so you can observe wildlife, and archaeological sites (the most well-known being Muyil).
Tulum is pure relaxing, so join a beachside yoga class and get into the true spirit of Tulum.
You can choose to join a tour or do it yourself, you just have to choose where!
There are some perfect diving sites whether you are a novice or an experienced diver.
Tips & Tricks for your trip
- The rainiest time of the year is between June and October, while the best season visit Tulum is in the period between December and April.
- English is spoken but not so well, it would be better to brush up on your Spanish!
- The main currency used in Mexican pesos. In many cases, they also accept dollars, but pay attention to the currency exchange, because the dollar price may be higher
- Be careful to always have cash with you
- Never drink tap water
- Authentic Mexican food is one of the best, is delicious, fresh, colorful, and…spicy. But let’s bleed the myth of Mexican cuisine! it’s no always spicy, there are many delicious and not spicy options! you can ask not to put spicy sauces, or choose a non-spicy dish.
- Where to stay? You can choose to sleep in a hotel, in a hostel, or in a cabana, without electricity and by the sea, to fall asleep and wake up with the sound of the waves.
- There is no Uber, but there are so many taxis easy to recognize. Taxis are very expensive, so, if you want to save money, ride a bike or take a Colectivo! Los Colectivos are small vans that follow more or less defined routes, around Tulum, and from Cancun to Chetumal.
- Don’t trust google maps: often the types of roads can affect the length of the route, for example, the path to the biosphere of Sian Ka’an takes more time than expected.
Laguna Bacalar: 211 km, 2 horas and 20 minutes
Coba: 47 km, about 40 minutes
Valladolid: 102 km, 1 hour and 30 minutes
Merida: 259 km, almost 3 hours
Cancun: 131 km, 1 hour and 40 minutes
Playa del Carmen: 65 km, 50 minutes
Rio Lagartos: 206 km, 2 hours and 30 minutes
If you are interested in my experiences around the world, be sure to check out my other blog posts. The truth is that a journey can change your life, and the months in Tulum changed mine. When we travel we open up to the world, we can change perspective and appreciate more the small details of our life.
So, visit Lost in Voyage, and…Lost yourself with us!