The Riviera Maya ranks as having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But for me, the selling point for this region of Mexico compared to others is the Mayan ruins in the area. There’s Chichen Itza, one of the new 7 world wonders; and there’s Coba, one of the most important sites of the Mayan civilization, and the only one you can still climb. (Note: The Mexican government has been saying for years that they are going to ban climbing Coba. It may be a tourist tactic, but climb it while you still can!). However, ever since beginning my research on the area, I had wanted to visit Tulum. Google it and you can see why: old ruins overlooking the ocean with one of the most beautiful beaches below. What an ideal location for an old city. I had to see it for myself.
Robbie and I decided to go on a half-day tour called Tulum: Undiscovered with the company Go Natural Adventures and Expeditions. Before I continue, I will say that the exploration part of me wanted to venture off to Tulum on our own, either by taking a taxi, or flagging down a collectivo on the side of the highway. I enjoy the freedom to explore at my own pace, and the collectivo method would have cost $4 USD in transportation. But alas, lazy vacation mode took over, and so we paid $54 USD each for the tour that included transport, admission to the Tulum archaeological site, a visit to Playa Paraiso, and water. Lunch was not included.
“Tulum: Undiscovered”. Maybe it’s waiting for me to discover it!, I thought. Wrong. I guess every other tourist in the region also wanted to discover Tulum that day. There were so. Many. TOURISTS. And Tulum is set up to accommodate all of them. A flee market greets all tourists arriving at the Tulum ruins. Vendors call you over to buy coconuts or trinkets and souvenirs. Buses and vans line the parking area. Busloads of tourists shuffle their way to the entrance, many carrying umbrellas to shield themselves from the intense heat. Many people had headphones for an audio tour. Once you enter the grounds, groups break off, following their tour guides holding up beacons so followers don’t get lost from their flock. Pretty much all ruins of the site are closed to the public to prevent touching, climbing and damage. It’s a tourist’s and selfies-with-ruins paradise, but a nightmare for those who dislike crowds, like myself. Full disclosure- we took many selfies with ruins :). In retrospect, I should have expected all this: I’m not the only one who would have been inspired by the Googled photos of Tulum.
None of that rant detracts from the site itself. The Mayan civilization is fascinating, and Tulum is an impressive walled place. The Mayans once dominated the region, spanning 5 of the present day countries- Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. They were an intelligent bunch, with several calendars, mathematical advances, and navigation abilities. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans before the Spanish conquest. You can read more about Tulum here.
The tour ended with a visit to Playa Paraiso. It’s a beautiful beach that will appeal to many, but for me it was an unnecessary part of the tour as my primary objective was to explore Tulum. I would have preferred some more time at the ruins instead of what felt like no time at all. For independent traveller types, I wouldn’t recommend this tour; but if a guided tour of Tulum with some beach time appeals to you, then check out Go Natural Aventures and Expeditions. Whichever way you choose, go visit Tulum!… Along with the rest of the world.