Tulum Ruins: Get the Most Out of it

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This is day 1 of our Yucatan road trip. Click here to read day 2, day 3, and day 4.

Traveling with my Sister

This was not my first time to travel with my sister, Lindsay. She has actually come to visit me in several places I have lived. This is also not the first time we have taken road trips together. We drove around Cairns in Australia, stopping in the Daintree National Forest, and to scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef. We road tripped throughout Tuscany, from Florence down to Rome; we also went across the north of Italy, from Venice to Como. So when I said I was planning to spend the month of October in Mexico, my sister bought a flight.

Nicki, Lindsay, and mumsy in Italy.

Lindsay and I have very different travel styles. I stay in places longer, go slowly, and do one thing a day. My sister is the opposite. She comes for a week, wants to see as much as she can, and packs each day full of activities. This week was no different, so I caught up on sleep and prepared myself to be tired for a week.

She arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, in front of my Airnbnb, with a rental car. Ready. Unfortunately my work schedule had shifted at the last minute during the exact time my sister was in town. That first night she waited patiently for me to finish work at 9 pm, we went for a casual stroll along 5th avenue, and then back to the apartment. By the second day she had already had enough of my unfortunate work schedule, that she talked me in to working a day at the beach in Akumal. Though I really couldn’t complain too much about that.

Nicki’s work computer in front of the ocean.

That third day was day one of our road trip. I needed to be in Valladolid just before 1 pm to start working, so we got up early to check the weather, pack, eat breakfast, and head out.

Lindsay and me in front of Tulum Ruins; I’m pointing to a giant iguana.

Tulum Ruins

The first stop was at the Tulum Ruins, about 55 minutes driving from Playa del Carmen. If you’re planning to drive there yourself, here’s a tip: Don’t put “Tulum Ruins” into your Google Maps, as it will lead you down a dusty, tree covered, sketchy ass road. Instead, put in “Ruinas Tulum Parking.” But when you turn down the road towards the parking lot, be prepared to be bombarded. Men running at your car from every angle. They jump in front of your car. Make you stop. They are not official. Do not stop if you can avoid it. Just follow the buses to the official parking lot. Everyone will try to stop you at every step of the way to do their tours, their line hopping scheme (pay an extra $5 now to skip the lines at the entrance; there are no lines at the entrance), their extra this or that. Do what you want, but just be prepared to be stopped every few minutes.

They’ll tell you it takes 25 minutes to walk from the parking lot to the entrance. It takes less than 10. On a paved road. You’ll pass through several shops, and markets along the way to the front entrance. Once you arrive, a ticket costs $80 pesos ($3.75), and they prefer if you can pay in exact cash.

Nicki sits on a stone wall next to very cool cactuses.

By the time we got through the parking, the talks, the schemes, the ticket purchase, we had just over an hour to see the Tulum Ruins in all their glory. It was a hot and sweaty day, but the views made up for it. The Tulum Ruins sit atop a cliff along the sea. The Tulum Ruins were built up around the jade and turquoise trading business along their sea port in the 13th century, which is known as the “Mayan Post Classic Period.” Tulum was the only Mayan city along the coast.

Nicki standing in front of cliffs at the Tulum Ruins

The area where the ruins sit is not that big, and easily navigable. There is a path that passes by all the main buildings, and makes almost a full circle. You can also veer off the main path, and take a stroll along the edge of the cliffs, and see the waves crashing below you. The day we went was incredibly hot, humid, and full of German tourists. We were able to eavesdrop on a few of the English and Spanish speaking tour groups, with parasols protecting them from the sun above.

Nicki drinking a natural coconut

Leaving Tulum Ruins

When we reached our time limit (I had to get to work!), we left the gates of the ruins, and this time decided to take the bus back to the parking lot ($20 pesos, $1). While we waited for the bus to arrive, we each bought an overpriced coconut and cooled down with the freshest of juice.

Nicki and Lindsay drinking coconuts on the bus

We hopped in the rental, and waved goodbye to everyone who had tried to stop our car, and sell us tours, on the way in, glad to be leaving the chaos. An hour and a half later, we arrived to Valladolid to the low hum of the car’s AC, a true crime podcast, and road construction which seemed to block us from entering any street turning left.

We arrived to the Airbnb one hour before check-in (thank you to our hosts!), and 1 minute before I was set to work. Just in the nick of time. I only worked in the Airbnb for one hour before my over-achieving activity doing sister went out and found us a cafe to work at down the street. So I took a 15-minute break, and down the cobblestoned street we went, to enjoy empanadas, fresh fruit, and a very lazy black cat for the rest of the afternoon.

Empanadas in a bowl at the cafe.

Once I finally got off work at 9, we took a stroll around our neighborhood, which was next to the old monastery; we went to bed fairly early as the next day we wanted to get an early start, as we were headed to the most famous Mayan Ruins of all… Chichen Itza.

Valladolid sign lit up in the night; the monastery is behind.