Tulum, you had me at white sand beach, Mayan ruins and cool beachfront bars. Yet there’s also a growing arts scene to uncover. We recently combined a visit to the ruins with a tour of the colourful street art – hope you enjoy the photos!
We were staying at nearby Mayakoba, a luxury eco resort that’s halfway between Cancun and Tulum on the Riviera Maya. They can arrange group tours to Tulum but as we were limited in time we opted for a private car.
Tulum’s Mayan Ruins
It’s really worth setting out early to get to the ruins as soon as they open. The third most visited site in Mexico gets incredibly crowded from mid morning onwards and I can only imagine how busy they are late afternoon. However, it’s possible to visit at sunrise or sunset by paying a premium. Be warned that in theory you have to pay a considerable additional sum to film the ruins. Nevertheless, we saw lots of people filming on their phones so there seems to be a certain tolerance for personal use, although tripods are apparently a no-no without payment.
Our friendly driver dropped us off near the entrance and explained that we could either take a Land train or walk the 1 kilometer distance to the site itself. We chose to walk and were glad that we did as the land-train wasn’t much quicker than we were and doesn’t drop you all that close to the entrance. It would be a good option if visiting with small children, the elderly or infirm though.
After purchasing an entrance ticket we headed straight inside. Before arriving on the cliffs themselves, you pass by some interesting ruins such as the House of the Cenote. The city thrived in the 13th to 15th centuries but was inhabited from the 6th century onwards. It’s thought to have originally been known as Zama or City of Dawn, it’s now known as. Tulúm meaning wall in Mayan. We did linger here a bit but in hindsight my advice to visitors would be to go directly to the 12 metre high cliffs to get your shots before its besieged by visitors and to double back afterwards to see the other Mayan ruins.
As you can see, the scenery here is stunning.
It’s an easy walk down a wooden staircase to the small white sand beach.
There are some picturesque rock formations here and the views towards the Caribbean Sea are stunning.
By now it was getting pretty crowded so we explored the rest of the site, including the Temple of the Frescos, before heading back to our driver. There are some casual restaurants near the exit though I’ve heard that you get more choice and quality at neighbourhood restaurants such as Hartwood or Wild. We didn’t have time to lunch as we were flying back that day so it was straight on to a whistle-stop tour of Tulum’s street art.
Our driver then whisked us into town which is quite a distance from the ruins and the beach. Don’t attempt to walk it as it’s a good ten minute cab ride. He was initially a bit baffled when we asked to be taken to the street art and we soon realized why. The murals, although very striking, are not in particularly picturesque parts of town. They were created thanks to an urban regeneration scheme by locals, under the umbrella of the Tulum Art Project. However, he soon got into the spirit of it and was spotting street art way before we did.
Tulum Street Art
It would actually be great if the tourism authority put a map of the murals online to help people find them, or perhaps a local blogger or newspaper could make it their mission. The first mural that we came across was this one top left by Senkoe, a well-known street artist whom we had met in Mayakoba. He has painted many colourful nature murals at Andaz Mayakoba and was putting the finishing touches to one of them when we came across him. The golden leopard and elephant are part of one mural by CNJU whilst I’d love to know who created the striking female figure bottom right.
We particularly liked the street art by Emma Rubens, including this mural encouraging people to recycle plastic…
and this striking fish themed artwork!
It’s right next to another colourful Tulum mural by Miami based artist, Aquarela Sabol.
Many of the artworks focus on caring for the environment.
In fact, quite a few use the hashtag #restorecoral, like the blue bird below.
This girl peeking shyly out from under a thatched canopy is by street artist Miguer.
I spotted one final colourful scene before it was sadly time to head home.
Visiting Tulum – facts
- Tulum’s Mayan Ruins opening times: 8 am to 5 pm
- Entrance fee: currently at $64 pesos per person, and an additional $30 pesos for video cameras
- Early morning or late afternoon access: $220 pesos
- Land-train: $10 pesos
- Additional charge for parking
- Bring a hat, sunscreen, swimsuit and bottle of water as there’s very little shade
- For the street art, you can find quite a few murals on the street simply known as Sol
Have you ever visited Tulum? Which of these murals is your favourite?