When travelers think of historic Mayan ruins in Mexico, naturally Chichen Itza is the first place that comes to mind.
For decades, it has held a high spot among the world’s most visited historical attractions, up there with the Great Wall of China and the Colosseum in Rome.
But nestled high on a clifftop overlooking the Caribbean Sea travelers will find the Tulum ruins. A hugely significant piece of Mayan history, while they aren’t as large nor dramatic as Chichen Itza, they hold just as much magic and mystery.
And this magical draw has been pulling in so many culturally curious travelers that it now holds the top spot as the most visited archaeological site in the state of Quintana Roo.
How Significant Is This
In terms of significance, travelers must first understand just how much competition the Tulum ruins have.
Across the state of Quintana Roo which is home to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and many more destinations, there is a huge wealth of these historical sites.
From 12 sites in the state that admit travelers, the Tulum ruins blow the competition away—attracting 6 times as many visitors as the number 2 historical site of Chacchoben.
@jetquest_ Tulum Ruins is a must see when visiting this amazing destination! Learn some of the history and culture of the Mayans #jetquest #travel #culture #tulummexico #tulumruins ♬ original sound – favsoundds
Why It’s So Popular
A part of this skyrocketing popularity comes from the explosion of tourism in Tulum, the destination has become world-famous for its bohemian vibe and boutique hotels.
But the popularity of the Tulum ruins doesn’t just come down to convenience, although that’s always a bonus. These ruins have the most majestic backdrop of any Mayan ruins in Mexico.
@mirandabalbino 📍Mayan Ruins 🇲🇽 #mayanruins #tulum #mexicotiktok #ancientcivilization #tulumbeachvibes ♬ Wonder – Shawn Mendes
With the Caribbean Sea lapping up against the cliff that this small city was built and the trademark Quintana Roo jungle foliage that has grown around and through this site, travelers will feel like they’ve stepped onto the set of an Indiana Jones movie.
Additionally, one of the most popular ways to end a visit to this beautiful site is by swimming in the turquoise blue water that is directly below the Tulum ruins.
A hugely underrated experience — to be swimming in such clean, beautiful water while looking up at this important piece of not just Mayan but human history, is a memory that lasts much longer than the cocktails and resort dining.
@mekovalentino The Mayan Ruins of Tulum | 101 Visitors Guide #tulumruins #tulummexico #tulumbeach #tuluminati #tulumvibes #ruinasdetulum #thingstodointulum #archeology #mexicotrip ♬ original sound – Meko Valentino
Why The Tulum Ruins Are So Significant
Although much smaller than many inland historical Mayan sites in Mexico, the Tulum ruins are super unique.
The only known coastal Mayan city, the site served as a seaport for trade throughout the Mayan Empire. Furthermore, it is the only Mayan city known to have been protected by walls, which further emphasizes just how important this city was to the Mayan Empire.
@breezingthroughblog Definitely check out the ruins from the water! #mayanriveria #riveriamaya #tulummexico #mexico #yucatanmexico #mayanruins #tulumruins ♬ El Tóxico – Grupo Firme & Carin Leon
To this day, historians and archaeologists are still trying to piece together the full history of the Mayan Empire; while much is known about the purpose of the Tulum ruins, many mysteries still remain.
Questions about the people that inhabited the site, as well as what truly brought down the Mayan Empire. Theories include overpopulation, environmental disaster, war, as well as a loss of trade and economy.
Each theory has supporting arguments, but none win out over the other, and sites such as the Tulum ruins are hugely important pieces to the puzzle that are still being studied for answers.
The Empire Fell, But The Culture Remains
One of the most interesting parts of the story of the Mayan Empire is that while the empire fell, the people and the culture didn’t.
To this day, there is still a vibrant and strong Mayan identity in Quintana Roo, as well as the neighboring states in the south of Mexico and as far down as Guatemala and Belize.
@lyfeofalli Best Day Trips: Tulum Edition #foryou #fyp #travel #digitalnomad #tulum #adayinthelife ♬ Say Hey (I Love You) (feat. Cherine Tanya Anderson) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Travelers can enjoy these beautiful ruins for the historical gems they are, but it’s also important to remember that all around you, from the artisanal handicrafts to the food, music, and indigenous dress, the Mayan culture is very much alive and thriving!
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