Tulum: Mayan Ruins, Iguana Paradise

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The ruins at Tulum offer some of the most awe inspiring views of the Maya Riviera. Located on the cliffs overlooking the beach, the ruins are festooned with palm trees, bright orange brush flowers, and a healthy population of iguanas who have moved in and taken over. Quite comically, these lizards are everywhere- on top of tunnels, along fence posts, watching you as you snap photos walk the grounds. They are a constant reminder that you are a guest at a historical site well protected by the reptilian population. And what an incredible site to be a resident iguana. We’ve mentioned previously how incredible the beaches are in this part of the world, and for the views alone this set of ruins stands out from the handfuls of other options scattered across the Yucatan Peninsula. We highly recommend a visit. Our only regret was not renting bikes to head out there.

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As a backpacker, the best option for spending time in Tulum is to stay in the main town. It hugs the main highway and provides the convenience of being close to the bus station and budget restaurants. The downside is that the town of Tulum is inland– it is significantly cheaper than staying by the beach. We were told that renting bikes would be our best bet for getting around, but feeling like a good walk, we declined and set off on foot.

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The highway heading out to the coast offered a walking/biking trail separately from the main road. This made the trip safe, but we quickly noticed that we were the only people walking. The ONLY people walking. Bike after bike passed us by, offering us second glances and strange looks. Two hours later, sweating like mad in the hot sun, we hopped between the few shady trees branching out over the trail. We took breaks at the occasional bench, chastised ourselves for not bringing water, and considered turning around. Then in the distance we saw the turn off, felt the marine breeze kick in, and mustered the motivation to keep going. Our first view of Tulum’s ocean was stunning, and it only got better from there.

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The ruins are estimated to be around 600 years old, with a few buildings dating hundreds of years before that. Used as a lookout and trading post, the ruins represent the intricate system of communications and trade that the Mayans were legendary for. Visitors are free to wander the grounds between buildings and around walkways overlooking the cliffs and ocean. A set of stairs leads visitors down to the beach for well earned dip in the turquoise water of the Caribean sea. It’s one of the most beautiful historical parks we’ve visited. Just see to it that you stay in line and behave yourself or else an army of iguanas will be at your feet in a heartbeat– at these ruins, there are always a few sets of eyes on you.

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