4 day itinerary in Tulum
We visited Tulum in October and were slightly worried about the fact it was rainy season. However, apart from the odd heavy rain shower lasting 5/10 minutes, the sun came back out which was perfect. Set out below is a 4 day itinerary in Tulum!
Tulum is split into two areas – downtown and the beach front which are around a 5 minute drive / 15 minute cycle away from one another. The downtown area, as you would expect, is more of the ‘real’ Tulum where more of the locals live and work.
The beach front is absolutely stunning but has been built up for tourists. However, these aren’t huge sky towers, just smaller modern boutique hotels with beautiful views of the beach.
Day One of 4 day itinerary in Tulum
Our hotel, Villa Geminis, offers free bike rental so we headed off to Tulum Ruins (built by the Mayans) which took around a 20 minute slow cycle ride. Most of the journey was along cycle paths so we felt pretty safe.
There are sufficient places to lock a bicycle by the ruins but get there as early as possible to avoid the queues. As with most places, it is also better to arrive earlier as it is cooler. The entrance fee is only 70 pesos which is fantastic value and around 500 pesos if you want a guide.
Given the ruins are positioned right by the sea, it offers magnificent views with the surrounding stunning beach and turquoise waters. There is a small cenote – Casa del cenote – named for the small pool at its base. It is the only Mayan settlement positioned by the Caribbean sea so absolutely worth visiting!
Make sure you walk up to El Castillo, a lighthouse that is the tallest building in the Tulum Ruins. The view over the sea is absolutely stunning.
After the ruins we hopped back on our bicycles and rode to the beach. Before the roundabout splitting the east and west sides of the beaches, there is a small stop off point. You can lock up your bicycle and walk down to a public beach area (note parts of the beach are all privately owned by hotels) and dip your toes in the glistening turquoise waters.
Day Two of 4 day itinerary in Tulum
We spent the morning in our villa basking in the sun and cooling off in the pool. We then jumped in a taxi to one of the newest cenotes in Tulum – Casa de Tortuga which is around a 10 minute drive from the centre of town.
That is now the second time I have mentioned cenotes so I better tell you what one is, particularly given there are over 8,000 in the Yucatan Peninsula! A cenote is a sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone that exposes groundwater underneath, which make a large turquoise pool! They were previously used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.
Casa de Tortuga
Don’t be afraid to haggle with the taxi drivers a little and just feel confident with some basic Spanish such as cuanto cuesta (how much is) and muy caro (that is expensive). Also make sure you know your numbers. We probably paid a little more than necessary at 200 pesos but the driver took us right into the cenote. They are normally a 5/10 minute walk through the jungle from the entrance off the road.
The entrance fee is 350 pesos each (around £15) which includes a guide, lifejacket, lockers and snorkeling gear. Make sure to bring a towel with you. We were lucky that it was not too busy so we had our own private guide, Leo. He was very patient when I was a little nervous!
I felt a lot safer in a lifejacket and because I knew Leo was there in case anything happened! There are three cenotes in casa de tortgua (so excellent value for money). Two were underground in caves which was absolutely amazing. There were stalactites, stagmalites, amazing fossil shapes, fluorescent lighting and the occasional bat!! It was the first time I have snorkelled and managed to see different fishes and all rock formations. It really was an amazing experience.
There is a small bar area if you want a cerveza (beer) afterwards. On the way back we went to the main highway (a man from the cenote took us) and flagged a Collectivo down. Think Uber pool but on a larger scale. Normally sitting around 12 people a Collectivo is a minivan that transports people within Tulum and further. There are usually fixed fares at the front of the van and we only paid 50 pesos for both of us for getting back. What an efficient and cost effective way to travel. Just learn how to say ‘stop please’ in Spanish!
Day Three of 4 day itinerary in Tulum
Named one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World, we couldn’t go to Mexico and not visit Chichen Itza. We chose a day tour with Mexico Kan tours who came recommended from our villa and we were certainly not disappointed.
We ended up on a private tour as no one else booked on to the trip. From 8am-6pm we visited Chichen Itza (which means the mouth of the well of Itza), Cenote De Yokdzonot and Valladolid. This was around £100 each which included all transport, entrance fees, snacks in the van, light bites at the cenote and a large lunch in Valladolid. Our guide, Angela, was passionate about her country and gave us an honest and informative overview of Mexico and the various historical sites we visited.
Try and arrive at Chichen Itza before 11 to avoid the large crowds on bus tours and the afternoon sun which comes burning down in the middle of the day. Expect a variety of souvenir market stalls offering a number of products but if you are really interested in purchasing something handmade, look out for the odd stall or two where you can see the locals painting and decorating their products.
From the main entrance you cannot help but notice the amazing El Castillo (castle) in a pyramid shape (although it is not a pyramid like you would see in Egypt). It is one of the new seven wonders of the world and stands at 24 metres high. Interestingly it has recently been discovered that there are in fact two other temples within the pyramid shape! You are no longer allowed to climb to the top like you could years ago but the amazement from below is more than enough to suffice. What is really interesting are the acoustics where you can clap very loudly and the temple actually makes a noise back at you!!
You could spend hours in Chichen Itza admiring the carvings and roaming around the site. One of the other main sites within Chichen Itza is Gran Juegor Del Polata (The Great Ball Court). The games that were played remain a mystery, albeit it was clear from the skull carvings that there were numerous humans beheaded.
It was also interesting to see the temple of warriors and spiral domed observatory where it was previously used to forecast the future.
Just south of the main ruins of Chichen Itza are the temple ruins of old chichén, an area away from the tourists and just as impressive.
Cenote De Yokdzonot
To cool ourselves down after the sun at Chichen Itza, we drove 20 minutes to Cenote De Yokdzonot, which was an open air cenote. When we arrived it was raining but lucky for us this meant people left the cenote and we had it to ourselves which was SO amazing!! It was actually pretty cool in the rain and we could swim around and take shelter under some rocks.
You are able to swim through small darker areas but just being outside in the middle is pretty amazing. Again lifejackets are mandatory and you feel completely safe. After the swimming, we had a light snack at the cenote of empanadas, tostadas and pinchos with beans and pork, salsa, sour cream and jalapenos, which were delicious.
Finally we made our way to Valladolid around 40 minutes from the cenote. It is a small town with amazing pastel colours with Arab influences. The church is the main centre with a park and shops around the outside.
We wandered down some of the side streets to gaze at the different coloured houses. Make sure you visit Yalit, a fairtrade arts and crafts shop offering handmade goods, honey and chocolate.
We had lunch at Meson Marques, which is a hotel and restaurant. It has bright colours inside, a mini statute with a waterfall in the middle and some really tasty food. We had the traditional pork steaks with beans, rice and chicken in a tomato sauce served with tortillas. You could make your own, combining all the ingredients, including guacamole handmade at your table.
We highly recommend this day trip – it was a real highlight of our visit.
Day Four of 4 day itinerary in Tulum
Coba is a village of Mayan ruins deep in the jungle, around a 40 minute drive from Tulum. We got a Collectivo from Avenue de Tulum straight to the Coba ruins for 70 pesos each. Entrance to the Coba ruins was also 70 pesos a person. We would recommend getting there early, before 11am, to avoid the large tour groups.
The Coba ruins are expansive, set across many kilometers of jungle track. To assist in getting around, we hired bikes from just inside the entrance for 50 pesos per bike. We would definitely recommend getting a bike as the jungle heat can be quite intense.
Climbing to the top!
There are lots of amazing ruins set throughout the site, including a small ball court, Grupo Coba. This contains a large church and Grupo de las Pinturas where you can see a temple.
The main sight, however, and by far the busiest, is the Grupo Nohoch Mul. This is a 42m high pyramid that you can climb. Whilst the climb may be somewhat daunting, it is definitely worth it and was one of the highlights of our trip.
The view from the top above the tree line over what appears to be a never-ending jungle is incredible. This is a sight not to be missed and photographs do not do it justice.
Of course, after the climb up, you have to get down which makes for an interesting experience! There is a rope to assist and lots of tourists shuffling down on their bottoms. You will want an ice cold bottle of water after you are finished. Thankfully there is a small shop at the bottom of the pyramid hidden away in the trees.
On the way back we shared a taxi with a couple who were also heading in our direction. After a bit of negotiating it cost 100 pesos per person. Make sure you add Coba to your itinerary!
We had such an AMAZING four days in Tulum and would thoroughly recommend a visit to everyone!!
East London Girl: Things to do in Tulum
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