Home Traveling AdventuresMexico 6 Maya Archeological Sites from Mérida to Tulum

6 Maya Archeological Sites from Mérida to Tulum

by bromptoning
Heather on top of a ruin at Aké.

We love exploring ruins, so we made sure to check out the Maya archeological sites on our cycle route from Mérida to Tulum. Here they are in order from west to east…

DzibilchaltúnAkéKinich KakmóChichen ItzaCobaTulum


Location 20km north of Mérida
Hours 8am-5pm, museum 9am-4pm
Admission M$132 (about CAN$9 or US$7)
Can You Climb Ruins? Yes, many of them (like the pyramid) but not all (Seven Dolls is roped off).
Time Spent at Site 1hr 30mins – because it closed early at 4pm! We could have used another hour to see what we missed and check out the museum.
Facilities Parking lot with bike parking too. Bathrooms and a museum. There are many signs on site that explain the structures you’re looking at. Plus maps at the entrance.

A lot of the guide books warned that these weren’t the most impressive ruins in The Yucatan, but they were the first ones we visited and we enjoyed them a lot! 

Pier enjoying the view from the Dzibilchaltún pyramid. The Yucatan, Mexico.
The first thing we did was climb the Dzibilchaltún pyramid!

It’s true the ruins aren’t the biggest, but this site makes up for it by having a lot of great signage explaining what the ruins are, and letting you explore – and climb – many of the structures. There’s also a beautiful cenote.

Ruin overlooking cenote in Dzibilchaltun, Mexico.
We climbed a ruin that overlooked the cenote.

We biked to Dzibilchaltún from Mérida, and blogged more about the ruins and the ride in this post: Cycling from Mérida to the Dzibilchaltún Ruins

Overall, Dzibilchaltún is definitely worth a visit. It wasn’t too crowded with people, and there are lots of ruins to explore. Plus, if you get too hot, you can jump in the cenote for a swim!

DzibilchaltúnAkéKinich KakmóChichen ItzaCobaTulum


Ruinas de Aké, Mexico.
Location Halfway between Merida and Izamal, but not on the main state road.
Admission I don’t remember, but it wasn’t much. Maybe M$40? (CAN$2)
Hours 8am – 5pm daily
Time Spent at Site 1 hour (though other visitors spent less than 30mins here)
Can You Climb Ruins? YES! All of them. But there are no ropes to hold onto.
Facilities Porta-potties in the centre of town, but that’s it. There’s nowhere to eat and nowhere to fill up water bottles. Come prepared! 

Aké was rather magical, perhaps because these ruins are really hard to find and remote, so few people make the trip. We only saw five other people visiting the ruins, and they didn’t stay nearly as long as we did. There are just three main structures here, but they’re all large and climbable, and we took advantage of the fact that there was no one preventing us from climbing.

Unique column ruins. Ruinas de Aké, Mexico.
Pier and Aké’s unique column ruins.
Pier climbing the steepest ruin we got to climb in Mexico! Ruinas de Aké
Pier ascending the steepest ruin we climbed in The Yucatan, Mexico!
Ruinas de Aké, Mexico.
Yes, we climbed that steep wall!
Ruinas de Aké, Mexico.
Checking out the view after the climb.

Despite the crazy bike ride we did to fit these ruins into our day, we were so glad we did! Aké is a hidden gem.

For more photos of Aké and details on how to get there, see this post: The Adventurous Cycle Route from Mérida to Izamal

DzibilchaltúnAkéKinich KakmóChichen ItzaCobaTulum

Kinich Kakmó

Location Right in the heart of Izamal, the Yellow City.
Hours 8am – 5pm
Admission FREE
Can You Climb Ruins? Yes! Plus there’s a rope to hold.
Time Spent at Site 30 mins
Facilities Nothing in the ruins, but they are situated in the middle of the town of Izamal, so there’s food and drink nearby.

We happened to wake up early and arrive at the entrance gate to Kinich Kakmó at exactly 8am. This site opens then, but since it’s free, no one was around. I assume someone opened the gate at 8am and just left. So we just sauntered inside…

Pier entering Kinich Kakmó, Izamal, Mexico.

We walked up the stairs and thought this was it until we saw…

Kinich Kakmó, Izamal, Mexico.

Oh, THAT’s the pyramid! It’s pretty big! And there’s even a rope to help you climb it.

Rope to climb Kinich Kakmó, Izamal, Mexico.
Heather climbing Kinich Kakmo with Izamal’s Convento in the background below.
Heather climbing Kinich Kakmo with Izamal’s Convento in the background below.
Pier enjoying the view from Kinich Kakmó. Izamal, Mexico
Pier enjoying the view from Kinich Kakmó.
It feels steeper going down Kinich Kakmó, so we used the rope. Izamal, Mexico
It feels steeper going down, so we used the rope.

Kinich Kakmó was the only ruin where we used the rope. Everyone says Coba is steep, but we got down Coba’s pyramid no problem, though most of the other tourists were using the rope in Coba. The pyramid in Coba is higher, so maybe that’s what makes people nervous, but Kinich Kakmó is definitely steeper. However, it’s not as steep as that one ruin in Aké!

Kinich Kakmó, Izamal, Mexico.

Overall, Kinich Kakmó is worth the climb, not just for the view, but for the fact that you’ll probably be the only people there! We hung out here for half an hour and never saw another soul, just these birds. It was lovely. 

DzibilchaltúnAkéKinich KakmóChichen ItzaCobaTulum

Chichen Itza

Location 122km east of Mérida, 42km west of Valladolid, 208km from Cancun.
Admission You need TWO tickets – one CAD$10 and the other CAD$25
Hours 8am – 5pm daily
Time Spent at Site 4 hours
Can You Climb Ruins? No.
Facilities Bathrooms at the main entrance and inside near the pyramid. These were the only ruins we went to that had bathrooms inside the site. There are also places inside near the entrance to buy drinks and snacks.
Pyramid, Chichen Itza, Mexico.

Chichen Itza is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, so of course we went to see it. This was the biggest archeological site on our tour by far, and it took four hours to see everything! Here’s a small sample…

Maya ball court, Chichen Itza, Mexico
Maya ball court
El Caracol (The Observatory), Chichen Itza, Mexico.
El Caracol (The Observatory)
Ruins at Chichen Itza, Mexico.
Ruins at Chichen Itza, Mexico.

For more information and photos, check out this post: Mexico’s Maya Ruins: Chichen Itza

DzibilchaltúnAkéKinich KakmóChichen ItzaCobaTulum


Location 47km west of Tulum, 61km east of Valladolid, 145km from Cancun
Admission M$64 (CAD $4.40)
Hours 8am – 5pm daily
Time Spent at Site 2+ hours on foot
Can You Climb Ruins? Yes. We climbed the big pyramid (rope provided) and some of the smaller structures too.
Facilities Outside the entrance are bathrooms and restaurants. Inside, you can rent bicycles.

I (Heather) was looking forward to Coba more than any other Maya site. Why? Because we’d read about other travellers who toured Mexico by car and folding bike (they had Dahons) and they got to ride their folding bikes through the Coba ruins! And they had pics to prove it! They had to pay a bike fee, but that was no problem. I was so excited to ride my Brommie through some ruins!

But my dreams were dashed at the entrance of Coba where the guy taking tickets said no bikes were allowed. But we knew that bikes were allowed because you can rent bikes inside the site! We tried to explain we could pay a bike fee, whatever it was to rent a bike, but we wanted to ride our own bikes. I’m not sure if he didn’t understand, or if he was just being obstinate, but he said that couldn’t be done. He insisted we had to rent one of their bikes. Of course, that makes no sense – wouldn’t it be better to take our money and not even have to give us bikes?

But we lost the argument and had to park our Bromptons outside the entrance.

Out of spite, I refused to rent their stupid bikes. Yes, now I was being obstinate, but I was angry. People who don’t travel by bike probably don’t understand why riding one’s own bike matters, but it does. It’s like if you brought your dog to a dog park, and the people at the park said you couldn’t bring your dog inside, but you could play with the other dogs there. That just wouldn’t be the same! 

So we walked around the Coba ruins, even though everything is very spaced out.

Us on top of Coba’s pyramid.
Jungle paths through the Coba ruins.
Tourists arriving as we’re leaving.

I enjoyed Coba the least compared to the other ruins, though my judgment is likely clouded by how bitterly disappointed I was at not being able to ride our Bromptons inside. If I’d never had my hopes up about that, maybe I would have enjoyed Coba more. 

DzibilchaltúnAkéKinich KakmóChichen ItzaCobaTulum


Location 4km from downtown Tulum
Admission M$64 (CAD $4.40)
Hours Regular Hours 8am – 5pm. Plus, they open early (5am?) for sunrise.
Time Spent at Site 1 hour
Can You Climb Ruins? No.
Facilities Outside the entrance are bathrooms. There’s also bike parking.

We arrived early (7:30am) and were surprised to find out we could already enter the site. But reading the sign above we realized that the “Sunrise” price was four times the regular price, so we just waited until 8am to go in. But in case you want to see the sunrise over Tulum, you can do that! 

After seeing all the larger ruins, Tulum seemed quite small. However, there are a lot of structures in the small space, so that was really neat. Plus, the ruins are on the coast, which make for a different experience than the inland ruins.

Tulum ruins, Mexico
Palm trees + ruins
Tulum ruins, Mexico
Tulum ruins, Mexico
Ocean view from Tulum ruins.
Ocean view from Tulum ruins.

When we arrived at 7:30, it was just our Bromptons and one other bike parked in the rack. But by the time we left at 9:15, the racks were packed!

So there you have it – 6 Ruins from Mérida to Tulum. For more on our trip, check out this post: Cycling The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

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