With a recorded history spanning at least two millennia, from the mystical Mayans to the period of Spanish colonization, Mexico is a treasure trove of ancient wonders.

Lucky for Americans, it’s a short three-to-four-hour flight away.

This is still a vast country with an incredibly diverse tourist offer we’re talking about, and if you’ve been dreaming of embarking on a cultural immersion this year while also basking in the Mexican sun, this historically-charged coastal town is where it’s at:

Tulum Is The Number One Cultural Destination In Mexico In 2024

According to a recent study conducted by the Mexican National Institute for Anthropology & History, Tulum is the absolute leader in cultural tourism in Mexico by the sheer volume of visitors, beating Teotihuacán, near Mexico City, Chichén Itzá and Cobá to the number one spot.

Unlike other archaeological zones in Mexico, the ruins at Tulum are not located in a remote area you can only get to with a car or tour group: it is a short 1.8-mile walk from Downtown Tulum to the entrance of the archaeological complex, which is administered by the municipality itself.

mayan ruins in tulum

While Teotihuacán is commonly associated with the Mexican capital, it sits outside city limits a whole 29 miles away; Chichén Itzá is no different, seeing that the closest town nearby is Valladolid, and that’s still a 30 to 40-minute drive depending on traffic.

If exploring Mayan ruins is at the top of your Mexico bucket list, followed by some quality time at the beach, then there is surely no better place to come as Tulum combines both, and the numbers don’t lie: so far this year, the historical zone recorded over 200,000 visitors.

Why Is Tulum Special?

Woman in Tulum solo traveling

One of the reasons why Tulum is so special is how fairly young it is compared to much older Mayan settlements: it was only established between the 14th and 15th centuries AD and abandoned almost a century following the first Spanish incursions into Mexican territory.

This means a majority of the buildings on site are extremely well-preserved, did not suffer from pillaging as much as other Mayan hubs of its time did, and offer a precious insight into what life in the Mayan civilization looked like in the dawn of European colonization.

Mayan Ruins In Tulum, Mexico, Latin America

Plus, it’s just downright gorgeous: if you’ve ever wondered where you could see that postcard view of an old temple resting on a cliff-top, overlooking powder-white sands and turquoise waters below, look no further as Tulum is where it is located.

The fact that new temples that had previously been off-limits are now accessible, more sections of the archaeological zone are being revitalized, and a new Frida Kahlo Museum is coming are all equally great news for history and art aficionados.

Has Tulum’s Cultural Value Been Overlooked All Along?

Tourist At Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexican Caribbean, Mexico

Sitting on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, Tulum is no hidden gem waiting to be discovered: it’s been a hugely populal resort destination for years, largely due to its highly-developed beachfront, packed with five-star resorts and luxurious villas.

It’s also developed a reputation for being the entertainment capital of the Mexican Caribbean, with beach clubs galore and a bar-lined Highway 307 attracting young revelers from all over the world, and particularly bachelor/bachelorette partygoers.

Beach taqueria La Eufemia during high season, Tulum, Mexico

Considering Cancun’s infamy as a party zone, perhaps you may find it surprising that it currently ranks as the number one cultural hotspot in Mexico, beating a vibrant Mexico City and its multicultural districts, the walled city of Merida, and even the charming Spanish colonial outpost Guanajuato.

Tulum isn’t exactly unheard-of, as we mentioned already, but it is certainly underrated on the culture front, as beyond the jungle raves and the gentrified coast, you will find one of the most prominent Mayan ruins of the Mexican Caribbean, crystal-clear cenotes shrouded in mystery and artsy museums.

You Can Fly Nonstop To Tulum From The States

Plane Flying Over Palm Trees, Unspecified Location

Additionally, it is one of the most accessible cultural getaways in Mexico, as it is set to host nonstop flights from 9 cities in the U.S. beginning this month, and it’s an official stop on the Maya Train route.

The Maya Train brings tourists from Cancun to other destinations in the Mayan Riviera and beyond, and though service to Tulum has not yet formally launched, the train should be up and running at some point this summer, as confirmed by local authorities.

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