Travel With a Purpose Series - Be a Traveler, Not a Tourist
Muyil Mayan Ruins 300 BC - 1450 AD
As I write this article it's been just about a year since we were put into quarantine because of Covid-19. We can all agree that in the beginning we could have never guessed or predicted everything that has happened in the last year. Witnessing the world come to a screeching halt, being told we can't leave our homes, or see loved ones, and even prohibited to work became our painful reality. All of my friends in the US were concerned about me living here in Mexico and continuously ask me how life is here. The lockdown was felt so dramatically here in the Riviera Maya because everyone here lives and dies on the state of tourism. It was harsh to say the least.
Since mid-summer of 2020, little by little things began to open up again here and life seemed to slowly return to the NEW normal. Those that couldn't take being cooped up anymore, that had the resources to travel and no fear of it, began to visit us again. The beaches opened, restaurants/bars, and most importantly tourist attractions, but of course with limitations. Hallelujah!
Now, as you can imagine whenever I have friends, or friends of friends visit, I'm always asked to take them to experience something FUN! Of course that is my specialty! Those that know me know that I am obsessed with the culture and history of Mexico. As many times as I have been to the ruins I can never get tired of them, and enjoy the thrill of watching my guests get excited as they experience them for the first time!
Since the ruins have opened up again, I've had the pleasure to take my friends to visit Muyil, Ek Balam, and Coba. Because I've had first-hand experience of visiting the ruins during the Covid-19 crisis I'm going to take the opportunity to share with you some info and what I've learned. Please note that we DID wear our face masks, only to take them off for photos!
Muyil Mayan Ruins 300 BC - 1450 AD
In early October 2020 I took my friends Connie, Thomas and Luis to Muyil. The day that we visited this site we arrived later in the day and only saw a few other people in the entire complex. This ancient Mayan complex is located just about a 15-minute drive south past Tulum and is located in the northern section of Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.
This archaeological site is small, not as popular as its neighboring ruins in the north part of Tulum, yet it doesn't lack in history and beauty. There are beautifully manicured paths cut throughout the lush jungle and if you're lucky you will have the chance to spot some howler or spider monkeys! Not much is written about Muyil, however it is thought to have been an important trading post with Chichen Itza and later, Mayapan. If you decide to visit this site on your own, take note that the entrance fee is $45 pesos and unlike the other larger sites, guides for hire are not available here. Muyil is open Monday - Sunday 9 am - 3 pm.
If you are interested in visiting the ruins of Muyil we recommend that you combine it with the Sian Ka'an Nature Reserve! After the ruins we will have a delicious picnic accompanied by seasonal fruits and local snacks awaits us at the end of the walk. We then embark on a boat ride across the lagoons, through flooded savanna and intricate mangrove canals that mesmerize with their tones of green reflected in the still blue water. A secret route through winding channels that eventually leads out to the open ocean, this was an active trade route in ancient times, dotted with small temples and abundant birdlife.
The clearest of water entices us on an incredible 'lazy river' adventure, where we float in a truly unique setting, surrounded by the sounds of nature, orchids, and bromeliads, hearing only the birdsong and the wind lightly rustling through the reeds. A calming experience like nothing you have experienced before.
Check out more details here - Sian Ka'an + Muyil Mayan Ruins
Ek Balam 600 - 900 AD
Ek Balam is by far one of my favorite sites to visit! Though it's close to Chichen Itza in proximity the two sites are very different from one another in architecture and in the way that the ancient people lived there. Ek Balam, translated means "Star Jaguar", is also a site that is less popular than it's neighbor Chichen Itza. Though there are some tour providers that can take you there my friend decided that it would be better for us to rent a car so that we could make stops along the way. Luckily I had been there several times because it's a bit tricky to find your way as there aren't many signs to help you along the way and GPS signal drops frequently. We took this little road trip in early November 2020 and as you can see in the photos we were the only ones there! We decided to hire a certified guide for $650 pesos, and it's always well worth it! We were able to climb amongst all the structures however the main pyramid that features the acropolis (the most interesting part) was closed due to Covid-19. We asked our guide if there was any way we could go up considering we were the only ones there... He said that he had to check with "El Tio" (the uncle), the elderly man sitting below a nearby tree. He came back and said that we could if we could give El Tio a little cash "tip". We were more than happy to hand over $50 pesos for the chance to have that stunning view!
The entrance fee for Ek Balam is $75 pesos + an additional $338. Ticket hours are 8 am - 4 pm and closes at 5 pm. Some INAH sites charge for parking, however at Ek Balam I tipped a kid in the parking lot $20 pesos to keep an eye on the car for us.
Coba Mayan Ruins 100 BC - 1450 AD
The most recent site I've visited, in February 2021, is Coba. This archaeological site is located about a
45-minute drive into the jungle west of Tulum. Coba is famous for having the tallest pyramid in the Yucatán that reaches 42 meters in height and before Covid-19 you could still climb this structure. Though this structure is closed there are many other smaller ones that you can get up close for better inspection.
Coba is an expansive site and the best way to explore all of it in less time is to rent a bike for $60 pesos or a Mayan Taxi. These are tricycle bikes that are made for 1 or 2 persons and is peddled by a guide.
If you were to go on your own take note that the site is open 9 am - 5 pm with the last ticket sold at 3 pm. You'll need to pay for parking which is $50 pesos and the entrance fee is $80 pesos. There are plenty of official guides for hire at the entrance for a fee of $450 - $650. If you are interested in going on your own but would like a little extra guidance for the day let us know!
We also offer a full day trip of small groups that includes Punta Laguna, a cenote swim, a visit to the local animal sanctuary and lunch in the house of a local family! Check out the Mayan Inland Expedition for more details. We can arrange for you to this with a group or as a private tour! Don't miss the chance to get to experience the REAL Mexico.
Take note, these are some things that apply to all the archaeological sites:
If you go on your own, you must pay the entrance fee in national currency and in cash. No foreign currency will be accepted.
If you want to enter with a GoPro or other professional camera the fee is $45 pesos.
You must now wear a face mask as you enter but can, upon your own risk and some dirty looks by others, remove it once inside. I did notice that the majority of the people were wearing their mask and respecting social distancing.
They do check body temperature as you enter, but after you have purchased tickets.
If you have any questions at all please don't hesitate to contact us!