Spectacular Mayan ruins, the sounds of nature in its full grandeur, the deepest of blues and the greenest of greens. Would you like to experience these sensations in one place? If the answer is yes, then all you have to do is venture just 10 miles south of Tulum. There you will find the archaeological and natural paradise that is Muyil.
After the disappointing visit to the Tulum ruins, we approached this excursion with hesitation. However we were beyond excited to find a nature lover’s paradise. Furthermore, we practically had the entire park to ourselves. We ran across only six other humans during our 3-hour visit.
History of Muyil
Muyil has the honor of being the second tallest pyramid in the state of Quintana Roo. Additionally, the site is one of the longest continually occupied Mayan sites. Artifacts date from 300 BCE to 1500 CE. Archaeologists believe that Muyil had strong trading ties with Coba (our next stop!) Only a few of the hundreds of structures of archaeological significance are accessible to visitors.
Why You Should go To Muyil
In addition to the beauty of the ruins, the site is on the very northern edge of the Sian Ka´an Biosphere & lagoon (Sian Ka’an means “where the sky is born”). For only 50 pesos (about $3) you can enter the biosphere by foot through the Muyil ruins and skip the overpriced tours.
We almost went down the path to the biosphere on our first visit. In the end we decided to focus on the ruins and save the visit to the biosphere for a return trip. Be ready for hundreds of species of birds, insects, and flora. As you walk down the path, step quietly so you can hear “wee ooo,” “wee ooo,” or “woo-woo, woo-woo.” The sounds of the jungle are hauntingly beautiful. You will hear many sounds that you have never heard before.
Unlike the ruins at Tulum, Muyil is a nature lover’s paradise. We sat for hours and listened to the sounds of the jungle (and you truly are in the jungle at Muyil). Birds of every color sang to us from the green canopy that encloses the park.
Moreover, the peace and quiet was calming in such a way that we felt intensely connected with nature. This would make the perfect setting for meditation or yoga.
This visit has truly been the highlight of our stay in Mexico so far. We are planning a return trip to explore the biosphere and lake Chunyaxché.
What to See
Here at the entrance you will find clean restrooms, and a sign welcoming you to the park. A very well-maintained gravel path leads you in a rough circle around the archaeological park. There are hundreds of unexplored structures around the park, and you will find heaps of ruins along the path in every direction. The only a sites on display are clearly marked along the path. Most impressive of all the structures is the pyramid known as El Castillo.Half way through the loop around the park be sure and check out the ceremonial platform full of trees growing out of the middle. At first I was quite disappointed that there were no guidebooks for the park. However, there are well-written signs in English at every major structure. Photographing signs for future reference has proved very useful for remembering details about our adventures. In addition to El Castillo, you can find several smaller pyramids, altars and ceremonial centers around the park. Take your time to pause and take in the spectacular beauty of the structures.
To get to the ruins hop on a red colectivo (small bus) from the meeting point near the ADO bus station. The cost is 50 pesos per person (about $3). The collectivos are inexpensive transportation used by locals. Not quite a bus and cheaper than a taxi. You can also ride a bike straight down Highway 307 9.3 miles from the Tulum pueblo.
Joe and I love a good bike ride now and then, but we prefer walking above any other form of transportation. Also, taxis are an option if you don’t feel like waiting on the colectivo. A taxi is about 200 pesos each way ($12 USD).
You can take your time touring the archaeological site, listening to the birds and staring into the endless green jungle. In comparison, the differences between our experience at the Tulum ruins and that Muyil couldn’t be more different. The ruins at Tulum were crowded and loud, while those at Muyil were empty and serene.
Finally, when you want to go back to Tulum, walk up to the road in front of the archaeological park (on the side of the road going to Tulum) and flag down a colectivo or taxi. Always ask the fare in advance so there are no surprises.
Our trip to Muyil was completely spontaneous with no pre-planning. However, we did bring our standard explorer’s kit of insect repellant, sunscreen, 2 liters of water per person (which almost wasn’t enough) sturdy shoes and a hat.
Next Stop: Coba, Ek Balam, Chichen Itza
More Information on Muyil and Mayan Archaeology
Guide to Tulum Ruins
A Nahuatal Poem