Muyil Ruins and Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Muyil is one of the oldest and unfrequented archeological sites in Riviera Maya. It is a peaceful retreat for anyone wanting to escape tourist crowds and also spend some time alone in nature. Though being so close in proximity to Tulum it feels quite remote and unspoiled. A cool off in the lagoon is an added bonus.
El Castillo - The Castle
Muyil is only about 25 kms (15 miles) south of Tulum on highway 307 and was very easy to locate. We parked in the lot right outside the gate. Just as we entered the gate there was the ticket counter and facilities to the right. There was only one small group of tourists on the site far ahead of us, so it did feel like we were alone somewhere deep inside the jungle.
Muyil is one of the earliest Mayan settlements on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. It is located inland on Sian Ka'an biosphere on a trade route once accessible by a series of canals. The most prominent structure in Muyil is El Castillo - The Castle, honored to be the tallest pyramid on the coastal side of Mexico. There are many unrestored structures in Muyil some of which were seen just as mounds of rubble.
Trail at the ruins site / First structures
The Lagoon Behind El Castillo is the trail to the beautiful lagoon. Few meters in, we came across a ticket booth and a gate beyond which was the boardwalk to the observation tower and lagoon. We purchased the tickets and walked further in under the lush jungle canopy. The biosphere is home to a variety of native species of flora and wildlife. Some of the native trees (with their names) were seen on this trail.
Path to viewpoint and lagoon
Entrance to the deck / Beautiful jungle trail
In about 500mts we arrived at the observation deck. We climbed up 4 sets of VERY steep stairs to the top, carefully, one step at a time. The technique was to hold on to the steps above us and never look down. This is not for anyone with Acrophobia. It was totally worth the effort. We stood on the deck and marveled at the view of the surrounding jungle and lagoon. Climbing down backwards felt easier and safer.
Isn't that steep
Climbed all the way up / And were blessed with this view
We continued on the boardwalk scouring for monkeys and birds that made unique chirping sounds. Soon the trail opened up to a parking lot at the lagoon. We were pleasantly surprised that nobody approached us offering a tour to the canals. Not sure whom to ask, we peeked into the thatched station and saw a man busily scribbling some notes. He turned out to be our guide. He immediately took us to the locals that sat under a tree and made a deal. We changed into our swimwear in the restroom located near the parking lot and soon hopped onto a motor boat along with 2 other tourists.
Station where we found our guide
We sailed on the beautiful pale emerald waters edged by tall grass and mangroves with the wind blowing at our face. We slowed down as we approached a narrow canal. These canals were artificially dug up as trade routes back in the day. Our boat stopped at a dock where it was time to jump in the water. While I stayed on the boat, hubby and the other tourists jumped in and lazily floated in the mangrove canals as the river gently carried them.
The water was crystal clear showing through the sandy bottom, mangrove roots and schools of tiny colorful fish. Our boat went ahead and stopped at another dock where the floaters met in 30mins. Once all were on board we headed back to the main dock.
Dock at Sian Ka'an
Beautiful turquoise water / Mangroves
We took the boardwalk and trail back to the ruins. The person at the ticket counter approached to remind us that it was closing time. He had already latched the main gate to let incoming visitors know they were done for the day. It was definitely a great peaceful getaway and wished we had more time to spend at the ruins.
Where to stay: We stayed just north of Playa del Carmen as it is a good center for multiple attractions in the surrounding area. We stayed in Senses Riviera Maya by Artisan. Other best rated hotels in that area: Hotels in Playa del Carmen. Getting there: We had rented a car. Driving is relatively straight forward if you are coming from US. This site is 23km/20mins from Tulum city, 87km/1.10hrs from Playa Del Carmen, 120km/1.40hrs from Cancun airport. Head south on highway 307 from either of the 3 cities and look for signs, ruins are on the left. Down 500mts south on 307 to Sian ka’an biosphere if you want to drive instead of taking the trail. Hours and Cost: Open from 8am to 5pm. For ruins - $40 pesos ($2 USD) per person. For trail/observation deck - $50 pesos ($2.40 USD) per person. For boat tour - $600 pesos ($28 USD) per person. For parking - Free. Trails: Rugged but flat for the most part. Time to spend: 3-5 hrs. In you bag: Sunscreen, sunglasses, swimsuit, hat, plenty of water and a camera.