The Tulum Mayan Ruins are some of the most mysterious and picturesque pre-Hispanic ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The ruins are a cluster of well-preserved buildings, set within fortified walls that date to the 13th century. The ancient town was protected by high cliffs, the Caribbean Sea and a defensive wall, and is thought to have been an important trading post that thrived until the Spanish arrived in 1518. The city of Tulum reached its peak between the 13th and 15th centuries, and was one of the last Mayan cities to fall to the Spanish. Today, despite their relatively small size, the ruins are one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico.Enter the ruins through the north wall and you’ll be immediately drawn to El Castillo, the most impressive building on the site. At 25 feet (7.5 meters) tall, it dominates the entire area. Since the structure is under protective conservation, you can only look up to El Castillo entry is not permitted. Arrive early in the morning before the tour buses roll in. Even better, arrive just before dawn to experience the sun rising over the Caribbean Sea and slowly illuminating El Castillo. Swim in the crystal clear waters off Tulum and picture the trading canoes landing and disembarking from the sheltered cove beneath the towering ruins.The ruins are open daily and there is a small entrance fee. The area itself is less than 1,640 feet (500 meters) in length, so allow an hour to visit, and wear comfortable shoes and a hat. The town of Tulum Pueblo is approximately 2 miles (3 kilometers) south and has several great restaurants. The ruins are an hour’s drive from Playa del Carmen and about 80 minutes from Cancún. Buses run regularly from Cancún and Playa del Carmen. You can also take a shared van service. If you are driving to Tulum, note that the community has three sections: the ruins, the town and the beach (where many of the hotels are).