A full day in Muyil: between archaeology and nature



Why the archeological site of Muyil is one of the most underrated of the Mayan “ruins” in Mexico?

Most of us, when we travel, are so focused on visiting the most popular sites and attractions that we don’t leave time to explore the unbeaten path, and sometimes we miss amazing opportunities to discover beautiful places and hidden treasures.

Why do we do that? I bet it is because we want to put our flag on the “100 things we need to see in the world” list and those lists always include the obvious. We need to show off and say “I’ve been there”, when we talk to friends or family.

Don’t we? Come on, it’s natural, don’t feel bad. 🙂 However, I am hoping to inspire you to travel more on undiscovered roads and be the pioneer of your own personal journey. Maybe I am too ambitious but I love to do my part.


First Temples in Muyil

Anyway going back to the title, this weekend I went to explore this area around the small town of Muyil, situate just 20 km from Tulum. I went to visit the archaeological site which is considered among the most important within the Mayan culture albeit it is not so advertised.

I was totally captured, astonished by its beauty and the high level of conservation of the pyramids and temples.

The site took its name from the two lagoons, Muyil and Chunyaxche, on which the settlement raised, probably to take advantage of the navigation system that connected to the other sites on the coast, north and south towards Belize.

In fact only afterward when I will go on my tour on the lagoon, the guide explained that the canals that connected the different bodies of waters of the lagoon have been created at the time of the Mayan civilization for their commerce needs. So impressive.


This site gained all my love as it small and very well conserved but most of all because it is hidden into a very thick jungle. 

The pyramid and the temples are all connected by a sacbe’-like the white path that gives you way through the exuberant vegetation. I was even surprised that I wasn’t being beaten by a single mosquito, which are normally all over me in this kind of ”humid” environment. Probably I was so in awe that they decided to leave me alone and let me enjoy the mystical experience. 

After my exploration and the 200 pictures I took, I moved on to the next part of my exciting trip. Continuing onto the same direction just a few feet from the entrance of the archaeological site of Muyil, you will find on the left side of the road, a sign of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.

Right there it is your time to turn and take the dirt road on your left;  in 2 minutes driving, you will have arrived at the stunning lagoon. Another beautiful view.

You will get lost looking into the blues and greens of that amazing “lake”. 


A few extra words on the Biosphere are due here. As you know the Sian Ka’an Biosphere (so-called from the Mayan language translation of “Entrance to the Sky”)  has been proclaimed a world heritage site by the UNESCO in 1986 and it is the largest protected area, with 528.000 hectares containing a wealth of tropical salt marshes, mangrove swamps, cenotes,  and barrier reefs.

Muyil, tulum, mexico, sian kaan

In the floating river

At that point, you will meet a few guides that are there to offer you your boat tours on the floating river and around the Biosphere.

The tours are managed by 2 local associations that are officially responsible of the protection and conservation of the area. The guides are well organized and knowledgeable and they will take turns so that you will always find somebody available. Luckily the tour is still not very commercialized, probably on purpose, as a huge demand would not be sustainable and would not get along with the conservation idea.

There are two kinds of tours available. The shorter, which I did, will take you through the canal down to the second lagoon, from which you will reach a second river, where you will start the best part of the tour,  floating in the water.

You will be given a compulsory life jacked and you will jump into the river and let the soothing water will take you through the mangrove. It’s very easy because the water is shallow and your feet would reach the bottom the majority of the time.

It was a new experience for me, I was stunned by the thought that it was all-natural, the only man-made thing was the canal opened by the Mayan civilization ages ago.

So while I was floating on my own, in the silence of nature, I let my thoughts flow just like the water, and I imagined the Mayan canoes passing through. So much mystery around that prehispanic population, so fascinating.

Exploring the Biosphere of Sian Ka’an from In the floating river

When I arrived at my destination my guide was there waiting for me with my stuff and we walked back together on a boardwalk among a carpet of yellowish-green vegetation which was very special as well (see the header picture) and then by boat again we returned to the starting point.

The second tour would be much larger and it lasts about 5 hours. After the floating river experience, you will be taken forward to the next lagoon, which is the heart of the biosphere until you reach the sea. You would hang out on the beach and around the area and will be taken back afterward.

Stay tuned for my story on that one, because for sure I will go back and do it. I can’t wait to experience it.

Here below some practical info

Cost: the short tour lasts about 2 hours and it costs 600 Mxn ( about 35 Usd) per person or 1200 minimum, which means if you are alone you pay 1200, whereas if you are 2 or more you pay 600 each. The large tour lasts about 5 hours and costs 4000 MXN ( about 220 USD).

The cost is for the boat, which means that no matter how many you are, that would be the cost and you would split it into the people of your group. Mind that they don’t have set up tours they just work on demand. If you happen to be there with other people you can ask them to group together and split the cost. The boat can take a maximum of 6 people plus the guide.

They are there every day from 8 through 5. Always calculate the duration time of the tour.

How to get there: If you have a car, brilliant. Just drive past the town of Tulum for about 20 minutes until you find the sign Muyil; easy. If you don’t want to be bothered by renting a car, no worries, you can get a Taxi in Tulum for 250 MXN (about 15 USD) one way and you talk to the driver about your return time. He will either wait for you or just come back. They are usually reliable.

Where to eat: There are a couple of local restaurants on the road. There is nothing to drink nor eat within the sites. So I would suggest you should bring water always with you as the heat can make you very thirsty and snacks in case you get hungry. 


If you are still in the exploring mood and you have some time left for another stop, on the way back to Tulum, like 5 minutes before the town, you can stop at the beautiful Cenotes Cristal y Escondido.

Cenote Cristal

The ticket office is on the left side of the road(if you are going towards Tulum) where the cenote Cristal is located. The Escondido is situated on the opposite side of the road and somebody will need to come out and open the gate for you. The entrance fee is 100 pesos (for both), about 6 usd.  Both Cenotes are open and wide, like a beautiful oasis in the jungle. You can swim and jump, snorkel or sunbathing. You might want to spend one full day there and don’t even get bored.  If you are a diver, it is possible to dive in the cenote Escondido. You should ask for a diving center if they can take you there. For sure they are organized.


Cenote escondido

How to reach the cenotes: If you are coming directly from Tulum you can either get by taxi or by bike as well, because is really just outside the town. If you are coming from Muyil, you will really need a car or ask your taxi to stop by. Remember to ask how much they would charge you before you start the journey.


I always suggest to rent a car and drive around because you have the freedom to visit in your own terms, without having the pressure of the tight schedules that groups normally have. I love to drive around a place and find new corners to discover, for as long as I want.

If you are new with driving in Mexico, I have written a useful post with tips and interesting information that might be useful as there are a couple of things you need to know and need to be careful about.


If you prefer to join an organized tour you can choose among many options. There are in fact many tours that combine different destinations, for half days one full day.

They almost always come with a guide which I find useful when you are visiting an historic place and in general to know about the local culture and society.



Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.