Muyil Ruins

If you’ve ever driven up or down Highway 307 south of Tulum, whether you knew it or not, you were passing through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The reserve includes over a million acres of lowland jungle, flooded savannas, mangroves, and a portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. There are thousands of plant species, hundreds of birds, several varieties of wild cats, monkeys and numerous species of reptiles from crocodiles to turtles.

And there are hundreds of ancient Mayan ruins, some visible from the roadside. There have been some recent restorations of ruins in Sian Ka’an including a few at a site known as Muyil at mile post 227 on Highway 307. If driving from the north to south, you’ll know you’re almost there when you pass over a speed bump and see a jungle nursery on your right.

  1. credit: timg_vancouver on Flickr
  2. credit: timg_vancouver on Flickr
  3. credit: timg_vancouver on Flickr

You can tour the ruins and walk through the jungle at Muyil on your own or you can book a tour through one of two local groups that contribute funds back into the local community and help fund maintenance at the site and additional restorations.

Community Tours of Sian Ka’an offers several tours with different themes (birding, flaura & fauna, etc.) We took one called “Muyil: Forest and float Tour” that included a walking tour through the Mayan ruins at Muyil and then a walk through the jungle followed by float down a natural canal.

We were picked up at our hotel in Tulum but the tour will pick up as far away as Playa. We were driven about 25 km south of Tulum and we walked into the forest. As we first entered, we saw several ruins that had been taken over by the jungle. As we walked further into the jungle, we came across others that had been beaurtifully restored.

The largest of the structures is the pyramid shown in the top photo above.  It is dedicated to Ixchel, the same goddess of fertility that that the San Grevacio ruins in Cozumel honor.

It’s not the largest temple we’ve ever seen but it really is one of the prettiest.

After a 20-minute walk through the jungle with stops to climb observation towers, we came out on a large lake. The tour we were on had chartered several of the small ponga style fishing boats to take us across the lake and eventually dropped us for a float down a canal leading from the lakes towards the ocean. It is possible to drive straight to the lake but you can’t count on hiring a boat there on your own as all of the boats are usually booked by the tours.

We were put into the pongas and as we approached the other side of the lake, it looked like we were going to ground the boat into the bank but at the last second, a small canal appeared. Then it opened up onto another lake. Same routine with a slightly larger canal at the other side of the 2nd lake. But then they gave us life jackets and suggested that we lay on them or wear them like a diaper and we floated down the canal for about half an hour. That was really fun (but we got a little sunburned.) Then they served lunch and stopped by a cenote for a swim on the way back to Tulum.

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiaK)is another company that has accommodations within the park and offers similar tours.