Lonely Planet Writer

Visitors to popular Mexican ruins will soon get an augmented reality experience

Have you ever seen some ancient ruins and thought they were just too, well, ruined to really appreciate? Fear not if you’re planning on visiting Tulum, one of Mexico’s most famous archaeological sites, because a soon-to-be-released app aims to help recreate what the ruins looked like in their heyday.

Tulum ruins at seashore
Tulum ruins at seashore

Around 1.5 million people come to Tulum each year to enjoy the Maya site’s stunning setting, on a cliff top, overlooking a beautiful stretch of sand by the blue Caribbean Sea. But stunning setting aside, the ruins themselves can disappoint. Visitors have to follow a limited set route, are kept at a distance due to the fragility of the temples and palaces, and many sections are roped off meaning it’s difficult to get a sense of what the place once looked like, or a feel for how people lived here.

And that’s where the new app comes in. Content (available to download, so no need for an internet connection when you’re there) will include sounds and images such as 3D recreations of Tulum’s four main buildings: the Castle, the Temple of the Descending God, the Temple of Paintings, and the Halach Uinic House.

Murals inside some of these buildings that are currently off-limits or so faded as to be almost impossible to see will be brought to life on your phone, and commentary on the different stages of construction will help explain the site’s chronology. Ongoing restoration work will also be highlighted to show how preservationists are battling against the environmental damage being done to Tulum by the humid climate, encroaching plants, and even iguanas. The app will be available in Spanish and English later this year.
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