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20 Day Trips from Tulum 2022

Curious on what lies beyond Tulum? Check out our curated list of day trips from Tulum: from cenote-hopping to Mayan cultural experiences.

Home to picture-perfect spearmint water backed by acres of lush wild jungle, Tulum is an exciting destination on its own. Adding to the list of Tulum’s attractions is a mix of avant garde art galleries, unique eco boutique hotels, and a vibrant vegan/health food scene.

Tulum makes the perfect base for exploring the area, with a variety of day trip options ranging from pristine islands to colonial towns and protected nature reserves. Plus, its convenient location means you can check off a number of must-see attractions in less than two hour’s drive.

We live just 1 hour away from Tulum and have explored the area inside out. Here’s our curated list of best day trips from Tulum. Trust me, we’ve personally been to every spot on this list! Read my detailed Tulum travel guide to dive deeper!

day trips from tulum - tulum day trips - day tours from tulum

Tulum Day trips < 1 Hour Away

1. Go Cenote-Hopping

When a deadly asteroid slammed into the sea floor off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago, it created over 6,000 fresh water sinkholes and caves called cenotes. The ancient Mayans used these groundwater pools as sacred wells and performed offerings and spiritual rituals here. Today, these cenotes are open to the public for exploring, swimming, and scuba diving.

One of the best day trips from Tulum is to visit the multitude of cenotes nearby. The most popular cenote in Tulum (also my favorite) is the Gran Cenote, a gorgeous sinkhole filled with clear turquoise-colored waters, partly open to the sky and partly under a cave. But what makes this cenote stand out from the rest is what lies beneath: you can literally snorkel amidst stalagmites and stalactites that run for miles underwater. Entry is 500 MXN (US$25) and includes use of snorkeling gear and life vest.

We have our own car here, so we usually pack in 2-3 cenotes in a day trip from Tulum. It’s affordable and relatively easy to rent a car in Tulum, plus you won’t need an international license to drive here. Search for car rentals here! But if you don’t intend to drive, I recommend booking a day tour so to make the most of your time.

cenote calavera tulum - day trips from tulum

Cenote Day Trip Ideas:

tulum day trips - cenote hopping

2. Float in Sian Ka’an Reserve + Muyil Ruins

  • Time from Tulum: 20 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 14 miles (23 km)
  • How to: Rent a car or book a day tour
  • Cost: 65 MXN (US$3.25) for Muyil entrance, 50 MXN ($2.5) for the trail, and 1,000 MXN ($50) for the boat ride.

About a 20 minute’s drive away, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a vast wilderness area that lies at the edge of Tulum. In the language of the Mayan people, Sian Ka’an means ‘Origin of the Sky’. The 1.3 million-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site is made up of a wide array of ecosystems, ranging from tropical forests to mangroves and marshes. It’s a highly protected area and there’s a limit to the number of visitors each day.

In my opinion, this is the absolute best Tulum day trip, but it does come at a price.  To get to Sian Ka’an, you will first need to get to the Muyil Ruins. The archaeological site itself is not big, but it is much less visited than other Maya ruins and you’ll have the place to yourself. The largest intact structure is called the Castillo (or castle), and it is behind this pyramid where you’ll find the trail to the Sian Ka’an dock.

The easiest way to visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is on a boat trip through its ancient canals dug out by the Mayans centuries ago. A 2-hour boat tour with a Mayan local costs a fixed price of 1,000 MXN (US$50) per person. The speed boat will whisk you through two lagoons before dropping you in one of the ancient canals for a relaxing 40-minute drift along crystal clear waters. While drifting down canals, try to spot giant land crabs and manatees, and listen out for howler monkeys.

sian kaan reserve - day trips from tulum
muyil ruins -day tours from tulum

Practical Resources for Tulum Travel

✈️ Book affordable flights to Cancun on Skyscanner for $100+

🛏️ Read our guide on the best places to stay in Tulum

🚗 Rent a car from Cancun to Tulum on Discover Cars

🚌 Reserve bus tickets from Cancun to Tulum on Bookaway for the best rates

📷 Book your day tours from Tulum on Viator or GetYourGuide

🏥 Insure your Tulum trip with Safety Wing, a global travel insurance company.

📱 Get an eSIM on Airalo to get cheap internet data

🧳 Pack a quick dry towel, dry bag, and waterproof phone holder

3. Do a Mayan Cooking Class

  • Time from Tulum: 20 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 14 miles (23 km)
  • How to: Book an Airbnb experience
  • Cost: Starting from 2400 MXN (US$120) for a day tour

Not many people know that Tulum actually lies in the heart of the Zona Maya. There’s a substantial Mayan population in Tulum, and many of them still speak their native tongue. Consider booking a full-day Maya village tour to visit local communities who will share their customs and lifestyle with you.

And if you’re interested in delving deeper, take a crash course in Maya ancestral cuisine. When you book a cooking class with a local Maya family, you’ll get to know them, take a peek into their lives, and learn about Maya ingredients and traditional dishes.

My friend did this Airbnb experience and absolutely loved getting to learn all about Mayan ingredients (such as achiote spice) and making staples like tamales from scratch. She got to visit a local market with the Mayan family and also got to talk to them and learn more about the Mayan identity.

activities in tulum - visit mayan village

4. Get Wet and Wild in Xel-Ha Park

  • Time from Tulum: 20 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 11 miles (18 km)
  • How to: Rent a car or book a day tour here
  • Cost: Ticket prices start from US$89 for adults and US$44 for kids under 12.

A 20-minute drive north along the Riviera Mayan coast is Xel-Ha, an outdoor natural aquarium and water park built to take advantage of the natural landscape. Translated from the Mayan language, Xel-Ha means “the mixture of the waters.” This natural park is excellent for families, but adults would love the adventure activities here too. Book your day trip to Xel-Ha.

Choose from snorkeling in Aventura Cenote, swimming in underwater grottos, kayaking across the Black Lagoon, or floating on a tube down a lazy river. The bold ones can try the Cliff of Courage where you jump 5 meters (17 feet) from a bridge into the river below.

xel-ha outdoor adventure park - things to do near tulum

4. Swim with Turtles in Xcacel + Akumal

  • Time from Tulum: 25 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 12.5 miles (20 km)
  • How to: Rent a car or book a day tour
  • Cost: 81 MXN (US$4) for entry to Xcacel; 500 MXN (US$25) for Akumal snorkeling trip.

Further north along the coast is the Xcacel-Xcacelito sea turtle sanctuary. Every year, around 200,000 white and loggerhead turtle hatchlings are released here. Their annual nesting and spawning season runs from May to November. Xcacel will publish a calendar of activities on its web page so you can learn about what’s happening.

Just 5 minutes further north of Xcacel is the quiet beach town of Akumal, where you can actually swim with turtles just off the beach. All year round, loggerhead and green sea turtles can be seen swimming and feeding in the bay. As it’s protected by the reef, Akumal Bay boasts calm waters and plenty of sea grass that keep the turtles coming. 

Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to go snorkeling on your own (trust me, we tried) at Akumal. It’s mandatory to join a snorkel tour to see the turtles and it costs around 500 MXN (US$25) per person. A guide will take you in small groups to snorkel off the beach and into the reserve (part of the sea that has been cordoned off). Sightings of turtles are almost always guaranteed.

xcacel - tulum
turtles in akumal - activities near tulum

5. Snorkel in the Yal-Ku Lagoon

  • Time from Tulum: 35 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 18.5 miles (30 km)
  • How to: Rent a car or take a colectivo
  • Cost: 270 MXN (US$13.5) per person and 200 MXN ($10) for kids; life vests are mandatory. 50% off if you book tickets 21 days in advance.

One of my personal favorite day trips from Tulum is snorkeling in the Yal-ku Lagoon, a unique inlet from the ocean. What makes it special is that it contains a mixture of fresh and salt water and is home to an impressive variety of marine life including sea turtles, tropical fish and manta rays. It’s the best snorkeling I’ve experienced along the Riviera Maya coast!

Most of the lagoon is 5 to 15 feet deep and there are rocks where you climb on and rest. Look out for starfish, parrot fish, blue tangs and queen trigger fish, among other Caribbean species. Surrounding the lagoon is a sculpture garden with bronze statues that you can explore.

yal-ku lagoon in akumal

6. Explore the Coba Ruins + Cenotes Nearby

  • Time from Tulum: 45 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 30 miles (48 km)
  • How to: Rent a car or book a day tour
  • Cost: 120 MXN (US$6) per person; bicycle rental is 40 MXN ($2) and tricycle rental is 120-190 MXN ($5-10) depending on route.

Located a short 45-minute drive inland from Tulum is another set of impressive Mayan ruins: Coba archaeological zone. Being relatively unknown, this site receives far fewer tourists than Chichen Itza and has pyramids that can be climbed. Towering over the thick foliage, Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the entire state of Quintana Roo.

Only partially complete in its excavation, Coba remains a rugged structure that peaks above the emerald trees to reveal the true remoteness of its setting. Scientists believe that more than 90 percent of the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan remain hidden. Make sure you wear a good pair of shoes, as it’s a steep climb up (120 steps) to the top of the pyramid!

Right next to Coba ruins is a trio of cenotes that you can easily check out after visiting the Coba ruins. Entry to each of them costs 100 MXN (US$5).

  • Cenote Choo-Ha — a small cave cenote with a small opening and stalactites everywhere
  • Cenote Tankach-Ha — a mid-sized cenote with deep water from 14ft to 114ft
  • Cenote Multun–Ha — a covered cave with the deepst water
coba - tours from tulum

Mexico Travel Requirements

  • Mexico has no travel restrictions, and there’s no need for proof of vaccine or PCR tests on the plane. Anyone is welcomed to travel to Mexico.
  • However, I always recommend travelers to buy travel insurance, whether you’re traveling for a year or a week. These days, it is particularly important to have travel insurance that covers COVID-19. Read my travel insurance guide.
  • Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date.

7. Head to the Xcaret Adventure Park

The most famous eco-adventure park in the Yucatan Peninsula,  Xcaret is a great option for all the family and is about an hour away from Tulum. Float through underwater caves, cross rope bridges, snorkel in an inlet, and walk alongside coaties and sereques (wild animals endemic to the Yucatan). Also enjoy the evening events, which include performances exploring the area’s Mayan past.

Park admission (some activities included) is pricey, costing approximately $150 per person. Having said that, there are numerous tours, packages, and discounts offered year-round. Book discounted tickets here.

xcaret adventure park in mexico - day trips tulum

8. Go Caving in Rio Secreto

  • Time from Tulum: 50 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 39 miles (63km)
  • How to: Rent a car or take a colectivo
  • Cost: US$79 for adults and $39.50 for kids under 12.

Located just a few miles away from Playa del Carmen, Rio Secreto isn’t just any cenote (as you can probably tell from the pricey entrance fee). The eco park has an extensive cave system larger than any other cave/cenotes I’ve been in the area. Having been discovered only a few years ago, Rio Secreto only opened to the public in 2007 as a protected nature reserve.

There are no artificial lights inside the caves other than some scattered wireless flashes and there is an active effort from the authorities to conserve this largely unexplored cave system. You can only visiting Rio Secreto through organized tours offered by the reserve. It’s an incredible experience and I highly recommend it!

rio secreto -best tours from tulum

Tulum Day Trips: 1+ Hour Away

9. Visit Felipe Carillo

Felipe Carrillo Puerto (or Carrillo for short) is a town that has both the development of a city and an authentic presence of local life. The place was named after Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a Mexican politician who worked towards uniting the Maya people with the Mexican government after the Caste War had occurred.

Although the city has been rapidly developing, it is still remains very local and genuinely Mexican. This is where many locals who work in Tulum live, as it’s much more affordable. There are plenty of interesting activities to do here if you want to connect with authentic Mayan culture, such as visiting the market, meeting locals at the Na’atik Culture Institute, buying honey from Melitza’ak run by a Mayan women’s collective group, and shopping for craft at Maya Ka’ab.

I highly recommend visiting the Siijil oh-haa Ecotourism Center when you’re in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. It’s a naturalistic lagoon community run by Mayans, with a cenote, jungle trail walk, and lagoon. In fact, Felipe Carrillo Puerto is surrounded by mangroves, lagoons, and the Mayan jungle– making it one of the most unique day trips from Tulum.

mayan village market - best tulum tours

10. Chill in Playa del Carmen + Cenotes

  • Time from Tulum: 1 hour
  • Distance from Tulum: 40 miles (65 km)
  • How to: Rent a car or take the colectivo

We might be biased because we live in Playa del Carmen, but this is definitely one of the easiest and most relaxing day trips from Tulum. Just a 1-hour drive from Tulum, Playa del Carmen is a vibrant, mid-sized beach town not quite as commercialized as Cancun but not quite as hippie as Tulum. There’s easy access to the public beach almost anywhere in town, and there’s a flurry of international restaurants and shops.

Hang out at a beach club (my favorite is Lido), watch traditional performances at Parque Fundadores, or stroll along the pedestrianized 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida) — Playa will set you in the right mood. Some other things to do in Playa del Carmen include visiting the 3D Museum, go on a food tour, and explore some of the cenotes nearby.

Just 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen lies a trio of cenotes that are cheap to visit and easy to get to by car or colectivo. The three cenotes are located next to one another and are all open cenotes with clear-as-glass water,. You can snorkel amidst the rock formations or jump off the cliffs!

  • Cenote Jardin del Eden — Best for cliff jumping, with both deep and shallow areas
  • Cenote Azul — Shallow areas and lots of trails, great for families with kids
  • Cenote Cristalino — Excellent snorkeling in this open cenote
playa del carmen - best day trips from tulum

11. Scuba Dive off Cozumel Island

  • Time from Tulum: 1.5 hours
  • Distance from Tulum: 50 miles (80km)
  • How to: Drive to Playa del Carmen and take a ferry there

The beautiful island of Cozumel is just a 40-minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. Unlike the coastal towns, the 34-mile-long by 11-mile-wide island is largely undeveloped, with expanses of jungle and untouched shoreline.

Just off Cozumel’s southwestern coast lies the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second-longest coral reef system. The exceptionally clear waters put Cozumel high on many divers’ bucket lists. It’s common for divers to see vast coral heads, vivid sponges, and endemic species found only here, such as the Cozumel splendid toadfish. Book your scuba dive trip here.

🔗 Check out my full list of things to do in Cozumel.

scuba diving in cozumel mexico - best tours from tulum

12. Explore Valladolid + Ek Balam Ruins

At a 1.5-hour drive from Tulum (and 50 minutes from Coba), Valladolid is the most underrated Tulum day trip and perfect for culture vultures. Despite being the closest town to  Chichen Itza, Valladolid is surprisingly quiet and laidback.

Listed as one of Mexico’s pueblo magico (magical towns), Valladolid is lined with cobblestoned streets, pastel colored houses and old colonial buildings converted into art galleries or indie boutiques. Start by strolling along the Calzada de los Frailes, the most photogenic street in Valladolid. Be sure to stop at Idilio Folklore Cervecero, a stylish restaurant that offers a small museum and beer tasting sessions.

A 30-minute drive from Valladolid is the spectacular and less-visited archaeological site, Ek Balam, where it’s still possible to climb the pyramids! At 100 feet (29m) high, the Acropolis is the tallest structure in Ek Balam. A spectacular view awaits at the top: ancient pyramids poking above the tree canopy and lush green jungles for as far as the eye can see!

💡 Don’t be fooled by the small size of Valladolid. There are actually many things to do in Valladolid; I suggest staying for the night and exploring the cenotes and Mayan ruins nearby. Check out our Valladolid travel guide.

valladolid - day tours tulum
ek balam archaeological site - road trip yucatan

Tulum Day Trips: 2+ Hours Away

13. Explore Chichen Itza

  • Time from Tulum: 2 hours
  • Distance from Tulum: 93 miles (149 km)
  • How to: Rent a car or book a day tour
  • Cost: Entrance is 571 MXN (US$23.5) per adult and 85 MXN ($4.25) for kids under 12

The most popular day trips from Tulum is undoubtedly Chichen Itza, one of the country’s most celebrated Mayan archaeological sites. An important Mayan-Toltec city, Chichen Itza spans a thousand years of history. Today, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s one of the most popular sites in the Yucatan.

I recommend reaching the site as early as you can (preferably around 8-9am) before all the day-trippers arrive from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. I also suggest hiring a guide, as there aren’t many plaques or information. If you don’t have a car, it might be best to book a day tour from Tulum since that would include a guide and transport from Tulum.

chichen itza - tulum excursions

14. Swim in the Laguna Bacalar

Just a 2-hour drive from Tulum lies Bacalar Lagoon, a spectacular lake close to the border of Belize, with inviting spearmint water, stromatolite-rimmed shores, and overwater hammocks. Nicknamed Laguna de Siete Colores (lagoon of seven colors), the water alternates between light turquoise and dark indigo.

Rent a kayak from your hotel or join a boat tour to see the 38-mile long (60km) stretch of water, making stops at the Canal de los Piratas, a channel that used to be plundered by pirates, and Cenote Cristalino, fringed by ancient pancake-like rocks known as stromatolites. Read my complete guide to Bacalar Lagoon.

🛥️ Speedboat tours leave every hour and last 2-3 hours. If you prefer longer boat trips, sail boat trips are more luxurious. During the high season, the pontoon tours and sailing trips are often sold out. Book them online here.

lake bacalar in yucatan peninsula
things to do in tulum - bacalar lagoon

15. Relax in Mahahual

Close to Lake Bacalar, Mahahual is a tiny fishing town that forms part of the Costa Maya, a quiet alternative to the bustling Riviera Maya further north. Yes, Mahahual can get busy when cruise ships dock here; but if you visit off-season, you’ll seriously find just a handful of tourists.

Mahahual is home to the biggest coral atoll in Mexico. The Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve is part of the world’s second largest barrier reef and makes Mahahual one of the best diving spots in the Mexican Caribbean. The reserve is considered something of a submerged cemetery, since it contains more than 60 sunken ships, including Spanish and English galleons dating back to 16th and 17th centuries.

mahahual - day tours from tulum

16. Reach the remote Punta Allen

  • Time from Tulum: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Distance from Tulum: 34 miles (54 km)
  • How to: Take a boat or book a jeep expedition
  • Cost: 250 MXN per person ($12.50) for the boat trip and 50 MXN (US$2.5) for reserve fees

Punta Allen is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s most remote spots, even though it’s just 35 miles from Tulum. The fishing village is actually located at the very end of Tulum’s beach road, but the terrible road conditions means you need 3-4 hours to get there on a 4×4!

Thankfully, there’s an easier way to get there these days. First, you’ll need to drive or take a taxi to the Sian Ka’an Visitor’s Center; prepare for a bumpy ride. The boat to Punta Allen leaves from a rickety dock a few steps from the visitor’s center. The 1-hour boat ride costs 250 pesos per person ($12.50) each way.

What’s most appealing about Punta Allen is how quiet and unspoiled it is. There are no big hotels or restaurants here, no ATM, no strong WiFi, and the power turns off in the middle of the night. The water is absolutely pristine, as it’s located in the coastal side of Sian Ka’an Reserve. We spotted dolpins, countless turtles, and even nurse sharks on our boat tour and snorkeling excursions!

punta allen dolphine - day tours tulum

17. Visit Cancun + Museums

I’d admit I am not a fan of Cancun beach. It is an over-developed beach town overflowing with sun-burned partygoers and raucous college students looking for cheap booze. But veer off the tourist-clogged hotel zone, you’ll find plenty of outdoorsy things to do in Cancun.

For history buffs, the Cancun Maya Museum provides a crash course in the history of the Mayan civilization. The museum is small, but pretty interesting especially for those with kids. Book a guided tour here. Right behind the Cancun Maya Museum lies the ancient Mayan ruins of San Miguelito, which was once a flourishing community.

La Isla Shopping Village is an open-air entertainment complex with winding canals and an Interactive Aquarium here, which my daughter loved (we strongly advise against swimming with dolphins). There’s also the SkyWheel Cancun which offers spectacular views of Nichupte Lagoon, the Caribbean Sea, and the Cancun hotel zone.

🔗 Check out my recommendations on where to stay in Cancun and things to do in Cancun.

cancun town - where to stay in mexico yucatan

18. Hop over to Isla Mujeres

Just a 15-minute ferry ride from Cancun (on UltraMar) is Isla Mujeres, an uncommercialised island perfect for an escape. This is where you go for calm sandy beaches, gently waving palm trees, migrating whale sharks, and giant iguanas.

There’s so much to do at Isla Mujeres than just spend the day on the beach. Rent a golf cart and explore the island, watch the sea turtles at the turtle sanctuary, go scuba diving, or stroll the island streets to find unique art and architecture. 

An interesting thing to do on Isla Mujeres is to dive or snorkel in MUSA, an underwater art museum off the coast of Isla Mujeres. MUSA features over 500 underwater statues that have transformed into part of the coral reef in an artistic combination of art and nature. Book snorkel/dive tours directly on their website.

cancun mexico - day trips from tulum
musa underwater museum

19. Get Castaway on Isla Contoy

Dreaming of a castaway island with pristine waters and empty beaches? Isla Contoy is an uninhabited island just a few miles off Isla Mujeres. It is a highly protected reserve; a maximum of 200 guests are allowed to visit daily to preserve the island’s natural habitat.

You can only visit Isla Contoy on a boat tour from Cancun as it’s not allowed to visit the island on your own. To preserve the island’s lush natural habitat, there is a limit of 200 guests per day. The tour often includes a short stop at Isla Mujeres as well.  Prepare for a long day though, as it’s a 2-hour ride to Cancun then 30-minute ferry to the island. Book your tour here.

isla contoy - day trips from cancun

20. See Flamingos at Rio Lagartos + Las Coloradas

This might be a little far from Tulum for a day trip, but if you like going off the beaten path, you have to check out this stunning part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Located along the Gulf of Mexico coast, the tiny fishing village of Rio Lagartos (River of Alligators) is home to the largest concentration of flamingos in Mexico, swelling to populations of 40,000 at the peak.

The area surrounding Rio Lagartos has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which means it is of “unusual scientific and natural interest.” This gateway to the biosphere is a bird watcher’s paradise, with dozens of species making their home here. 

Just a 20-minute drive from Rio Lagartos are the bright pink lakes of Las Coloradas. Originally used for the commercial production of sea salt, the ponds have a shimmering pink color that comes from the algae, plankton and brine shrimp in the water.

rio lagartos - one of the best places to visit in yucatan
las coloradas pink lakes in rio lagartos mexico

Other Tulum Day Trip Ideas

There are a dozen other interesting spots to visit near Tulum that didn’t get a mention here. If you have more time, I definitely suggest spending a few days at these places:

  • Izamal (3 hours away) — a photogenic all-yellow town near Valladolid
  • Merida (3 hours away) — the cultural hub of Yucatan, with some of the best foods in the region
  • Uxmal (4 hours away) — most impressive Mayan ruins along Ruta Puc, a route of Mayan sites
  • Isla Holbox (4 hours away) — my personal favorite island off the Gulf of Mexico, super laid back!
  • Belize (4 hours away) — the Mexico-Belize border is just 3 hours away from Tulum!

Further Reading on Mexico

I hope you’ve found this list of day trips from Tulum to be useful. Remember to check out our ultimate Tulum travel guide, as well as 30 cool things to do in Tulum and best places to stay in Tulum. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.

For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links i.e. if you book a stay through one of my links, I get a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. Thank you for your support!


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day trips from tulum - tulum day trips
See also  How to Get to Isla Holbox, Mexico 2022

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