One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites and the third most visited archaeology site in Mexico
The ruins in the Tulum Archaeological Zone are situated on 12-meter tall cliffs, along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea. Tulum was one of the last cities built by the Maya civilization. The earliest date lifted from the site is 564 A.D., but it was most prominent in the 13 to 15th centuries. It survived for about 70 years after the Spanish conquest. Local Maya continued to visit the temples to burn incense and pray until the late 20th century, when tourists became too numerous. Today it is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites and the third most-visited archaeological site in Mexico.
The Maya civilization, influenced by the culture and religion of the Olmecs, arose around 250 A.D. and flourished until after the Spanish conquest of the Mesoamerica area. The Mayans developed a highly sophisticated culture, including a written hieroglyphic language. They built temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories. They were skilled farmers, who learned to thrive in a rain forest climate, weavers and potters. Science and religion were intertwined. They developed an impressive system of mathematics and astronomy.
Mayan society was not unified into one nation, but organized as independent city-states. Tulum was one of those city-states. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the bishop of Yucatan recorded 600 people living in Tulum. Tulum was a walled city, with the ceremonial and political centre of the city encircled by a stone wall.
The square at the centre of the city was probably used for various ceremonies. To the west of the square is the largest building among the ruins, El Castillo (The Castle). It overlooks the Caribbean Sea and may have been a beacon for Maya merchant ships. It was built over different periods of time and has three entrances. It was used primarily for religious rituals.
Visitors are not allowed inside the Temple of the Frescoes in order to preserve the 13th century frescoes inside the building. The main god honoured at Tulum is the “diving god’ or “Descending God”, depicted on several buildings as an upside-down figure above doorways. Figures of this god adorn the facade of the Temple, the top of which was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun.
The Palace is the largest residential building in Tulum. Nobles and spiritual leaders of Maya society lived here.
A tour to Tulum is offered by cruise ships stopping at Playa del Carmen or Cozumel, which is how I visited Tulum. Tours are also available from most hotels and resorts in the area.
Never miss a story. Sign up for Destinations Detours and Dreams free monthly e-newsletter and receive behind-the-scenes information and sneak peeks ahead.