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Tulum

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     The Mayan City on the Sea

 

 

 

  

Tulum in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

Tulum - The Mayan Site

 Tulum is a city of mystery and beauty.

 

Near the modern town of Tulum, 80 miles from Cancun, you will find the glorious, ancient Mayan city of Tulum perched above the shores of  the Caribbean.   The site can be reached from Highway 307. You can walk from the lot or take a tram to the site.

Although the Mayan city of Tulum is small in extent, it is incredibly interesting and its location is gorgeous.  The site dates from the 9th century and is the only known major Mayan settlement located on a coast. 

The name Tulum ("wall")  refers to the thick walls that surrounds the Mayan site on three sides (cliffs protect it on the Caribbean side). It appears that the name "Tulum" was coined after the ruins were re-discovered in the 19th century.

Archaeologists have speculated that Tulum was at the peak of its power from the 12th to 14th centuries, which is later than the decline of other major Mayan settlements.  Tulum was still populated when the Spanish discovered it in the 16th century, but soon declined due to the decimation of the Mayan population resulting from the accidental introduction of diseases carried by the Spanish.

           Tulum's main temple, popularly known as the Castle, is somewhat rugged and squatty

It is hard  to imagine a more beautiful location for a city.Five relatively narrow entryways allowed access to the fortified city from west, north and south. It is thought that the city functioned as a port , since it is built near a small, sandy inlet piercing the cliffs.  There are a modest number of buildings here, but the site's size, architecture and quality of building materials evidences a dramatic decline of the Mayan's skills and capabilities from their peak in the previous millennium. 


 
  

It is best to take a tour of the site, since the history and  uses of the building at the site are both fascinating and complex.  In addition, most guides are good story tellers and their information will help you to understand the glory and uniqueness of the Mayan people and their history.

        The Castle viewed from near the west entrance

Temple of the frescos

Temple of the Winds at Tulum was thought to be  a ceremonial chamber

 

 

 

 

 

The major edifice in Tulum, a temple known popularly as the Castle, dominates the site, but it is shorter, smaller and less rich than the pyramids you will find at Chichén Itzá, Cobá or other major Mayan sites.  It has been speculated by some that the Castle may have functioned as a lighthouse. Other historical records indicate that the building at Tulum were painted in bright colors by the Mayans.

While Tulum may be compact and less "finished" than other Mayan sites, none of the others  have as spectacular a location or as pleasant a setting, so take your time while exploring.  In addition, due to its small size it does not take long to tour, unless you choose to explore every inch.   

Be sure to bring water, a sun hat, suntan lotion and an umbrella.  In addition, the inlet has a fine little beach and you just might want to take a swim, so be prepared.  Tulum is a popular site that is on the tour bus circuit, so expect large crowds most of the season.  If you want good photos, arrive either early in the day or late in the afternoon, when the sun's rays seem to make Tulum even more magical.

 

NextReturn to our section on the Riviera Maya

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The Mayan city of Tulum is one of the must-see sights on the Riviera Maya

 

 

 

 

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