The Tulum Ruins Overview
While Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza gain more visits, travellers to Mexico should not forget to check out the Tulum ruins. As one of the last cities to be inhabited and built by the Mayans, the structures remain surprisingly well preserved. Archaeological buffs will fall in love with the mystery surrounding the buildings and site. A visit to the site lets you transport back in time to learn more about the fascinating Mayan culture and civilisation.
History and Information
The walled city of wonder gets its name from the Mayan word for ‘wall’. The city did carry another name previously. Zuma, meaning dawn, was its initial name due to it facing the east towards the Riviera Maya. While the city was in its pomp in the 13th century with over 1,000 inhabitants, it’s believed to first date back to 564 A.D. Its grand age is made apparent when contrasted with nearby city Cancun with its luxury resorts and bustling nightlife while closer to home a shopping centre is in close vicinity. Still, it remains one of the best preserved Maya ruins, just another reason why travellers shouldn’t miss out. Perhaps it’s something to do with the seven metre thick walls. This and what appear to be watchtowers led to the belief Tulum acted as a fortress. However, it has been widely agreed the city was also an important seaport used for trading goods and provided a sea route to Central America. As the only Mayan city built on a coast, valuable items such as jade, obsidian and turquoise were exchanged. The city was brought to its knees when Spanish conquestors invaded Mexico. But the assailants also brought Old World diseases, disseminating the native population and thus the city was left deserted.
The Tulum Ruins
There are a number of ruins to see; the main structures being the Temple of the Frescoes, the Castillo and the Temple of the Diving God.
While the coloured murals found in the Temple of Frescoes have faded somewhat over time, what’s left is still impressive. Spread over three levels, the first shows the Mayan world of the dead, the second showcases the living while the third represents the creator and rain gods.
The Castillo is the tallest building on the site. With commanding views of the ocean for miles, it’s believed to have been used as a lighthouse, guiding trade ships to the shore. When climbing to the top, it’s best to negotiate the steep steps sideways to make it easier.
Temple of the Diving God gains its name from the fascinating sculpted head which appears to be diving towards earth from the heavens. It’s been suggested the figure presents a deity where he protected the people of Tulum and the ancient city was the centre of his cult.
Patches of red can be seen on several of the structures, which suggest the buildings were painted red during the Maya period.
Visiting The Tulum Ruins
A tip when visiting any ruins, it’s recommend you book a guided tour or have a good guide book to give you a full explanation of the city. Despite the sites compact nature, visitors can quite easily more than a few hours viewing the structures, taking pictures and visiting the beautiful beach below. For a truly unique experience, it’s possible to arrive at the site via a catamaran, giving you an indication what it would have been like to be faced by this outstanding facade. It’s advisable to arrive late in the day as hoards of tour buses arrive at 9am, particularly as the site could get crowded quickly – the site closes at 5pm.
Location of The Tulum Ruins
Located 82 miles south of Cancun on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, the surrounding scenery couldn’t be more picturesque. A beach complete with golden soft sand and turquoise waters creates a stunning backdrop to the ruins. That’s not to mention the incredible weathered grey cliff in which the ruins perch upon.
Only a short journey to popular holiday destination Cancun, visitors would be missing out on this well preserved world wonder if they didn’t make the trip. The Tulum ruins present a perfect opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of the Mayans. Visitors can marvel at both the magnificent and mysterious structures. And if the ruins don’t leave a lasting impression on you, the trip to the beach will.
Author: Dan Perdomo – travel blogger who plans of travelling the world – when he wins the lottery. He enjoys treating himself to luxury holidays with Sovereign Luxury Travel.