Today will be an entire day dedicated to exploring the ruins of Tulum. The Tulum ruins of Mexico are one of the most well-known archaeology sites in the world. The lone ruin overlooking the Caribbean Sea has become a symbol for the entire region. The blue hues stand in stark contrast to the ancient construction, now worn down by a time and the constant battering of the salt-laced sea breeze. What sets the site apart from other ruins in Mexico is both the fact that it is well preserved and it boasts its own inviting beach.
Each Mayan city had a specific purpose and Tulum was no exception. It was a seaport, trading mainly in turquoise and jade. As well as being the only Mayan city built on a coast, Tulum was one of the few protected by a wall. Made of limestone, the 784-meter wall encloses the site on three sides, is seven meters thick and varies between three and five meters in height. No doubt this fortification helped preserve the seaport.
After entering the ruins through one of five doorways in the wall, visitors are greeted by a field of gently rolling hills. Black and grey stone outcroppings, which were once buildings, dot the sun baked landscape. Most prominent among the remaining structures is the Castillo, or castle, which is perched on the edge of a 12-meter limestone cliff, overlooking the Caribbean coast. Negotiating its steep steps is best done sideways, a fact which will assert itself on the way down. Before descending, be certain to catch a glimpse of the Caribbean behind the Castillo. The view is as refreshing as the cool breeze coming from the sea.
In front of the Castillo is the Temple of the Frescoes, one of the better-preserved buildings. Peer inside the temple to see a mural painted in three sections. The first level represents the Mayan world of the dead, the middle is that of the living, and the final, highest piece, is of the creator and rain gods. Interesting to note in the middle of the living section is a god astride a four-legged animal believed to be a horse. If in fact this is a horse, it would mean Mayans still occupied Tulum in 1518 when they would have seen the animals for the first time with the arrival of the Spanish.
Chiseled above the doorway of the temple is a figure with what appears to be bird’s wings and a tail. This diving god is believed to represent a Mayan deity who protected the people and is particularly well-preserved on various buildings around the site.
Just north of the Castillo is a pathway that leads down to a sandy beach and the multi-hued Caribbean. For visual drama, a walk along the beach provides ample opportunity for photographs. The walk is an adventure into, around and under nooks and crannies carved out of the cliffs. Each additional turn brings a new, secluded stretch of the Caribbean, perfect for both swimming and reflecting on the ruins.
Overnight at Hotel Amansala Town or similar