Español            Français             Deutsch
Home     Circuits     Products     Gallery     Let's meet  
 
 

QUINTANA ROO

ARCHEOLOGICAL ZONE OF TULUM

 Printer friendly version

 
 

Staring out for eternity over the turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean, the temples of the walled city of Tulum present a unique aspect of the Mayan legacy. Astronomy and celestial navigation, maritime trade and even weather forecasting were among the Maya achievements at this small but powerful city state.

The Maya site may have been formerly known by the name “Zama,” meaning city of Dawn. Tulum is also the Yucatecan Mayan word for fence or wall.

Tulum is the second most visited of the Maya sites in the Yucatan and not only because of its proximity to Cancun. Although the ruins are structurally less impressive than Chichén-Itzá or Uxmal and much less extensive, they have the azure Caribbean as a backdrop - a startling contrast and heaven for the photographer or artist. Because the area is small and there is comparatively little climbing involved, you can gain a fair appreciation of Tulúm in a couple of hours.

The huge number of tourists visiting Tulum today belies the fact that as recently as the 1960s the site was accessible only by sea. In fact, this was how the Spanish came across the city during Juan de Grijalva's expedition of 1518, at which time it was - uniquely among the Maya cities - still inhabited. Grijalva reports of the fortifications and buildings painted red, white and blue, and compares the city favorably in size and stature to Seville.

Imposing as it may have been, Tulúm was built around 1200 AD as the Mayan civilization declined and lacks the elegance of earlier structures. For instance, while earlier Maya buildings typically had vaulted roofs, the ones in Tulúm were often flat and have consequently fallen much sooner. The layout of the site is unusually structural, with parallel streets surrounded by walls originally five meters high and seven meters deep. Most of the walls can still be seen; indeed the present day entrance to the ruins is as it was in ancient times, through a gate on the western side of the fortification.

There are three major structures of interest: “El Castillo” (the Castle which dominates the area and is perched on the cliff edge,) “The Temple of the Frescos” and “The Temple of the Descending God.”

The dominant pyramid is “El Castillo,” which is also noted for the extensive, colorful and detailed murals found inside the building. El Castillo is the result of several phases of building. Steps lead to an upper temple featuring columns decorated with plumed serpents as seen in Chichén-Itzá and an indication of the Toltec influence. It would also have been used as a watchtower, with visibility over land and sea. Beneath El Castillo is a small but perfect beach, where the Mayans would have landed their canoes.

The Temple of the Descending God is to the left of El Castillo when looking out to sea. Above the door of the temple is a stucco relief of a figure prevalent at Tulúm, the upside-down winged god that also shows bee-like features. This figure is sometimes referred to as the "Diving God" because of its position and the resemblance to a bee signifies the importance of honey to the Mayans.

The Temple of the Frescos lies between El Castillo and the entrance to the site. Here fragments of color can be seen on murals depicting Maya life. Among the frescos is a portrayal of a man on a horse, which indicates that these drawings were still being worked on after the Spanish invasion. (The horse was introduced by the Spanish and clearly had a disarming effect on the Mayans - originally it was thought that horse and rider were one being and later, when one of Cortés' horses died, its skeleton was worshipped as a god).

Other buildings were used for purposes ranging from religious rites (a practice continued well into the 20th century) to serving as an ancient form of lighthouse for the immense seagoing canoes the people of Tulum used in their trading, which was a key source of wealth for the city. Indeed, the beach which served as the city's "port" is clearly evident as a break between the short cliffs that typify the coast at this point.

Tulum was inhabited until the conquistadors arrived. Like ports and trading centers throughout history, Tulum was one of the first places to encounter the invaders from across the sea and one of the first to taste the bitter fruit of the conquest.

A large number of cenotes are located in the Tulum area such as Maya Blue, Naharon, Temple of Doom, Tortuga, Vacaha, Grand Cenote, Abejas, Nohoch Kiin and Carwash cenotes and cave systems. The amount and beauty of these underwater caves have developed this area for into a hot spot for cave divers who like to cave dive in these crystal clear caverns and caves.

The tourist destination is now divided into three main areas: the archaeological site, the pueblo (or town), and the zona hotelera (or hotel zone), but in a spirit with much more respect of the nature and a sustainable development.

Today, Tulum again stands proud, as one of the most popular Mayan sites for visitors. Its breathtaking backdrop and finely-wrought architecture give it a beauty unlike any other ancient Mayan city; as it always was, Tulum is truly unique.

Tulum is located 130 km (one hour and 30 minutes) south of Cancun and 61 km (45 minutes) south of Playa del Carmen.

ACCOMMODATIONS:



For prices, reservations, availability and bookings, please contact us at: visit@luxuriousmexico.com
 

       
 

ACCOMMODATIONS
DESTINATIONS

Akumal Cancun
Coba Cozumel
Isla Holbox Isla Mujeres
Playa del Carmen Puerto Morelos
Riviera Maya Tulum
Xcaret Xel-Ha
CIRCUITS
PHOTOS VIDEO
Ç Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone, Castle and the Bay - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0406
  Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone,
Castle and the Bay
Ç Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone 1 - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0406
  Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone
Ç Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone, House of the Halach Uinic - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0406
  Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone,
House of the Halach Uinic
Ç Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone, Temple of the Frescoes - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0406
  Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone,
Temple of the Frescoes
Ç Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone, House of the Cenote - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0406
  Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone,
House of the Cenote
Ç Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological zone, Beach - Photo by Riviera Maya
  Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological zone, Beach
Ç Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone, Train - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0406
  Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Archeological Zone, Train