The Tulum ruins are a popular attraction near Cancun with an elegant setting most of us only see in the movies. It’s a breathtaking view with sheer limestone cliffs that stretch above the azure Caribbean.
Tulum is a Mayan city that dates back to the late thirteenth century. It was the only Mayan city built along the coast, and a visit to the Tulum ruins is a perfect day trip for those staying in Cancun, Mexico.
Tulum Ruins Are Well Preserved
Tulum was an ancient seaport that traded primarily in turquoise and jade. The ruins are open to visitors between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but it is recommended to arrive earlier rather than later for those who want to avoid the crowds.
If you do get there and find it crowded, you can always visit the beach and let the crowds thin.
The ruins at Tulum are well preserved, perhaps because it was one of the few Mayan cities built with a protective wall made of limestone. This 784-meter wall surrounds the site on three sides and is seven meters thick, and runs between 3-5 meters high.
Since walled Mayan cities are uncommon, this has led to a number of theories as to the reason for Tulum’s wall. Was it to protect a population of 600, or perhaps to protect priests and nobility from the peasants outside?
Visitors enter the ruins through one of five doors in that wall and step into a field of gentle, undulating hills dotted with black and gray stone outcroppings…ruins which were once buildings. If you have a bit of the archaeologist in you or a love of Mayan history, it’s an experience that really fuels the imagination.
The most prominent of the remaining structures is the Castillo (castle) that balances on the edge of a 12 meter, limestone cliff which overlooks the Caribbean. A steep set of narrow stairs lead to the structure, which are best navigated by stepping sideways.
Another of the better-preserved ruins is the Temple of Frescoes, which is located in front of the Castillo. When you look into the temple, you’ll find a mural painted in three sections.
The first depicts the Mayan world of the dead. The second shows the world of the living, and the last section reveals the Mayan representation of the creator and rain gods.
What Happened to Tulum
As with many of the ancient cultures that have disappeared, visiting the ruins leads one to question what happened to the city. Historians and archaeologists still haven’t figured it out, but it is interesting to visit the Tulum ruins and to build your own hypothesis.
While piecing together history at Tulum is interesting and exciting, the weather can be hot and humid so be sure to wear a hat and bring something cool to drink. Also, if you plan to visit the beach while you’re there, be sure to wear your swimsuit. You’ll find the path to the beach located just north of the Castillo.