The Ruins of Tulum

Tulum ruins
The ancient Maya city of Tulum is a particularly stunning site that rests upon cliffs overlooking the turquoise expanse of the Caribbean. The modern day name - meaning “enclosure” – is thought to have originally been Zama, or “Dawn,” referring to the east-west alignment of its buildings. The name is assumed to have changed to reflect Tulum’s unique characteristic of being surrounded on three sides by a wall that is approximately 18 feet wide and 15 feet high. With the Caribbean as the fourth side, the only terrestrial access to this city was using one of the five tunnels through the wall.

Tulum ruins
Upon entering the city through one of the original tunnels, the modern-day majesty of Tulum is revealed to visitors as a sweeping landscape of tiered stone buildings framed in green grass against a turquoise blue Caribbean backdrop. Near the center of the city, atop the cliff lies the tallest building, El Castillo (The Castle), with the most pronounced view of the sea. Used as a temple as well as a lighthouse, the structure at the top is thought to have housed torches that, when aligned properly with the two watchtower structures to the north and south of El Castillo, allowed safe navigation through the reef to the sandy beach below.

Most structures were constructed during the late Post-Classic Era between the 13th and the 15th century, though an inscription dating to 564 was found on a stele giving evidence to a much earlier date of original inhabitance. Reaching its height as a civilization in the 14th century, Tulum was still inhabited up until the Spanish conquest of the Yucatan peninsula to be fully abandoned by the end of the 16th century.

Tulum ruins
Sac-Be’s first tip for visiting Tulum begins with an early arrival. Being the third most visited historical site in all of Mexico, behind Teotihuacán and Chichen Itza, your best bet for beating the tour buses is to arrive at the site at 8:00 am sharp. Entrance to the park is $38 pesos, and there are a few additional fees to expect. The parking lot ($30 pesos per car) is about one kilometer from the actual entrance of the city and is an easy walk or there is a shuttle ($10 pesos a person) that runs frequently. If you choose to hire a guide (all have gone through a government sponsored school to specialize in the Tulum ruins), this will be approximately $ pesos. Be sure to bring a bathing suit so you can go for a swim on Tulum’s precious, powdery white sand beaches. It is truly magical!

On your way back out to the parking lot, stop and watch the Olmecas Ototonacos de Veracruz perform their ceremonial twirling dance done while hanging upside-down from a pole, much like a large version of a May-pole. This is not tradition of Tulum, but it is definitely entertaining (be prepared to give a tip at the end). We at Sac-Be hope you enjoy the mysterious charisma of Tulum.