It is impossible to take a bad picture at the ruins in Tulum. It’s as if one becomes a National Geographic photographer the moment one steps into the ruins. In fact, all the photos used in this post are photos I personally took during my visit to Tulum in June 2010. And I am by no stretch of the imagination Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz..!!
Tulum is located about 80 miles or two hours south of Cancun. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans. It was occupied between 1200 – 1500 A.D. and was still a hustling and bustling town when the Spaniards arrived. The name Tulum means wall or fence which fits since it was one of the few Mayan cities protected by a wall. It was also the only Mayan city built on a coast. On the coast side, it was protected by steep cliffs facing the sea. On the other side, it was protected by a wall of about 12 feet in height.
Every Mayan city served a specific purpose, and Tulum was no exception. It functioned as a trading port and seaport for Coba, trading mainly in obsidian, turquoise and jade. The coastal setting also allowed the city to defend against invasions which is one of the theories regarding the wall. Another theory suggests only priests and nobility lived inside the city’s walls, while peasants resided outside. However, archaeologists still do not know why the wall was built. While the Mayans took their secrets with them when they abandoned Tulum.
But what the Mayans did leave behind is one of the most well preserved ruins in Mexico. Which is what sets Tulum apart from other ruins such as Chichen Itza or Coba. The Castle or El Castillo is the tallest building at the site. The structure probably served some navigational purpose such as helping the Mayans circumvent breaks in the reef. The Temple of the Frescoes is one of the better preserved buildings. As its name suggests, you can see several frescoes painted on the walls inside the building.
What also sets Tulum apart from the other ruins is it boasts its own, inviting beach. The beach at Tulum is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mexican Riviera. Many tourists take advantage of the turquoise waters to go swimming after touring the ruins. It’s a breathtaking way to refresh yourself after a hands on history lesson and tour! While Tulum may not have the largesse of Chichen Itza or the steep temple climb like Coba, it more than makes up for it through the fantastic cliffside view overlooking the gorgeous Caribbean Sea!!