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In its time Tulum served as a point of defense against invaders from both the land and sea, and also as a port of call for the maritime commerce that thrived along the coast. Today Tulum is one of the most visited of all Mayan ruins, and it's also the only major Mayan ruin to be found along Mexico's Caribbean coastline on the "Riviera Maya". Tulum ruins page
Tourists from around the globe are discovering Tulum Mexico as a destination for adventure. Tulum's white limestone beaches and sapphire blue Caribbean waters are perfect for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. Follow the Coba road east, toward the beach, to get to spectacular beaches south of the Tulum Ruins. Even farther south on the beach road—road to Punta Allen—will lead to the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve and more deserted beaches. The Amigos de Sian Kaan and Centro Ecologico de Sian Ka'an CESiak can both arrange biology tours of the waterways and Mayan canal systems inside the Reserve.
Sian Ka'an means "where the sky is born" and is a habitat for thousands of birds as well as all the terrestrial and aquatic animals to be found in the coastal area. Tulum is also famous for its cenotes; Mother Nature's own crystalline fresh water pools which are immersed in history and Maya ritual. These cenotes are actually windows to the vast underground rivers that flow beneath the ground through submerged caves. The cenotes have provided freshwater to the land inhabitants for millennia. In the Tulum area the best cenotes are located south of the Tulum Pueblo and along the road to the Mayan ruins of Coba. Tours to these cenotes are offered to both snorkelers and divers by dive shops and adventure tour operators from Tulum to Cancun. Qualified scuba divers interested in cavern diving in a cenote should always check the qualifications of their guide to insure a safe tour will be offered.
Tulum is at the southern end of the "Riviera Maya" and is convenient to Akumal, Playa del Carmen, Soliman Bay & Tankah, Valladolid, Chichen Itza and other destinations.
Tulum stands on a bluff facing the rising sun looking out on views of the Caribbean that are nothing less than spectacular. In Maya, Tulum means "Wall", and the city was christened thus because it is a walled city; one of the very few the ancients ever built. Research suggests it was formerly called Zama or "to dawn" in its day, which is appropriate given the location. It seems "Tulum" is the name given the site following a visit by the explorers Stephens and Catherwood in 1841, just before the beginning of the Caste War in 1847, long after the city was abandon and fell to ruins. They ordered trees cleared and Catherwood made illustrations of temples, later to be published in their famous book "Incidents of Travel in Yucatan". Juan José Gálvez is actually credited with Tulum's rediscovery in 1840.
When visitors arrive at Tulum's ancient pre-hispanic site they are able to see the buildings that in its time were the city's main center, monumentally encircled by the Mayan world's best known wall. Around this wall, in an area that at the present time can't be visited, there were a vast number of wooden and palm houses. Nowadays virtually no evidence of these houses exists.
The square at the center of the city was probably once used for rituals or ceremonies and is flanked by the so called Castillo (The Castle) to the West. The Castillo, sometimes referred to as the lighthouse, is the tallest building at Tulum and the most famous. It stands on the above mentioned bluff, commanding a view of the ocean and coast for miles in both directions. The structure underwent several stages of building and the lintels of its upper rooms are carved with the plumed serpent motif. The rooms themselves are vaulted in classic Mayan style.
El Cenote, the Temple of the Descending God, is another interesting structure. On the facade is a figure sculpted head down, and the walls inside show traces of the original pigments applied by the Maya. The descending figure is thought to represent a deity and Tulum appears to have been the center of his cult.
The Temple of the Initial Series facade bears several stucco figures and the earliest date found at Tulum came from a stele in the inner sanctum. Also important are the Temple of the Frescos which is filled with murals, now mostly erased by time and the elements. The temple shows traces of several building styles. The House of the Columns is more complex than most structures at the site and worth examining. It's a palace-like structure with four rooms whose principal entrance faces South. Six columns support the roof of the main room and there's also a roofed sanctuary. With the exception of its Eastern flank, which is open to the sea, Tulum is completely encircled by a low wall. Watchtowers rise from the 2 corners of its Western flank and within each tower is an altar. A tiny cove nestles at the foot of the cliffs, with its apron of snow white sand. This caleta was where the trading canoes would slip ashore.
The Kukulcan group Located just to the North of El Castillo, the Kukulcan Group, is formed by several minor structures. Being the most outstanding the Templo del Dios del Viento (Temple of the God of the Wind) is named after its round base. Traditionally related to Kukulcán is the God of the Wind Ehécatl from Central Mexico.
It is appropriate to emphasize the importance of the beach area, where it is certain that the Mayan ships, dedicated to trade around the peninsula, would have docked. At the present time it is the most visited area of the archaeological site.
The ancient Maya ruin of Tulum is a 2 hour drive from Cancun (130 km). There is easy access via Federal Highway 307 from Cancun to Tulum. It's unofficially the southern end to the Riviera Maya. In Cancun there are several travel agencies that organize guided visits and the local bus lines offer regular service between Cancun and the site. The site has a parking lot, refreshments and restrooms located at the shopping center. Tickets are sold at the entrance to the ruins. Rustic economically priced lodging is available in the village of Tulum and along the coast South of Tulum, en route to Sian Ka'an. These range in price and quality, and many are built exclusively with regional materials. There is a registered guides association offering services at the ruins site.
More information can be found at: www.locogringo.com
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