“You pick the century and I”ll pick the spot” J. Buffett
On a twelve foot bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, Tulum, Mexico may just be the spot. Imagine the life of a Mayan citizen, running around naked in the jungle with a belly full of fruit and meat. Next to one of the longest coral reefs in this hemisphere, it really is the perfect place to throw up a thatched hut.
The Mayan city of Tulum is located 130 km south of Cancun, 48 km from Coba, and 144 km away from Chichen Itza. If coming from Playa Del Carmen or Cancun, there are multiple Mayan sites that you can visit as part of a day trip. The hotels line the beach in Tulum and the ruins are not far north. You can easily take a taxi or enjoy the beach walk which passes several restaurants and hotels. Wear your tennis shoes and be ready to sweat a little as the trail runs over limestone cliffs.
Structures At The Mayan Ruins at Tulum
The Tulum site is covered with interesting structures from the ancient Mayan world. Arches, columns and detailed carvings showcase their many architectural achievements. It’s likely the buildings were painted with bright red, yellow, and white colors. Tulum would represent a cultural center with a larger population in the surrounding region. It was a center of commerce in the area and a important location for social and religious ceremonies.
- Temple of the Frescoes: Each corner has an engraved “space mask” with some of the original paint still visible. Inside are 13th century murals and one of the few surviving images of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility and medicine.
- The Castillo Pyramid: One of the best preserved structures on the site, this traditional Mayan pyramid faces out to the sea, providing an excellent lookout post.
- Temple of the Diving God: After visiting this structure, you’ll have to go to the Coba site and find the matching hieroglyphs. It’s just down the road.
Tulum, once known as Zama, or City of Dawn, means fence or trench in Mayan. By being on a popular Mexican sea and land route, it had major importance as a center of trading. The city flourished between the 13th and 15th centuries, during what is known as the Mayan post-classic period and faded 70 years after the Spanish army began conquering the Mexico of today.
In a sea of resorts and discos from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen, Tulum sits as a quiet place to hear the wind and feel the water. Be careful if you fall asleep on the beach though, a little crab may decide to befriend you. There’s nothing more adorable than periodically waking up to a new friend saying hello.
Many of the hotels along the beach have these outside hanging beds. As a phenomenon, it’s not seen in many other places but plenty of the hotels on this beach come with hanging beds. It’s a real thing. Some places even have hanging beds in the hotel rooms. Held up by large mahogany timber and covered with mosquito netting, all you need is the Caribbean breeze to gently rock you all night like a adult-style cradle. Meow.
If you enjoy the Mayan ruins at Tulum you may also enjoy one of our other Nail Travels journal enteries. Visit Driving Honduras Crazy for the skinny on getting around in your rental car in Central America.