Tulum is an ancient Mayan archaeoligical site that sits on the edge of a Cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It is a spiritual and magical place which once visited you will never forget. It used to be named Zama which means City of Dawn because this is where the ancient people watched the sunrise over the ocean.
The word Tulum also means wall. This is because Tulum used to be the fortress and look out against invasion from the sea. There are many watch towers and it was protected by the steep sea cliff on one side and all around there was a wall of about 5 meters in height and 8 meters in depth and ran for about 400 meters.
The most important structure is El Castillo. This structure is about 8 meters in height and has a small shrine at the top which is believed was used as a beacon for incoming trading canoes which would land at the beach in the cove right below. El Castillo was originally covered in stucco and painted red and a sculpture of the descending god remains inside. You will find figurines and stuccos of this god all around Tulum. He as the guardian of the coast and of commerce and associated to the planet Venus.
Tulum was the Mayan´s main trading port and the characteristics we have told you about are the main reasons that the Mayas founded the city of Tulum and its center for defense and trade for the region.
The Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. The frescoes included Ixchel, the goddess of women and medicine, and Chaac, the rain god.
Most of the history that we have recorded about Tulum come from Diego de Landa who was the third bishop of Yucatan. He recorded that Tulum was a relatively small city with about 600 inhabitants who mostly lived outside the wall. Inside the wall lived only the priests and governers of the land. It remained inhabited for about 70 years after the conquest and local Mayas continued to come here to pray and perform rituals until the late 20th century when it became too busy with tourists.
Tulum has easy access by bus from the town center and it is now the third most visited archaeological site in Mexico, after Chichen Itza and Teotihucan. Make sure you fit this spectacular piece of Mayan culture into your schedule.