Tulum Travel Blog

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Tulum "Wall or Fence" a fortified Maya site was originally named Zama "City of Dawn". Located on Highway 307 about 30 miles south of Playa de Carmen. It sits at the edge of a limestone cliff high about the Caribbean. It is walled on the other 3 sides.

The architecture of Tulum is typical of the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Structures of the architecture usually have a step running around the base that sits on a low substructure of platform. Doorways are usually narrow and columns would be present for support if the building was massive or had multiple levels. The exterior wall are typically plain with one or bands of molding at the top. Each room usually has one or two small windows with an altar against the back wall.
The roof can be either a wooden beam and rubble with a flat ceiling or an all stone Maya vaulted ceiling. This type of architecture resembles some of the structures at nearby Chichen Itza just on a much smaller scale.

Some archaeologist suggest that Tulum was dedicated to the Diving or Descending God. There are numerous example of images of this god in the stone carvings and murals of Tulum.

Things not to miss are the defensive wall, Temple of the Frescoes, niched figures of the Maya “diving god”, the Temple of the Diving God, the Castillo and the landing beach.

Tulum is located at the seaward edge of a tall, steep limestone cliff and is protected on the landward side by a defensive wall that varies from about 10 feet to 16 feet in height and 24 feet thick.
The wall parallel to the sea is about 1,300 feet long with the 2 side portions about 550 feet long. On the southwest and northwest corners there are small structures that have been identified as watch towers. There are a total of five narrow gateways through the wall, with two each through the north and south walls and one through the west wall. This wall is massive. The total volume of material is more than 27,700 cubic yards. This is a considerable expenditure of man hours and materials. Defense of Tulum must have been a primary concern. Located within the defensive wall in the northern portion of the site is a small cenote that could have provided the city with fresh water. It is this impressive well engineered defensive wall that makes Tulum one the most well known fortified sites of the Maya world.

The Temple of the Frescoes is the central platform of the ceremonial precinct and is one of the more spectacular structures at Tulum. This structure has both an upper and lower galleries. The lower gallery contain 13th century Maya murals that depict both the rain god Chaac and Ixchel, the goddess of women, the moon, weaving and medicine. Entry is no longer permitted. The west facade has a frieze with 3 niches. In the center niche is a carved stucco sculpture of the Diving or Descending God and in the other 2 niches are carved stucco seated figures with tall elaborate Maya style headdresses. Between the niches is a human figure intertwining with a serpent. The cornice of this structure depicts the head of Chaac in relief.

The Castillo is the tallest structure at Tulum at 24 feet in height.
The Castillo is the largest structure in the eastern complex. The Castillo was built on a previous building that was a colonnade in design with a beam, rubble and mortar roof. There is a small raised platform that appears to have been used as a beacon fire for incoming sea traffic. This platform beacon actually marks a break in the barrier reef just offshore from Tulum. At the water level just below the cliff that supports Tulum is a cove that is ideal for landing small vessels.

Coastal and land routes converged at Tulum which is well documented in the artifacts found in or near Tulum. These artifacts include manufacture copper objects and obsidian from the Mexican highlands, obsidian from Ixtepeque in northern Guatemala, gold manufactured objects from Panama and Oaxaca , Mexico,jade from Guatemala, and a wide variety of ceramic objects from all over the Yucatán.

It may have been one of these seafaring canoes that Christopher Columbus first encountered off the shores of the Bay Islands of Honduras.

There is little to no parking at the site of Tulum. It is typically necessary to park your vehicle at the shopping center for a 30 peso fee.

The access fee is 40 pesos (video cameras extra 30 pesos). Open daily 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

The city was first mentioned by Juan Díaz, part of Juan de Grijalva's expedition of 1518. The first detailed description of the ruins was published by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1843 in the book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. Work conducted at Tulum continued with Sylvanus Morley and George P. Howe beginning in 1913. The work was continued by the Carnegie Institution from 1916 to 1922, Samuel Lothrop in 1924 who also mapped the site, Miguel Angel Fernandez in the late 1930's and early 1940's, William Sanders in 1955, and then later in the 1970's by Arthur Miller.
ejames01 says:
I got to visit here back in the 90's. It was so beautiful and HOT!! The mosquitos would only bite you in the shade. The blue water, white sand, and green palm trees...beautiful.
Posted on: Mar 13, 2009
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photo by: Mezmerized