Day Trip: Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico

The Breathtaking Mayan Ruins at Tulum

The sun-baked limestone welcomes the cool breeze that arrives from the electric blue sea in Tulum. The Mayan Ruins that reside in the once great trading port city is now nothing more than an archeological masterpiece. While the ruins at Tulum are a far cry from other sprawling sites like Chichen Itza, the Tulum Ruins offer an equally unique glimpse into the fascinating world of the Mayan people.

The history of Tulum significantly pre-dates that of other better-known cities in the Yucatan Peninsula like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The Mayans built Tulum as a trade city and the beach port that once existed on the rugged coastline acted as the fourth barrier to this previously walled metropolis. It was the most important trade port in the Mayan world with access to all of Central and South America, trading mostly in jade and turquoise.

Day Trip: Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Photo by Jason M Ramos via Flickr

The principle structures that remain are divided into two areas of interest: City Square- El Castillo and the Temple of the Descending God. El Castillo is a grand structure that commands your attention. Situated on the bluff’s edge, you will witness glorious views of the sea as you climb upward, nearly 12 meters, to reach the entrance. From there, the panoramic image of the expansive sea will leave you in a trance. Just in front of the El Castillo site is The Temple of the Descending God. This temple is adorned with a figure pointing downward (its namesake)—descending as if into the sea. This figure was a central icon for the Mayans and can be seen on other buildings and small structures on the site. As one of the better-preserved buildings, you will see a three-part mural inside the temple in ascending order that represents important aspects of the Mayan’s belief system. The first lower mural showcases the world of the dead, the middle is the world of the living and the third, top mural, represent the creator and rain gods.

Day Trip: Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Photo by Jen Wilton via Flickr

To pass the day at the Tulum Ruins is both curious and inspiring. The impressive views are some of the most unique in the world. For this reason, it is important to understand that this site is the most popular tourist destination in Riviera Maya—welcoming thousands of visitors each day. Most tour groups and buses arrive around 11 am but you can avoid the crowds by heading to the ruins early. By arriving around 8 am (when the site opens) you can witness this amazing historical place in peace and also avoid the midday heat, which is exhausting.

Tickets are inexpensive and once you are inside, you can take a small, family run tram for a mere 20 pesos to save yourself the 15-minute walk to the shore from the site’s entrance. Be sure to bring plenty of water and note that there is a lot of direct sunshine. For a refreshing dip after your exploration, the beaches surrounding the site are splendid, especially after a long morning of touring.

Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen and Villa La Semilla in Soliman Bay, Tulum are two extraordinary boutique properties in Mexico.  Hotel La Semilla is a 9-room bed and breakfast, while Villa La Semilla is a beachfront rental home perfect for families and groups.  Here you can enjoy the simple beauty of the area in exquisitely designed spaces.  We hope to see you soon!

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