The great many lovers of the exquisite Caribbean Sea have dozens of reasons to make Mexico's lovely Tulum their favorite weekend getaway or yearly vacation destination, but the area offers so much more than just incredible beaches and exciting water activities. Tulum is truly rich in history, and it's home to a wealth of impressive and well-preserved Mayan ruins that are an absolute must-see point of interest for anyone who is visiting the city. In fact, these ruins are among the best-preserved examples of Mayan construction in existence today, and some two million people from all around the globe descend on Tulum each year for the opportunity to explore and take a tour of the ruins.
About the Tulum Ruins
The location of the ruins is just as impressive as the actual ruins, and you'll find them beautifully situated upon tall cliffs that stand at 39 feet and look out over the Caribbean Sea. The ruins are that of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city that dates all the way back to 564 A.D., and it's believed to have been populated continuously through the latest part of the 16th century when disease took out most of the population. For those who are interested in architecture as well as history, these ruins are a goldmine because several different types of architectural styles are represented due to the design preference of each new generation of inhabitants throughout the ages. You could easily spend a few hours exploring these wonderful ruins, and these are the major structures that you'll want to see.
Defense was extremely important to the Mayans, and the work that went into the wall is nothing short of astounding. Much of it stands at nearly 17 feet tall, boasts a full thickness of 26 feet and is 1,300 feet long, and there are also watch towers that were presumably manned around the clock. Five narrow gateways provide entrance through the wall, and the cenote that provided the residents with fresh water is still in existence.
Central to the ruins is the wonderful castle, which stands at 25 feet tall. It was clearly built in separate stages, and the main part was built on an existing structure that featured a roof of beam and mortar that was supported by columns. Magnificent carved serpents grace the upper rooms, and you'll see the shrine that marks the entrance into the sea cliffs that was once used to show canoes the way in for the purpose of trading.
The Temple of the Frescoes
Used as an observatory to track each movement of the sun and interpret the time of day, this structure is made up of both a lower gallery and a second-story gallery. The outside of the temple is decorated with figurines that depict the Mayan diving god.
The Temple of the Descending God
The Mayan diving god was a symbol of great worship, so it's not unusual for an entire temple to be devoted to it. You'll see a well-preserved stucco figure of the diving god just above the entrance, and a beautiful mural also depicts the diving god on an inner wall.
Great Ways to Experience the Ruins
Visitors are welcome to come spend as long as they like exploring the Tulum ruins at their own pace. A fee is collected at the door, and the site is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no admission charge if you'd like to visit on any Sunday. If you're coming by car, then you should be aware that the parking lot is a good distance away from the ruins. However, there is a tram that is available to take you straight to the front gate for a fee.
Excellent guided tours are also offered, and most offer additional activities for a full day of fun. These are just two of the top tour companies that include the ruins in their tour packages.
- Cancun Adventure: This company offers a guided tour through the ruins, and that is followed by a swim in a gorgeous and secret underground river that is found in the very heart of the jungle. You'll then enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the best beach restaurants, and you're welcome to relax on the beach or take a dip in the ocean. This tour is limited to 12 individuals to ensure that everyone's needs are met, and complimentary bottled water is available throughout the day.
- Aventuras Mayas: An exciting tour of a full seven hours is available through this tour company. You may expect to enjoy a guided tour of the ruins with plenty of free time to explore, an ATV ride straight through the Mayan jungle, a snorkeling experience in a beautiful underground river and an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch.