Info on Tulum

Tulum (sometimes rendered as Tuluum) is a Pre-Columbian walled city of the Maya civilization located on the Caribbean Sea coast of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. There is also a modern town of the same name nearby, often called Tulum Pueblo.

Tulum Ruins

The Maya site may have been formerly also known by the name Zama, or the City of Dawn
While an inscription dated 564 has been found at the site, most of the structures now visible were built in the Post-Classic Era, between about 1200 and 1450. The city remained occupied through the early years of the Spanish conquest of Yucatán, but was abandoned in by the end of the 16th century. Local Maya continued to visit the temples to burn incense and pray until the late 20th century, when tourists visiting the site became too numerous.
A number of the buildings sport fresco murals on the interior (small remaining traces of paint suggest that the exterior of some buildings may have been similarly decorated). The murals show Mixtec influence.
The first detailed description of the ruins was published by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1843. The site is of moderate size, with construction of modest sized buildings.


Some visitors are surprised by the small size of the site, but its proximity to the sea (the only Mayan ruins in Mexico by the sea) makes it a popular destination for tourists. Today, large tour buses arrive in a constant stream of visitors. The Tulum ruins are the third most visited archaeological site in Mexico, after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza. It is popular for the picturesque view of the Caribbean and a location just 120 km south of the popular beach resort of Cancun.
The tourist destination is now divided into three main areas: the archaeological site, the pueblo or town, and the "hotel zone," or strip of beach lined with small cabanas.

Tulum Pueblo

Several years ago, Tulum Pueblo was a quiet village 2 km. from the archaeological site, and tourism outside of the ruins was limited to a few small shops and simple cabanas on the beach. As of 2005 population of Tulum Pueblo has grown to over 10,000 permanent inhabitants. The "hotel zone" of boutique hotels on the Tulum beach has grown to over 40 small hotels, most of them cabanas built in the traditional Mayan style with thatched palm roofs. The hotel zone is mostly filled with tourists whereas Tulum Pueblo is mostly a Mexican town, with some tourists eating in the restaurants and bars at night.
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Tulum—the walled city

Tulum and its name: Tulum's greatest attraction is its location. It stands on a bluff facing the rising sun looking out on views of the Caribbean that are nothing less than spectacular. In Maya, Tulum means "Wall", and the city was christened thus in the early 1900's because it is a walled city and one of the very few the ancients ever built. Research suggests it was called Zama or "to dawn" in its day, which is appropriate given the location. It seems that Tulum's name is a recent; one that has come to be used after the city was already in ruins, and it is precisely with this name that it was called in the early 20th century when the explorers Stephens and Catherwood rediscover it, completely abandoned, just before the beginning of the Caste War.
Brief history of the site The earliest date lifted from the site is A.D. 564 (the inscription on a stele) This places Tulum within the Classic period, though we know that its heyday was much later (1200 - 1521 A.D.) during the Late Post-classic period. Tulum was a major link in the Maya's extensive trade network. Both maritime and land routes converged here. Artifacts found in or near the site testify to contacts that ranged from Central Mexico to Central America and every place in between: copper rattles and rings from the Mexican highlands; flint and ceramics from all over the Yucatán; jade and obsidian from Guatemala and more. The first Europeans to see Tulum were probably Juan de Grijalva and his men as they sailed reconnaissance along the Eastern coast of Yucatán; in 1518. The Spaniards later returned to conquer the Peninsula unwittingly bringing Old World diseases which decimated the native population. And so Tulum, like so many cities before it, was abandoned to the elements.
Principal structures When visitors arrive at Tulum's ancient pre-hispanic site they are able to see the buildings that in its time were the city's main center (ceremonial and political), monumentally encircled by the Mayan world's best known wall. Around this wall, in an area that at the present time can't be visited, there were a vast number of wooden and palm houses. Nowadays virtually no evidence of these houses exists.
City square The square at the center of the city was probably once used for rituals or ceremonies and is flanked by the so called Castillo (The Castle) to the West. The Castillo, sometimes referred to as the lighthouse, is the tallest building at Tulum and the most famous. It stands on the above mentioned bluff, commanding a view of the ocean and coast for miles in both directions. The structure underwent several stages of building and the lintels of its upper rooms are carved with the plumed serpent motif. The rooms themselves are vaulted in classic Mayan style.
Temple of the Descending God This is another interesting structure. On the façade is a figure sculpted head down, and the walls inside show traces of the original pigments applied by the Maya. The descending figure is thought to represent a deity and Tulum appears to have been the center of his cult.
The Temple of the Initial Series façade bears several stucco figures and the earliest date found at Tulum came from a stele in the inner sanctum. Also important are the Temple of the Frescos which is filled with murals, now mostly erased by time and the elements. The temple shows traces of several building styles. The House of the Columns is more complex than most structures at the site and worth examining. It's a palace-like structure with four rooms whose principal entrance faces South. Six columns support the roof of the main room and there's also a roofed sanctuary.With the exception of its Eastern flank, which is open to the sea, Tulum is completely encircled by a low wall. Watchtowers rise from the 2 corners of its Western flank and within each tower is an altar. A tiny cove nestles at the foot of the cliffs, with its apron of snow white sand. This caleta was where the trading canoes would slip ashore.
The Kukulcán Group Located just to the North of El Castillo, the Kukulcán Group, is formed by several minor structures. Being the most outstanding the Templo del Dios del Viento (Temple of the God of the Wind) is named after its round base. Traditionally related to Kukulcán is the God of the Wind Ehécatl from Central Mexico.
The beach Finally, it is appropriate to underline the importance of the beach area, where it is certain that the Mayan ships, dedicated to trade around the peninsula, would have docked. At the present time it is the most visited area of the archaeological site.
General Data Being Quintana Roo's most known and advertised site, Tulum is a must visit. The access fee is $35 pesos (video cameras extra $30 pesos) and the visit timetable is from 08:00 to 19:00 hrs during the Summer; and from 07:00 to 18:00 hrs during the Winter -Monday thru Sunday. The ruins are free on Sunday. It is important to mention that it is necessary to park the your car at the shopping center's parking lot (an extra $30 peso fee). This is not controled by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The 1 km journey between the parking lot and the site's entrance can be made by walking or in a small train (it's not related with the INAH either), which access fee is +/-$10 pesos. The ancient Maya ruin of Tulum is a 2 hour drive from Cancun (129 km). There is easy access via the 180 Federal Highway from Cancun to Tulum. It's the final southern stop on the Riviera Maya. In Cancun there are several travel agencies that organize guided visits and the local bus lines offer regular service between Cancun and the site. The site has a parking lot, refreshments and restrooms located at the shopping center. Tickets are sold at the entrance to the ruins. Rustic economically priced lodging is available in the village of Tulum and along the coast South of Tulum, en route to Sian Ka'an. These range in price and quality, and many are built exclusively with regional materials. There is a registered guides association offering services at the ruins site.
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Quintana Roo

(kentä´nä ro´o) , state (1990 pop. 493,277), 19,630 sq mi (50,842 sq km), SE Mexico, on the Caribbean. Chetumal is the capital. Occupying most of the eastern part of the Yucatán peninsula, the state was, until recently, wild, sparsely settled, and populated almost entirely by the Maya. In recent years large areas have been cleared for farming and pasture. It has a hot climate and high rainfall. The economy is dominated by tourism. The resorts of Cancún and Cozumel are leading international vacation spots. Along the Caribbean coast is the famous Mayan archaeological zone of Tulúm as well as the lare Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. The flat plain with its almost impenetrable ebony and cedar forests and the resistance of the Maya forced Francisco de Montejo to abandon his attempt (1527-28) to conquer Yucatán from the east. Scandalous episodes involving the wholesale purchase of Mayas for what amounted to slave labor in the chicle plantations tarnished the history of the territory in the late 19th and early 20th cent.
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TULUM City Guide
Located just south of Akumal along the Caribbean coast, Tulum is the most visited of Mexico's archeological sites due in part to it's ideal location on the beach and its close proximity to busy Cancun. Like Playa del Carmen, Tulum has a noticeable international influence that comes from its continued popularity with adventurous European travelers.
The area around Tulum also offers many unique and small resorts, spas and rustic lodgings, restaurants, cantinas and shops. The actual village of Tulum along the main highway has facilities with most of the basic necessities for travelers. There are also Scuba diving shops, and available rentals for cars, mopeds, bicycles and other sporting goods for entertainment. The bus route from Playa del Carmen has regular stops making it an easy getaway for short or extended trips. Direct travel time from Cancun is about 2 and a half hours (130 kilometers).
Tulum is an excellent jumping off point for further exploration of the Yucatan. Favorite destinations include the archeological site of Coba, several nearby cenotes popular with Scuba divers (the Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos), and the Sian Ka'an Bioreserve to the south which encompases the maya site of Muyil.


Located directly along the shore overlooking the rough coast, the shores of Tulum are bathed by the clear waters of the turquoise caribbean sea. Here you can appreciate the ruins of what is left of this post classic city. Tulum is recognized as the most beautiful and astonishing archaeological site of the maya civilization because of its amazing location and impressive structures.
There are 60 remaining structures of the whole city protected by 3 large stone walls that keep it together. And that is why after the conquest it was renamed to Tulum, which in mayan means "wall". The original name was Zama meaning "sunrise" or "dawn".
Tulum used to be the principal commercial port for the mayan civilization as they had access to the caribbean sea which they also controlled. This port created the access to the trading routes to the north and into central mexico.
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En Espanol
Acerca del lugar y su nombre: Tulum es uno de los sitios más antiguamente registrados y conocidos por el mundo occidental, pues ya en 1518 el cronista español Juan Díaz narraba haber visto una ciudad "tan grande como Sevilla" con una torre, que indudablemente era El Castillo de Tulum, el cual en aquel tiempo aún era ocupado por los habitantes de esa jefatura independiente. Las fuentes del siglo XBI designan al sitio con el nombre de "Zamá", que posiblemente se refiera a la palabra maya para "mañana" o "amanecer", lo cual es comprensible ya que el sitio se encuentra emplazado en la porción más alta de la costa oriental, en donde justamente contemplar el amanecer es un espectáculo especialmente notable. El nombre de Tulum, por tanto, parece ser relativamente reciente. Traducido al español como "muralla" o "palizada", en clara alusión a la muralla que aquí se conserva, este nombre parece haber sido empleado para designar a la ciudad cuando ya se encontraba en ruinas, y es precisamente con este nombre con el que es consignado en el siglo XIX, cuando Stephens y Catherwood lo "redescubren" completamente abandonado, justo antes del inicio de la Guerra de Castas.
Dirección y vías de acceso: Se localiza 128 kilómetros al sur de Cancún y es fácilmente accesible a través de la carretera federal 180, que es ya una moderna vía de cuatro carriles en el tramo Cancún - Playa del Carmen, y dos amplios carriles en el tramo Playa del Carmen - Cancún. Desde Cancún, existen numerosas agencias de viajes que organizan visitas guiadas y las líneas locales de autobuses ofrecen un servicio regular entre estos dos puntos.
Breve historia del sitio: Los edificios actualmente visibles en Tulum, pertenecen en su totalidad al último periodo de ocupación prehispánica de la Península de Yucatán: el postclásico medio - tardío (1200 - 1550 d.n.e.). Sin embargo, la presencia de algunos elementos claramente asociables a periodos más antiguos, como la estela 1, fechada para 564 d.n.e., así como de la estructura 59, que contiene algunos elementos estilísticos del periodo clásico, indican que el asentamiento puede haberse originado en una época considerablemente más antigua, quizás el clásico temprano (ca. 400 0 500 d.n.e.). De acuerdo con los estudios arqueológicos publicados en los últimos años, existe evidencia suficientemente consistente para asegurar que Tulum habría sido una de las principales ciudades mayas de los siglos XIII y XIV. Ernesto Vargas ha destacado su ubicación estratégica entre las provincias (kuchkabaloob) de Cochuah y Cozumel, lo cual, sumado a su emplazamiento sobre la elevación más alta de la región y su eficiente sistema defensivo, le habría ubicado como un asentamiento ineludible para cualquier ruta comercial y para la explotación de los ricos recursos marítimos de la costa de Quintana Roo. De acuerdo con el autor antes mencionado, Tulum habría funcionado políticamente como un asentamiento (o batabil) independiente del dominio de otras provincias, hasta prácticamente la llegada de los españoles en el siglo XVI, cuando fue definitivamente abandonado.
Principales estructuras: Al encontrase con el antiguo asentamiento prehispánico, el visitante podrá ver los edificios que en su momento constituyeron el núcleo principal (ceremonial y político) de la ciudad, monumentalmente delimitados por la muralla mejor conocida del mundo maya. En el entorno de esa muralla, en un área que actualmente no puede ser visitada, se encontraba un enorme número de casas construidas de madera y palma, de las cuales hoy prácticamente no se conserva ninguna evidencia.
La muralla antes mencionada delimita al conjunto principal por sus lados norte, sur y oeste, ya que la porción oriental mira directamente al Mar Caribe. Cuenta con cinco accesos y dos torres de observación, que dan cuenta del grado de control que en su momento se ejerció sobre quienes pretendieron entrar a esta zona.
En la porción central del sitio se encuentran los edificios principales, delimitados por una segunda muralla interior; la mayor parte de ellos tuvo funciones de tipo ceremonial y entre ellos, El Castillo es el más sobresaliente, por su tamaño, ubicación y la singular fachada de su templo superior, con tres accesos ornamentados con columnas serpentinas, complementados con una deidad descendente y dos mascarones zoomorfos en las esquinas. Cabe mencionar que la imagen actual de El Castillo es producto de diversas etapas constructivas, la más reciente de las cuales está representada por dos pequeños templos ubicados a ambos lados de la escalera principal. Al frente de El Castillo se encuentra una plataforma, posiblemente para danzantes, y a los lados otros edificios que complementan el arreglo del conjunto, y entre los cuales cabe mencionar al Templo de las Series Iniciales, donde se encontró la fecha más temprana documentada en Tulum.
Al norte se encuentra el Templo del Dios Descendente, conformado por un pequeño basamento sobre el que se construyó un templo ornamentado con la imagen de un dios descendente, principal elemento iconográfico de la ciudad.
Frente al conjunto antes descrito se encuentra la calzada principal, que es una verdadera calle sobre la que se ubicaron diversos edificios residenciales, el más importante de los cuales es el Templo de los Frescos, que es una construcción originalmente conformada por una habitación rodeada por un pórtico en tres de sus lados. Las pinturas murales que se conservan en sus paredes retratan, según Arthur Miller, a una serie de seres sobrenaturales residentes en el Inframundo, que por un momento aparecen retratados entre la oscuridad y la luz, y que constituyen uno de los más importantes testimonios de la pintura mural maya prehispánica. Adicionalmente a las pinturas, debe mencionarse que las esquinas del edificio están ornamentadas por mascarones con elementos serpentinos que posiblemente les asocien a Kukulcán.
La Casa de las Columnas y la Casa del Halach Uinik, ubicadas en el área de la calzada, constituyen interesantes ejemplos de la arquitectura residencial de Tulum, en tanto que la Casa del Cenote ubicada en el sector norte del conjunto amurallado, documenta la importancia que los mayas habrían dado al culto acuático, especialmente al vinculado a los cenotes y a la oscura liquidez que albergaban.
El Grupo Kukulcán, ubicado justo al norte de El Castillo, comprende diversas estructuras menores, siendo la más notable el Templo del Dios del Viento, nombrado así por la redondez de su basamento. Tradicionalmente relacionado a Kukulcán como Dios de los Vientos o al Ehécatl del Centro de México.
Finalmente, debe destacarse la importancia del área de playa, en donde seguramente habrían atracado las naves mayas dedicadas al comercio en torno a la península, y que hoy constituye el área más visitada del asentamiento arqueológico.
Datos generales: Siendo el sitio más conocido y publicitado de Quintana Roo, Tulum no puede faltar en el itinerario de cualquier visitante a la zona. Aunque se le conoce más por la belleza de sus playas, debe insistirse en la importancia de sus pinturas murales y en el interesante arreglo urbano de sus edificios. La cuota de acceso es de $20.00 y el horario de visita de 08:00 a 19:00 horas durante el verano y de 07:00 a 18:00 horas durante el invierno, de lunes a domingo. No debe dejar de mencionarse que es necesario estacionar los vehículos en el estacionamiento del centro comercial, lo cual requiere el pago de una cuota adicional, no controlada por el INAH; el trayecto de cerca de 1 kilómetro ubicado entre el estacionamiento y la entrada al sitio, puede hacerse a pie o a bordo de un pequeño tren (tampoco relacionado con el INAH), cuya tarifa es de $10.00. Se recomienda no adquirir los productos que ofrecen los vendedores ubicados en el área de acceso al sitio, por encontrase irregularmente ubicados en esa zona.
Servicios que se ofrecen: El sitio cuenta con estacionamiento en el área del centro comercial, sanitarios y un área de expedición de los boletos. En el poblado, así como en el centro comercial, ubicados a poco más de un kilómetro existen instalaciones hoteleras, así como diversos establecimientos dedicados a la venta de alimentos y de artesanías de la región. Existe una agrupación de guías certificados que ofrecen sus servicios durante las horas de visita.
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