Tulum was one of the last Maya inhabited cities in the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in 1518.
Tulum was one of the last Maya inhabited cities in the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in 1518. The city was then an important port in the sea route linking Mexico to Central America. In the Maya Language, Tulum means "wall". The city was renamed at the beginning of the twentieth century, because of important fortifications that surround it. Research suggests that the city was called Zama (dawn) at the time of the Maya.
Surrounded by walls of 380 meters long, 200 meters wide and 6 meters in height that protected about 60 structures, In this unique Mayan city lived then around ten thousand inhabitants, who traded with other cities in the region. The city stands on a rocky promontory overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Unlike other cities the pyramids of Tulum are small. Most monuments had ceremonial functions. Traces of red paint can be seen on some buildings. This suggests they were painted during the Maya period.
Thousands of tourists visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum daily through trips arranged by hotels and tour operators in the region. Tulum is the 3rd most visited archaeological site of Mexico, the site is open 365 days a year and operating hours are from 8h to 19h in summer and from 8 to 17h in winter. A guarded parking is at the entrance of the site. Here was developed a commercial area containing souvenir shops and snack bars.
You can find a Map of the Tulum Ruins in our free maps available for download or everywhere in Tulum.
Among the largest group of buildings in Tulum is El Castillo (The Castle). This is the city's most imposing building and was, without a doubt, its most important. The structure has two small rooms in its upper part where the principal religious ceremonies were held. The facade was decorated with sculptures and its corners still show the remains of masks. The upper temple was built on top of another building, which can still be seen from either side of the stairway. At ground level are two other small temples where offerings were deposited. El Castillo was dedicated to the Mayan god Kukulkan and is located on the site's highest point. In addition to its function as a temple, El Castillo may also have been used as a lighthouse or a kind of beacon.
Templo del Dios del Viento
Templo del Dios del Viento (Wind's God Temple) was constructed on top of a circular platform, something found infrequently in the area.
The temple itself is rectangular in shape and has only one door. On the upper part of the temple's facade are two moldings decorated with small stucco statues. Some of the stones along the walkway leading to this ruin are quite slippery, so watch your step.
Casa del Cenote
As you pass the temples entering further into the site toward the sea, you encounter another relatively small building called La Casa del Cenote or The House of the Well. As the name implies, the structure was built over a cave containing water (a cenote). The building is rectangular with a room on each side and a tomb in the middle. At the back of the building there is a small area where occupants celebrated religious ceremonies. Due to its close proximity to the sea, the water in the cenote is too salty to drink.
Templo del Dios Descendente
Templo del Dios Descendente (Temple of the Descending God) is one of the most beautiful temples in Tulum.
This is not the result of age, but the way these entries were originally designed. As with several other structures on the site, Templo del Dios Descendente was constructed over another temple that was filled in to serve as its base. The temple gets its name from a sculpture located there that represents a god-human wearing a headdress, descending from the heavens, holding an object of some kind. This partly human descending figure is found on several other buildings in the site as well as other buildings in the area, including Coba, another archaeological site located around 50 km (30 miles) to the west. Although the temple was originally decorated with a mural of several gods, this work of art has since been lost to time and the elements. At the bottom of the stairs is a small building that is believed to have been dedicated to the goddess Ixchel. Inside this small structure that archaeologists suspect represent the male sexual organ.
El Palacio (The Palace), as its name implies, served as a residence for Tulum's most important inhabitants. There are benches around the walls that were used as seats and probably as beds. At the back of the building is an area where the family held religious ceremonies. This site is badly deteriorated, but contains a fine stucco carving of a descending god. It is also known as the House of the Halach Uinic (First Lord or kind)
Casa de las Columnas
La Casa de las Columnas (The House of the Columns) faces away from the place across a small plaza to the south. It was used by the Halach Uinic, or king, to do businesses with lords of lower rank.
Templo de las Pinturas
This two level building, called Templo de las Pinturas (Temple of the Frescoes), is the best preserved in Tulum, and takes its name from the colored murals on one of its inner walls. The upper level temple is decorated with red-colored hand prints. The lower level is comprised of two temples, one within the other, and has far more interesting decorations. The inner temple's facade is decorated with murals. The outer temple boasts stucco figures in bas-relief, and carved masks of Chac, who is presumed to be the creator god. The outer temple also features a series of sculptures, including one of the descending god-human figure. The murals here were painted in three levels, representing the dark underworld of the deceased, the middle order of the living, and the home of the creator and rain gods.
Templo de la Estela
When first discovered, archaeologists found fragments of the stela (a stone monument now located in the British Museum) inside Templo de la Estela (Temple of the Initial Series) along with representations of people and some hieroglyphs. The stela was inscribed with the Mayan date corresponding to 564 A.D. This confused archaeologists who thought that Tulum had been built hundred of years later than this. It is now believed that the stela was brought to Tulum from Tankah, a settlement about 4 km (3 miles) to the north
On two of the fortress' corners are a pair towers that served as temples, called El Torreón. The left tower, closest to the current entrance is in better condition than the one on the right, which is almost destroyed. Archaeologists do not believe that either tower played a defensive roll in the city. Each has three doors and an altar along the back wall where offerings were probably deposited. There is a panel with geometric designs above the molding of the facade, which is believed to have been painted at one time. Due to their condition, visitors are no longer allowed inside the towers.
Visiting days: monday to sunday
Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00pm
Visit length: 2 Hours