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MEXICO - TRAVEL SERVICES GUIDE:

Tulum: Mayan ruins of Quintana Roo!

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MAYAN RUINS:
* Chichén Itzá
* Coba Ruins
* Mayapan
* Tulum Ruins
* Uxmal Ruins
Tulum - panoramic view [photo should be shown]
~ Tulum - panoramic view {Click to Enlarge Photo! ~

Tulum, 130 km south of Cancún, considered by many as the most beautiful of the Mayan sites, is small but exquisitely poised on the fifteen-meter-high cliffs above the Caribbean.  When the Spanish first set eyes on the place in 1518, they considered it as large and beautiful a city as Seville, Spain.  They were, perhaps misled by their dreams of El dorado, by the glory of its position, and by the brightly painted facades of the buildings.  Architecturally, Tulum is no match for these great cities.  Nevertheless, thanks to the setting, it sticks in the memory like no other.

The site (open daily from 8am-5pm), is about one km from the main road, so make sure to get off at the turnoff to the ruins and not at the actual village of Tulum a few kilometers farther on.  You enter through a breach in the wall which protected the city on three sides.  The fourth was defended by the sea.  This wall, some 5m (16ft) high with a walkway around the top, may have been defensive, but more likely its prime purpose was to distinguish the ceremonial and administrative zone (the site you see now) from the residential enclaves, which were mostly constructed of perishable material.  As you go through the walls, the chief structures lie directly ahead of you, with The Castillo (The Castle) rising on its rocky prominence above the sea.

At The Templo de los Frescos (Temple of the Frescoes), the partly restored murals that can be seen inside the temple depict Mayan Gods and symbols of nature's fertility; rain, corn and fish.  They originally adorned an earlier structure and have been preserved by the construction of a gallery around them, and still later (during the fifteenth century) by the addition of a second temple. Characteristically, its walls slope outwards at the top.  Carved on the corners of the gallery are masks of Chac, or perhaps of the creator, God Itzamna.

The Castillo, on the highest part of the site, commands imposing views in every direction.  Aside from its role as a temple, it may well have served as a beacon or lighthouse.  Even without a light it would have been and important landmark for mariners along an otherwise monotonously featureless coastline.  You climb first to a small square, in the middle of which stood an altar, before climbibg the broad stairway to the top of the castle itself.  To the left of this plaza stands the Templo del Dios Descendente.  The diving or descending god-depicted here above the narrow entrance of the temple appears all over Tulum as a small, upside-down figure.  His exact significance is not known.  He may represent the setting sun, rain, lightning, or he may be the Bee God, since honey was one of the Mayan's most important exports.  Opposite is the Templo de Las Series Iniciales (Temple of the Initial Series), so called because in it was found a stela bearing a date well before the foundation of the city, and presumably brought here from else where.  Further interesting places to explore are strung out south along the coast.  If you simply want to take time out for a swim, you can plunge into the Caribbean straight from the beach fronting the site.

Map of: Tulum, Mayan Ruins in Mexico!

The Tulum ruins in Quintana Roo:
 
Are located 131 kilometers south of Cancun, just 20 minutes south of Akumal on Hwy. 307.  Facing the sea, Tulum is impressive and powerful.  Known as the "Walled City", Tulum was thought to be one of the most important cities of the ancient Mayan during its time.   Fresco remnants are still visible inside some of the structures.
 

The approximate date of the city's construction is unclear.  While it is believed to have been built around 300 BC, the majority of the buildings appear to date from between 1200 to 1500 AD, when the city was inhabited by the Mayans and gained its greatest importance.

With its strategic position at the top of a cliff, Tulum made an excellent fortress.  The city is surrounded by walls on three sides with the fourth side well protected by the sea.  As with El Rey on Cancun Island, and San Gervasio on Cozumel Island, Tulum has the same east coast Mayan style of architecture common to the region.  During the 13th century, the residents of Tulum became trading partners with their neighbors in Mayapan, another important city also located on the Yucatan.  This relationship appears to have ended when the Spaniards arrived.  Within 70 years of the Spanish Conquest, Tulum was completely abandoned, although some Mayan pilgrims continued to visiting the city.

You enter Tulum through a breach in its western wall.  During the city's golden age, these walls enclosed all of the city's civic and ceremonial buildings as well as its palaces.  The walls also separated the various classes within the society.  While the city's rulers lived safely within the fortress, the rest of the population lived outside.  There are variety of openings along the walls that are currently closed to visitors.  These entrances were probably built so that the Mayans could gain access to the exterior of the fortified site.

~ El Torreón ~

On two of the fortress' corners are a pair of 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.

~ 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.

~ Templos Miniatura ~
 
Tulum includes a series of small-scale reproductions of temples from the region called Templos Miniatura.  The temples are too small to enter and were probably used as shrines with offerings deposited inside them.

~ 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.

~ 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.

~ The Castle ~

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 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 ~

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).

~ La 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.

The Reservoir House or Structure 20:

This is a small residential building that got its name from the small reservoir found there.

~ Visit the "Mayan Ruins" of Mexico ~
Index Chichen Itza / Coba / Mayapan / Tulum / Uxmal

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