Tulum: The Ancient City of Dawn




Here comes a classic vacation dilemma: which to choose, adventure or relaxation? Should you go for the awe-inspiring grandeur of Rome, or does a secluded villa in Tuscany sound like the better deal?

In Tulum, Mexico, the two choices are not exclusive. Beside a beach with shimmering waters, the Mayan ruins are also surrounded by dense tropical forests. With snorkelling in the middle of an archeological site an option, the ancient city promises an amazing vacation with lots of variety.

Nicknamed the Mayan “City of Dawn,” Tulum overlooks the Caribbean Sea eastward from atop an impressive cliff. Located in the  state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula, the site is just an hour-and-a-half drive south from Cancun. Reliable transportation and luxurious accommodation are always available to ensure a  visit with comforts to match the advenute.



One visit brings provides access to many prominent tourist destinations. The Mayan Riviera , also known as the tourist corridor of the Quintana Roo, follows a highway that runs all the way from Cancun to Tulum. Halfway in-between is Playa del Carmen, a tourist city with a high-living downtown scene that never disappoints.  Two hours west of Cancun is  world-famous Chichen Itza, the centre of the old Mayan Empire and one of the Modern Seven Wonders.

The ruins of are just north of the town of Tulum – a quiet location that also offers  fantastic restaurants, great bars, and a laid-back local shopping district. “El Pueblo,” as the area is known by locals, is found  on the way to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to preserving Mexican mangroves and wetlands.  Fishermen offer two-hour boat tours of the reserves that are sure to inspire any nature enthusiast.

Another popular feature of the area is the distinctive system of “cenotes” (pronounced say-NOU-teh), or water caverns. They gather rainwater into small underground lakes, often  only accessible by  open tunnels. Some cenotes allow swimming – a wonderful experience for anyone interested in the natural history of this region. The Gran Cenote, located in the outskirts of Tulum, also offers spectacular underwater scenery for recreational snorkelers or scuba divers.

The Tulum ruins  are located upon a picturesque cliff top  by the sea. The limestone wall protects the complex on three sides. As the only Mayan city on the peninsula’s east coast, the fortress of Tulum is the first outpost of that ancient civilization to see sunrise every day.


The city’s location was a strategic choice designed to promote  Mayan maritime trade. The postcard scenery of the area features a beach with stunning white sands, which served an important purpose: it was the landing site for seafaring merchants riding large canoes. It is thought that some Mayan trade missions would go as far south as Costa Rica – a staggering 1,500 km canoe ride along the coast.

A number of temples and houses are scattered throughout the ruins, most prominently the main castle, El Castillo. Since the complex was designed as a city, El Castillo served as Tulum’s central plaza. While it once offered a magnificent view of the Caribbean,  El Castillo is now roped off due to preservation efforts. However, the Temple of the Wind just across the bay provides the best  view of the site and the sparkling sea.

Another highlight of he complex is the Temple of the Frescoes: a Mayan gallery decorated with, you guessed it, frescoes. Tourists are not allowed inside , but just by peeking from the exterior one can spot a few traces of original colors and mural paintings. Statues and carvings surround the exterior, revealing  the prominence of the Mayan religion. The most obvious image here is the Diving God, outlined by bird’s wings and a tail. There’s also a separate temple dedicated to the deity.



There is something at Tulum for everyone. If you seek a break from all the available sightseeing activities, quality villas in the area promise a relaxing holiday by the Caribbean beaches. Make your visit to the ruins a day trip and then explore the nightlife of nearby cities: you are sure to have a vacation that provides the very best adventure and relaxation.


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