Main temple at Tulum against the blue sea.
Tulum (sometimes called Tuluum) is the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city serving as a major port for Cobá. The ruins are located on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, it is today a popular site for tourists.

Tulum Ruins

View from the temple at Tulum.
The Maya site may have been formerly also known by the name Zama, or the city of Dawn. Tulum is also the Mayan word for fence,trench or wall and the walls surrounding the site allowed Tulum fort to serve as a defense against an invasion. From the numerous depictions in murals and other works around the site, Tulum appears to have been an important site for the worship of the Descending God.
The main building at the Tulum ruins.
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.

Ruined palace, Tulum.

A number of the buildings have 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 city was first mentioned by Juan Diez, part of Juan de Grijalva's expedition of 1518. The first detailed description of the ruins was published by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1843 in the book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. The site is of moderate size, with construction of modest sized buildings.

Main temple at Tulum, by Catherwood.

The archaeological site is relatively compact (compared with many other Maya sites in the vicinity), and is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites. Its proximity to the modern tourism developments along the Mexican Caribbean coastline (the so-called "Riviera Maya," surrounding Cancún) has made it a popular destination for tourists. Daily tour buses bring a constant stream of visitors to the site. 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 Cancún.

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
Temple of the Frescoes (foreground) and El Castillo (background).

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. Inexpensive cabanas with hammocks are also available.


Vogel, Susana (1995). Guide of Tulum, History, Art and Monuments. Ediciones Monclem. ISBN 968-6434-29-1

External Links

* Tulum - Mayan Mystery - A video from the archaeological site at Tulum.
* Map of the Maya Ruins in Tulum
* Mexico Satellite - Satellite map view of the Maya Ruins in Tulum

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