Western Caribbean Stories and Tips

Ancient Tulum: Part 2

A sweeping view  Photo, Western Caribbean, Caribbean

Tulum, which in Spanish means wall, probably dates back to between 250 and 600 AD. It is one of the few walled Mayan cities. It most likely did not become a major city until about 1200 to 1530. This city served as both a city and fortress for many ancient Mayans. The first mention of this sacred place was not until 1518, when Juan Diaz, an explorer, mentioned it in his writings. In 1842, John Stephens and Fredrick Catherwood wrote about the Mayan city in their book Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan. Excavations of the site started as early as 1916. It was not until 1937 that Miguel Angel Fernandez began full-time work on the excavation. Today, the National Institute of History and Anthropology continues to work and preserve this site so that generations of people can stand in awe of this once great city.

Today, you cannot longer climb the structures. But the structures are not roped off (unless work is being done), so you can go up to the structure to experience the power of this place. The most incredible sight here is the castle. Dramatically built on the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean, it inspires wonder in all those who see it. There is a massive wall on both sides and then a series of steps up the temple. This was once the main site for worship. Located throughout the ruins, you can still see incredibly preserved houses, walls, and buildings. Many times, descendants of the Mayans are on hand to talk about this city or to perform. While we were here, several men preformed a pole dance. I have had clients lucky enough to be here and get to talk to these wonderful people about their ancestors. The Institute does not pay these people, so if you can, please tip these wonderful people for their service. Throughout the ruins you will also see a large concentration of lizards. These little guys are harmless and will not bother you. They do seem to like to pose for pictures, though! You are welcome to take pictures, but there is a small fee for video cameras. You can pay this to your guide, who will get a pass for you.

When you are finished, you will be taken back to the city, and from here you board the ferry back to Cozumel. If you had your picture taken, this is where you can pick it up. The ride takes about 30 minutes, and it really is beautiful. Those prone to motion sickness may want to take something before they head out. This is a must for the whole family. When you are here you go back in time for just a few brief hours. This place is incredible, and what a way to give your child a history lesson. Once you are here, you will understand why this place is considered magical.

One word about shore excursions, especially for cruise passengers: Make sure you book this excursion either with the cruise line directly or with a service such as Ship to Shore. Your travel agent will provide you information on shore excursions. With Carnival, you sign up for shore excursions when you board the ship. With others like Royal Caribbean, NCL, or Princess, you can order your excursions before you leave. You will be given a time to be back at the ship, and make sure you are there. That ship will sail with or without you. However, if Carnival receives a call that 200 of their passengers are on a bus that has a flat tire, they will wait. If you booked it with Joe’s bus tour and they have a flat, the ship will not wait for two passengers. If you book your shore excursion with the cruise line or companies such as Ship to Shore, the cruise line either waits or gets you to your next port. If you are in a resort area, then you don’t have to worry about a curfew. Most of the major resorts and hotels offer excursions to Tulum. If they don’t, they can direct you to a reputable travel agency to make the arrangements. It is a good idea to go with a group and to go with a reputable company. Also, check with your cruise line or resort about going to Play del Carmen. Play del Carmen is a lovely city and worth visiting. Some cruise lines are starting to add a complete day stop here or offer this place alone as an excursion. Resorts and hotels will help arrange to get you here for a visit. You can find out about Tulum at , , or .

Been to this destination?

Share Your Story or Tip