While I was in Mexico last week, I had the chance to visit Tulum. Tulum is an ancient Mayan city located right on the beach. In fact, a popular thing to do here after working up a sweat from walking around is to go swimming in the ocean. There’s nothing like swimming in the shadow of some ruins, right?
Zamá (pronounced zam-MAH) translates as “Place of the dawning sun.”
Tulum was originally known as Zamá, which means “place of the dawning sun.” Tulum was a thriving capital and trading city until the Spanish came and destroyed it in 1518. It After that, the city was abandoned and left to the jungle. Now, it’s one of the most popular and largest Mayan ruins in Mexico. It’s incredibly beautiful, especially given its location near the ocean. This is one of those places where my words could never do it justice, so I’ll let my pictures talk for me:
The Temple of the Frescoes is one of the most important structures in Tulum, and it was also used as an observatory for tracking the sun. There are several carvings of the “diving god” (Venus) found here.
The outer temple has sculptures in three niches, including a central figure representing the descending god Venus and human figures carved into the frieze.
The southwest and northwest corners there are small structures that have been identified as watch towers, showing again how well defended the city was.
Tulum was protected on one side by a huge bluff, which would have taken a great deal of energy and work on behalf of the Maya.
There are five narrow gateways in the wall, with two each on the north and south sides and one on the west. A small cenote on the northern side of the wall provided the entire city with water.
The Castillo (the castle) is the largest building in Tulum, and it likely served as a landmark for sailors. There are serpent motifs carved into the upper rooms, and the building was originally painted red and covered in stucco.
This is one of the most famous beaches in Tulum, and this is where people come to swim and hang out in the sand. A small shrine appears to have been used as a beacon for incoming canoes.
This is the House of Columns, and it’s one of the more complex structures in Tulum. It was likely built in stages. Shaped like an “L,” six columns supported the roof. It’s likely someone important lived here!
Imagine this as your view. The Mayans had great beachfront property!
This shrine marks a break in the barrier reef that is opposite the site. Here there is a cove and landing beach in a break in the sea cliffs that would have been perfect for trading canoes coming in.
Tulum is a must-see if you’re in Mexico, especially since it’s one of the few walled cities built by the Maya.
For more information on travel to Mexico and the Mayan Riviera, plan your trip using my guide.
Note: My trip to Mexico was sponsored by Riviera Maya tourism.
Book Your Trip to TUlum: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite places to stay in Tulum are:
- Che Tulum Hostel & Bar – This is a newer hostel in the area with lots of space for socializing in the evenings. There’s a nice pool area with a bar, hammocks, and beach beds.
- Chill Inn Hostel – All the private rooms and dorms here are inside cozy huts. This is a good spot for families, and their hot breakfast is delicious!
- Mama’s Home – This small hostel has a laidback atmosphere with lots of hang-out spots, making it super easy to meet other travelers.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
Want More Information on Mexico?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Mexico for even more planning tips!