Tulum in Mexico

The setting of Tulum is perfect. It is something out of a James Bond movie. The dramatic Mayan ruins of Tulum stand on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean sea.

To visitors, Tulum can mean several things. First, it’s one of the most picturesque of all the ancient Maya sites, poised on fifteen-metre-high cliffs above the impossibly turquoise Caribbean. Tulum also refers to a stretch of broad, white beach that’s the finest in the Riviera Maya, dotted with lodging options that range from bare-bones to ultra-swank; many of them, as well as many ultra-casual beach bars, still show their backpacker-friendly roots in style, if no longer in price. Finally, it’s a booming town (often called Tulum Pueblo to distinguish it from the beach) that has evolved from roadside waystation to real population centre, where visitors can arrange tours into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, among other things.
tulum mexico
Tulum was an important port and trading center for the Yucatan’s east coast Maya. Within the walls of the city lies a series of platforms and buildings, including ruined palaces and elevated temples. The most impressive structure is “El Castillo”. The temple of the Frescos is also interesting. It has murals that are similar to the designs of the Paris Codex, one of the few surviving Mayan books.

Go early to Tulum, no later than 9:00 a.m. to avoid the bus loads from Cancun. This area has heavy tourist traffic. Large market, bargaining is expected. The pueblo has Money exchanges at good rates.

The little town of Tulum is slowly developing to offer various services (like an Internet Cafe for example) phone service, and more. There are several very good local restaurants and a few on the beach in the various properties in the hotel area on the beach that are absolutely wonderful and still very cost effective.

Accommodation:

Although Tulum’s beach is an obvious draw, you may want to stay in town if you arrive late in the day, have a limited amount of time (and money) or prefer hot water round-the-clock. Hotels in the zona hotelera along the beach road do not connect to the electric grid, relying instead on varying combinations of solar panels, windmills and diesel generators; most have power for only about six hours in the evening. Depending on your point of view, the candle-lit ambience is rustic charm or expensive primitivism, and the thatched palapa roofs on most places can be a liability in the rain. Basic sand- or cement-floor cabañas made this area famous with hippie backpackers, but they’re in short supply now (and are plagued with reports of theft), as ritzier places, with prices to match, have sprung up. There are now very few mid-range beds on the beach, and, as in Playa del Carmen, most hotels also charge high-season rates in the European holiday period of July and August.

Chichen Itza

The most famous, the most extensively restored and by far the most visited of all Maya sites, Chichén Itzá lies conveniently along the main highway from Mérida to Cancún, a little more than 200km from the Caribbean coast. A fast and very regular bus service runs all along this road, making it perfectly feasible to visit as a day’s excursion from Mérida, or even as a day out from Cancún, as many tour buses do. But both to do the ruins justice and to see them when they’re not entirely thronged with tourists, an overnight stop is well worth considering – either at the site itself or, less extravagantly, in the nearby village of Pisté or in Valladolid, which is both convenient and inexpensive.

chichen-itza-
Chichén Itzá is also just a few short hours from Akumal and one of the largest ancient Mayan cities in the north-central Yucatan. The first large- scale archaeologial investigations began in 1924 and were conducted for 20 years by the Carnegie Institution. Chichen Itza means “opening of the wells of the Itza”. Chichen Itza has many elaborate structures, the most impressive being “El Castillo”, the Great Ball Court, Temple of the Warriors and The Caracol. Plan to spend the day at this site. Wear your hiking boots and go early in the morning, as it can get very hot and humid later in the day.
Climbing the Great Pyramid of Kulkulkan or El Castillo, is no longer allowed. Neither is climbing up the Temple of the Warriors. The route into the smaller pyramid inside the Great Pyramid is also closed.
Many visitors choose to visit the site as a day-trip from either Merida or Cancun, but this leaves little time to explore the ruins. Also, it means arriving at the hottest part of the day. The trick is to overnight at one of the hotels near the ruins, which means that you get the ruins almost to yourself in the morning!

Accommodation:

Visitors to Chichén Itzá have a choice of staying in a handful of more expensive hotels immediately east of the ruins (all but one are on the short access road off Hwy-180, signposted “Zona Hotelera”), or along the main street in the town of Pisté, to the west of the site. In Pisté, most hotels are on the main road, between the village and the ruins, so it’s easy to shop around for the best deal – though quality can be low and occupancy high; the reliable posadas have only a few rooms apiece.