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.

Yucatan

The three states that comprise the Yucatán Peninsula – Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo – are among the hottest and most tropical parts of Mexico, though they lie further north than you might imagine: the capital of Yucatán state, Mérida, is actually at a higher latitude than Mexico City.

Until the 1960s, when proper road and rail links were finally completed, the Yucatán lived out of step with the rest of the country and had almost as much contact with Europe, Cuba and the US as with central Mexico, resulting in a very distinct culture. Tourism has since made major inroads, especially in the north around the great Maya sites, such as Chichén Itzá, and on the Quintana Roo coast, where development has centred on the “superresort” of Cancún and the islands of Mujeres and Cozumel, but is now shifting to the so-called Riviera Maya, the stretch of beachfront that includes Playa del Carmen and Tulum. But away from the big centres, especially in the south, where towns are sparsely scattered in thick jungle, there’s still a distinct pioneering feel. In northern Yucatán state, the landscape is relatively spare: shallow, rocky earth gives rise to stunted trees, and underground springs known as cenotes are the only source of water. Campeche state, by contrast, boasts a huge area of tropical forest, the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve – though the trees are being thinned in places for cattle ranching and timber.
The entire peninsular coastline is great for spotting wildlife – notably turtles at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Quintana Roo and flocks of flamingoes at Celestún and Río Lagartos in Yucatán – but the most spectacular, white-sand beaches line the Caribbean coast, where magnificent offshore coral reefs form part of the second largest barrier reef system in the world.

Yucatan beaches

The Yucatan is full of beaches.

Caught between the relentless beat of progress and the echoing shouts of tradition, the Yucatán Peninsula stands at a crossroads. On one side you have the brawny mega-resorts like Cancún and Playa del Carmen with their oft-preposterous pomp and circumstance.
On the other are the proud, steadfast traditions of the Maya, the mystery of the ceremonial centers created by their ancestors, and the Old World allure of colonial masterpieces such as Mérida and Campeche. And in between, on every peroxide­-blonde beach and every patch of jungle still echoing with the roars of howler monkeys, beats the heart of Ixchel, the earth goddess, marveling at her remarkable creation.
Despite overzealous development, the natural beauty of the Yucatán abides, and with it, the reverberations of civilizations past. Set in a vast, jungle-swathed natural reserve, the pyramids of Calakmul are a prime example of nature and ancient history in perfect harmony.
Far more famous and crowded – but absolutely unmissable nonetheless – are the ruins of wondrous Chichén Itzá, seventh modern wonder of the world. There’s a Maya ruin near Xcalak, too, although that’s probably not the reason you’d be visiting – this tiny beach town in the middle of nowhere has another attraction: its absolute isolation from the tourist trail…