How to get thereBy bus from Cancún about 2 hours, from Chetumal about 4 hours; by car from Cancún 131km/81mi on the MEX 307, from Chetumal 250km/155mi on the MEX 307, from Mérida 315km/196mi on the MEX 180 and then the turning from Nuevo Xcan via Cobá.Tulum is the only well-known fortified Maya town to be situated by the sea.
Opening hours: 8am-5pm
Entrance fee in MXN: Adult $16.00
Temple of the Frescos
The most important building at Tulum from an archaeological point of view is the Temple of the Frescos (Templo de los Frescos; Edificio 16). It stands more or less in the middle of the walled area and on the east-west axis. The essential parts of the building were probably constructed about the year 1450. As with so many of the Maya religious buildings, in the course of time the temple was built over on several occasions.The only room on the ground floor has an entrance on the west side which is divided up by four columns. Above this there is a double ledge which is sectioned off by three niches. In the central niche there is a stucco sculpture of the God Descending. The side niches are decorated with other reliefs modelled in stucco which depict seated figures with elaborate head-dresses. The corners of the ledges consist of large bas-relief masks; they were once painted over and are thought to have depicted Itzamná, the old Sky God revered by the Yucatán Mayas.Over the door of the upper floor there is a niche with the remains of a stucco relief which originally is likely to have represented the God Descending. The wall of the interior room is decorated by interesting codex-like paintings which in terms of their content are Maya, while in terms of their style they are Mixtec. They mainly depict figures from the world of the Maya gods. In the upper section two representations of the Sky God, Itzamná, face one another, flanked on the right by the rain god Chac. The central part of the frescos depicts the moon and fertility goddess Ixchel alongside two unknown figures. In the upper part on the right-hand side a picture of the goddess Ixchel is again recognisable, its base comprising a sea scene with stylised fishes.In front of the temple on an altar stands the 1.30m/4ft high stela no. 2, which bears a post-Classic Maya calendar date which has been deciphered as AD 1261.
The largest and most striking building on the site is called the Castillo (Edificio/Building no. 1). It is situated at the eastern end on the cliff-edge overlooking the sea. As far as can be ascertained, it was built during three separate periods. A broad flight of steps leads to a terrace on which the two-roomed temple stands. In front of the temple there is a stone which was probably used as an altar for human sacrifices. The entrance to the temple is subdivided by two serpent columns. In the niche above the central door a stone figure can be seen which represents the God Descending.
Temple of the God Descending
Directly to the north of the Castillo is the Temple of the God Descending (Templo del Dios Descendente); Building/Edificio no. 5). The temple was erected on top of an older structure; it is striking because its walls taper downwards, a method of building which was supposed to provide a special stability. The Temple of the God Descending only possesses one single room; the niche over the entrance contains a stucco sculpture of the God Descending (flying, diving downwards). This deity, which occurs over and over again in Tulum, has wings on its arms and shoulders, as well as a bird's tail. This figure has given rise to various interpretations: the swooping bee, the evening star going down, the setting sun or lightning. Today hardly anything can be seen of the earlier paintwork on the main façade and the east wall inside the temple.
Temple of the Initial Series
The Temple of the Initial Series (Templo de la Serie Inicial, Building 9) lies to the south of the castle. This temple was named after the Stela 1 which Stephens found here on his visit of exploration through Yucatán and which was dated as AD 564. It is now in the British Museum in London.
Other buildings Noteworthy are Building 25, with its multicoloured God Descending, Building 35, which was built over a "cenote" or underground water deposit, and Building 45, with its round platform and superb view of the sea and the Castillo. Outside the walls are Buildings 57 and 59, the latter being the only building in Tulum to have a pointed roof. A visitor centre, interesting museum and restaurant have recently been built on the site.
After travelling southwards from Tulum for 26km/16mi on the MEX 307, Chunyaxché is reached, or Muyil as it is also known in archaeological circles. The site is not far from the road and comprises a 2.5sq.km/1sq.mi area with pyramids, temples and palaces dating from the Late Classic and post-Classic Periods. The highest building is a 19 m (62 ft) high pyramid. The ruins of this largely unexplored site are, however, for the most part covered in vegetation. In 1997 two more burial sites were found, containing valuable burial gifts, including finely-carved jade pieces dating from between AD 200 and 600. A pathway leads to the lagoon of Chunyaxché, where it is possible to swim.
Both along the coast to the north of Tulum as well as in the southern part of Quintana Roo there are a large number of Maya sites which predate the arrival of the Spanish. Of these mention need only be made of Las Milpas, San Miguel de Ruz, Chamax, Chacmool (Santa Rosa) and Tupak.
More Tulum Pictures