Besides its beautiful beaches, tourists visit Mexico primarily to explore its cultural heritage and to become acquainted with its rich history.
Its ancient ruins and archaeological sites continue to fascinate visitors, and it still has many unexplored territories and treasures. If you are visiting Mexico for a cultural experience, be sure you check out the ruins of Tulum.
A Little Background
The ancient city of Tulum goes way back to a time when the way of life was still heavily influenced by a belief in magic, such as the existence of the feathered serpent named Kukulkan, and by a reliance in the stars and other astrological data. The former city flourished together with Chichen Itza and Mayapan, and it remained strong even after these two went in decline.
Tulum was an elite commercial port located on a cliff facing the Caribbean sea, and traders converged here to bring local and foreign products from places as far as the Pacific. It was surrounded by huge stonewalls, the remains of which still stand up to this day. The wall served both a political and a practical purpose. It was used to protect the residents from the sea. Aside from this, however, the wall was also considered as a dividing line between the privileged residents within the city and those that lived outside (the commoners). The city was considered sacred, and the wall was built to protect that sanctity.
Magic and Religion in Tulum
Tulum worshipped Venus, and its residents dedicated the city to this planet. This deity has a dual nature, the morning and evening star. But, residents worshipped the evening star because the sun is closer to Venus during its setting. This belief of the former residents of Tulum is still evident on the presence of the deity’s image in some of the buildings.
Aside from Venus, there were other gods worshipped in Tulum. Ek Chuah, for instance, played an important role as a god of trade since Tulum was primarily a trading port. Almost all of the activities and seasonal events in this city were dedicated to different Mayan gods, with the aim of ensuring that all efforts would not be in vain and would have great results. The gods were considered present in different natural elements—in animals, in plants, and even in phenomena like rain.
Most of the architectures of Tulum are similar with those of its contemporary Chichen Itza and Mayapan, although they have certain additional elements that characterize them as unique. Some of the characteristics are being small and simple, with not much complex design. Most of the architecture features stucco-covered walls, paintings with vivid and contrasting colors, and façade with sculptures.
Templo de las Pinturas is a must-visit building for those who want a bigger picture of Tulum’s architectural aesthetics. It’s a two-storey building, with each level housing different structures. The first level features two temples, one inside the other. Mural paintings and bas-relief figures are some of the features observable here. The second level houses intertwined human figures, and this features the simplicity of Tulum design with red-colored hand prints as the only decorations used.
Many of the features of Tulum are still intact. The walls are still there, and tourists can climb via a stair coming from inside. Many of the buildings still stand, with their original features intact. For those who want to visit, the site is located 42 km south of Coba via highway 307. You can also take public transport from Cancun at the ADO bus station. Travel time is about 2 hours.