Including a Map of the Top Cenotes in Tulum
Before Tulum was the up and coming tourist attraction filled with yoga studios, boutique jewelry shops, and a wall of luxury hotels blocking the town from the beach, it was an epicenter of trade and spiritual conquest.
The ancient Maya area of Tulum is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, juxtaposed the Caribbean Sea. Archaeological research has dated the ancient Maya ruins back to the Postclassic epoch of 1200 AD. The original name of Zama, roughly translated to the City of Dawn, received its title due to its open view of the sunrise across the expansive Caribbean. Tulum translates to the remnants of an ancient Maya wall, built to ward off invaders. Due to the wall’s immense size, the Mayas strategically chose this location for protection and control of the surrounding area. The wall was on average 16 feet in height (3-5 meters), 26 ft thick (8 meters), and 1,300 ft long (400 meters). The Maya were strategic about the wall’s placement; the other side is protected by steep sea cliffs. Two watchtowers were built for vigilant security to defend against invaders. Tulum was a hot spot for trade, interacting with people from the sea and mainland, which is why the Maya had to be watchful.
Trade was critical to the Maya and allegedly influenced choosing Tulum as a location to inhabit. Accessible by land and sea, Tulum’s geographic location made it a vital trade hub; it had multiple trade routes running through it from all directions: the Caribbean, Central America, and inland Mexico. All types of imported goods were exchanged including salt and textiles from sea travelers, copper and feathers from inland Mexico, flint, incense, and gold from the Yucatan area, and jade and obsidian from northern Guatemala. Most of these objects traveled extremely long distances for the time, increasing the value of Tulum and its ports.
However, Tulum’s value is not only worth its weight in tangible gold, its ruins are demonstrative as a significant location for the worship of gods and goddesses. Three structures lead historians to believe Tulum had spiritual significance: El Castillo, the Temple of Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God. The epicenter El Castillo holds a shrine depicting a break in the barrier reef, allowing trade canoes to pass under. The Temple of Frescoes includes a gallery in each of its stories and has an observatory on top to track the movements of the sun. The temple is ornamented with figures of the diving god or Venus deity. A large mural wraps around the eastern wall, composed of Mixteca-Puebla images, originated in the highland Mexican area.
At its height, it is estimated that the Maya´s settling in Tulum was a population of 1,000-1,6000 from 1200 AD to the 16th-century when the Spaniards arrived. Towards the closing of the 16th-century, Tulum was completely abandoned.
Nowadays, Tulum has been transformed from a sleepy fisherman village to one of the fastest growing and hottest destinations in Mexico.The population has increased at incredible velocity and now is home to nearly 20,000 permanent residents, including the surrounding expansion close to Tulum’s downtown. Tulum offers a wide variety of attractions mainly divided between the ancient Maya archaeological site, the pueblo town, and the new hotel zone or zona hotelera. Tulum´s archaic Mayan sites are one of the best preserved coastal Maya ruins in the area, which has influenced it´s increased global attention. The downtown area is growing with unique boutiques, yoga and meditation studies, bicycle rentals, tours, internet cafes, and numerous restaurants of all types of cuisine.
The ancient energy of the Maya, aligned with a plethora of natural wonders, curates an aura of wonder and magic throughout the area. This area has become internationally renown and several of the local attractions have achieved global stardom. The most popular are Sian Ka’an, a World Heritage Site biosphere, and Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. Additionally, there are numerous mesmerizing unique ecological phenomenon only found in the region: cenotes. Cenotes are underground fresh water pools formed by limestone that has collapsed and opened up pathways to underground rivers. Some spectacular ones are Grand Cenote, Maya Blue, Nohoch Kiin, Tortuga, Vacaha, Temple of Doom, Naharon, and Abejas. The Maya recognized cenotes as spiritual centers and was their main source of fresh water.
Tulum is truly a unique spot on this planet with one of a kind experience. Come to experience Tulum in its revival, now bursting with as much life, magic, and activity as when the Maya ruled it.
Map of Best Cenotes in Tulum