Protected by 12 meter sea cliffs on the ocean side and a 784 meter wall complete with watch towers, one can quickly conclude that Tulum was very important to the Mayas. A major trade hub and the only Mayan city built on the coast, Tulum served as the seaport for the empire, trading mainly in turquoise, obsidian and jade.
With an estimated population of 1,000 to 1,600 inhabitants, Tulum was one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Mayans prior to the conquest – Surviving a full seventy years after the Spanish started their brutal occupation of the country
Nowadays Tulum is one of the only archaeological ruins that begs you to take off your clothes and jump into the same shining sea that it was built to protect against! So don’t forget to bring your bathing suit for the tiny beach behind el Castillo. The water is beautiful and incredibly refreshing after touring in the hot sun. The experience of swimming in the ocean and at the same time viewing the site is truly unique. Be sure to bring a water resistant bag, to put in your camera and personal belongings if you decide to go for a swim. Just place the bag on top of one of the tall rocks to keep it away from the splashing waves and to have an eye on it.
The best way to get there, is via catamaran (from Papaya Playa Project) or a rental car – that way you are on your own schedule. Like most of the Mayan ruins, the earlier the arrival time, the better. An ideal Itinerary is Tulum ruins early in the morning and from there to the Cenote Dos Ojosfor a dive.
Temple of the Frescoes
The ‘Temple of the Frescoes’ was used as an observatory, specifically for tracking movements of the sun
42° Raw closed in 2013 & Papaya Playa Project has lost ALL its cool.
Avoid staying at Papaya Playa – it is now overpriced, under-whelming, dirty and haughty.
Original Post from 6/30/2012
Next to the reception at the Papaya Playa Hotel, a member of Design Hotels™, is the super yummy 42°RAW. This is a branch of the raw food bar started in London and Copenhagen by Jesper Rydahl. What a great surprise it is to find modern raw cuisine right in Tulum!
The 42° Raw bar has a botanic selection of fresh juices, and staple mains such as the raw Thai noodles and raw lasagna. This is perfect beach dining, starting with the raw hummus appetizer, one of the big salads and ever-present aguas. As always, the beauty of raw food is the guilt-less dessert! Decadent, rich, full of flavor but instead of bloating that bikini bod you’ve been working on for months for your trip to the beach, they are the nutritional equivalent of a protien supplement!
Unfortunately, we were not able to get inside the Papaya Playa Hotel, but we did get a look at their events schedule. There are all sorts of activities perfect for vacation – from movie nights under the stars, to sunset bar-b-que on the beach, to packages at the well known Spa. The trip we really wish we had time for, was the visit to the Tulum Ruins via catamaran! You arrive by ocean in style, like the 14th century Spanish – except this trip comes complete with champagne! Next time!!
As noted previously, Tulum is a hippy-chic hangout that makes room for all demographics. It is basically one beach road and all the hotels, restaurants and hangouts that fit long its 5k corridor. Sitting about in the middle is the the kitchy Mateo’s Mexican Grill.
Some might complain that Mateo’s is not “authentic” and too gringo friendly, but they would be missing the point. Like modern television, Mateo’s is a comfortable, friendly, easy place to go when you don’t want to think to hard about what you are doing.
They seemed to be open whenever we needed them to be and had the best coffee in the area. Sorry to report, this is not saying much as Mexican coffee in general is almost always like bad camping coffee, over-boiled café con leche. They do have a nice breakfast selection, tasty fajitas, totopos and of course a range of tacos. The kitchen is open and colorful with pyramids of fresh produce displayed in brightly painted crates.
Perched above is a viewing platform that in theory is an evening cocktail lounge for sunset viewing or maybe its a yoga platform? or a tanning deck? While it looked very interesting, it somehow wound up being closed for 3 different reasons over the course of our 3 days in Tulum. Maybe they just have it open in high season? Still it looks like it would be a lot of fun!!
While in Tulum we stopped by Mateo’s almost daily for the excellent smoothies and juices (and coffee fixes). Our favorite smoothie, which we have been recreating at home is the ‘Mayan Power Boost’. A vitamin packed cocktail 0f chaya (spinach), strawberry, pineapple and lemon. A wonderful way to get the day going as you head out to check some cenotes.
We can just about promise you that if you stay in Tulum, at some point you will find yourself at Mateo’s. Enjoy it for what it is and you will be a happy person!
papaya agua and ‘Mayan Power Boost’. A vitamin packed cocktail 0f chaya (spinach), strawberry, pineapple and lemon.
El Tábano is first on the list of many a foodie review of Tulum. So it was with some excitement that we ducked through the driftwood gate, into the open garden littered with tables and easing with well curated music. The short answer is that El Tábano has by far the best dining in the area and owners Paf and Laura deserve all the kudos they receive.
Our lead was the cold tomatoe and papaya gazpacho. Spectacularly refreshing, cool and sweet it was an instant winner, reinvigorating the palate on a hot afternoon. Next the plates started coming quickly, a fresh guacamole salad, an organic bean salad, huitlacoche crepes, chili ancho stuffed with shrimp and nuts – each plate radiating forth with its own perfumed flavor contour, as dishes in Mexico tend to do.
The fresh fish tacos were quite good, but not quite as mind-boggling as those from the Viceroy in Playa del Carmen, which are very very very hard to top. A highlight was the hot pepper salsa which was made fresh on our request. The tomatillos and chillies were still warm from the stove top!
The menu changes consistently, and is quite malleable, as it is only chalk on the large blackboards by the entrance; easily alterable. It is good to arrive early as items are only available until they run out, which they did 3 of the 3 times we were there. Pricing is quite reasonable and many of the ingredients organic. El Tábano was also where we were able to purchase the flowery local Yucatan honey (you should do this too!).
In the evenings bug spray and/or long pants and chosed shoes are recommended for dinner. As you are dining in a garden, there are plenty mosquitoes at night. Though as we forgot, the waiter was on-hand with a solution! The staff is relaxed and friendly, happily chatting about each dish. If you find yourself in Tulum, for everyone’s benefit, please remember that you are in the Caribbean, and probably in need of a vacation. So please don’t get short if the staff runs at a slightly slower speed then they do at home.
Avocado, Mint, Cucumber Soup
Fresh Hot Pepper & Tomatillo Salsa
Plantain Rolls filled with Cheese
Roasted tomatoes with Goat Cheese and Diced Apples
Bring a hat, comfortable shoes and a if you have it, a fan. Chichen Itza sits in the middle of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and there is not much shade. As you walk through the sprawling complex, you can easily imagine the Maya sweltering in the sun as they gathered at the base of the pyramid or around the ball grounds..
We recommend renting a car, it’s cheap and, most importantly, gives you the freedom of moving at your own speed. There is so much to explore just around Chichen Itza, like the beaurtiful Cenote de Dzitnup. It also allows you to arrive closer to sunrise. Like all the archeological sites, the earlier you can arrive the better. Seeing the pyramids and the layout without the garish field of tourists really changes the entire experience. This is one of the main sites within easy distance of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, etc … The buses start arriving and don’t stop.
Access is a bit of a hurdle. It is a multi-step process that bears description (and improvement!). The fist booth just to the right side of the gate sells you entry tickets, then you must continue to another booth about 20 meters up on the left to pay the entry taxes. This two step process is not adequately explained, and from the moment you arrive you will encounter countless offers of guides who are all to happy to walk you through the swirling mass of confused tourists.
Here, like in any archeological site, getting a guide is recommended, but is always a lottery. On this occasion, our guide we hired for 500 pesos (about $35) was not good at all. He avoided major sections (The Ossario, Observatory and the Nunnery) and gave a lot of vauge answers (every area was ‘the market’!). As we were walking, we continually were eavesdropping on larger groups, and we heard other guides who where passionate about the Mayas and eager to share their impressive depth of knowledge. So take your time and choose a guide that you believe in. There are also new apps, likeTimeTours: Chichen Itza, which offer a different experience. TimeTours offers interactive views of the current state and 3d renders of what Chichen Itza may have looked like in its full glory.
The name ‘Chichen Itza’ translates as the ‘mouth of the well of the Itza’. The Itza were an ethnic lineage group of the Maya civilization, while Chi signifies ‘mouth’ and ch’en ‘well’.
Chichen Itza was first settled in 750–900 AD and became one of the largest Maya cities, home to around 65,000 people. In the late 900’s a migration of Toltec warriors overtook the city. It was the Toltecs who imposed the rituals of human sacrifice and are responsible for much of what is considered “Mayan” today. By the time the Spaniards arrived to Chichen Itza in the 1500’s, the city had been abandoned as a consequence of civil war.
To this day, archeologists continues to dig and new discoveries arise every year. Recent excavations into the interior of the Kukulkan pyramid reveal that a smaller pyramid exists inside!
Temple of Kukulcan
Temple of Kukulcan
Temple of Kukulcan
Temple of Kukulcan
Dominating the landscape is the temple of Kukulkan, the Maya Feathered Serpent Deity. This massive four faced pyramid measures about 53.3 meters along each side, from the center of which rises a steep stair to the ceremonial platform on top. On the northeastern face, flanking the base of the staircase, are sculpted heads of serpents. During the spring and autumn equinoxes festivals are held to watch the dying sun align with the terraces of the pyramid, casting a shadow along the balustrade, giving the illusion of a snake descending the steps. Put in a photo of the snake
The sight of many standing in front of the Kukulkan pyramid madly clapping their hands is a bit strange until you arrive and begin to do it yourself. The clap produces and echo, designed to sound similar to the quetzal bird’s cry. It is amazing to imagine the ancient times, the grounds filled with people all rhythmically clapping and the air filled with the echoes of the quetzal cry.
Unfortunately visitors can no longer climb the pyramid due its soft lime-stone construction and that a tourist died after tripping and falling from the top, a new sacrifice to the Maya Gods!
At Chichen Itza is one of the largest and best preserved ball courts from ancient times. The pitch measures 168m by 70 meters, with the parallel platforms aligning the playing alley being about 90 meters long and about 8 meters high. It was a brutal game where the teams would punt the 10 pound hard rubber ball around with their protected hips and try to get it to the captain, who would be running along the side platform. There he would try to put the ball up through the carved stone ring at the top center to score and win the game. After a goal, the captain of the winning team would be given have the honor of decapitation. It is from this we can glean that the Maya did not fear death, but looked upon it as an honor or gateway.
Zompantli (skull) Platform
Platform of the Skulls (Zompantli )
At the exit ofthe great ball court sits the Zompantli, the Platorm of the Skulls. Here the skulls of sacrificial victims, game winners and others were pierced into beams or perched on stakes and exhibited to those filing out after the match.
Temple of the Big Tables
Temple of the Big Tables
This smaller pyramid’s name comes from the series of altars at the top of the structure that are supported by small carved figures of men with upraised arms.
Temple of the Warriorsviewed from the Temple of the Big Tables
Temple of the Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors
Adjacent to the Temple of the Big Tables is a medium size pyramid with steep sides known as the Temple of the Warriors. It is surrounded by dozens of columns, each with carved reliefs depicting warriors. Unfortuneatly, very few of the warrior carvings survive. As is often the case, this temple encases a previous building, possibly a temple of Chac-Mool.
Southeast Colonnadenext to the Temple of the Warriors