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 Tulum, Mexico
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Mexico: Tulum
May 2012

Tulum


The ancient Mayan city of Tulum is perched on a cliff above the beautiful Caribbean - a gorgeous location.

 

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We continued on to Tulum. Our hotel, the Be Tulum, was right at the southern end of the Tulum beaches. We were a bit early for our room but a welcome cocktail of white rum, wine and fruit juice in the shade on the beach helped to pass the  time! There was a Cuban trio playing appropriate music and we had excellent burgers for lunch.

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The machete in the wood block is for chopping fresh coconuts.
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Entrance to Tulum through the city wall.

The room had an indoor jacuzzi pool and outdoor area with hammocks and a plunge pool in a jungley setting, but was not as comfortable as it might have been, very dark, gaps where lizards could get in, other niggling problems, but at least we managed to get one of the few covered beach beds when we wanted one - the sun was searing!

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North west watchtower.

The following morning we took an early taxi to the ruins at Tulum, arriving before 9 a.m. so before the vast majority of tourists. The ruins are in an almost park-like setting right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean. All of the structures are cordoned off so it's impossible to get a close look.

These are Maya-Toltec ruins of a walled city dating from the twelfth century. Though the ruins lack any real atmosphere they are in a beautiful location.

Tulum was an important trading port for the region.

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Great Palace from the west.

The city is roughly rectangular in shape, parallel to the coast, about 600m north-south x 350m east-west. At the north-west and south-west corners were so-called watchtowers, though the information board says it is unlikely they had a defensive role. Each had three doors and an altar against the back wall. There are numerous structures named for their position or a particular feature and identified as "house", "palace" or "temple".

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House of the North-West
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Falling god on the facade of the Great Palace.
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The Great Palace from the south-east.

The Great Palace, towards the northern end of the site, is thought to have been the residence of a noble family. The building was divided into large rooms, the roof being supported by columns and wooden beams. Stone benches line the walls - these were probably also used as beds - and there is a sanctuary at the rear of the building for private religious ceremonies. A depiction of the falling or diving god on the facade represents the evening star or the setting sun.

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Falling/Diving god on the Temple of the Frescoes.

Tulum was once called Zama, the City of the Dawn - it must experience fantastic sunrises over the caribbean sea. Nevertheless, it is a city dedicated to the cult of the setting sun, represented by the falling or diving god. Its Mayan name, Tulum, refers to it being walled.

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House of the Columns from the south.
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Red hand prints decorate the outer walls of the upper temple.
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Temple of the Frescoes
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Fresco inside the temple - love the feet!
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Falling/Diving god on the Temple of the Frescoes.

South of the Great Palace is the House of the Columns and then the Temple of the Frescoes.

The Temple of the Frescoes also has carved figures of the falling or diving god. It is actually two temples, one on top of the other.

Many of the carvings are badly weathered as are the giant masks which once adorned the corners of the building.

Some of the frescoes from which the temple derives its name can just be seen through the doorway.

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Fresco inside the temple: looks like some kind of procession with a Heath Robinson contraption on the right!
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A mask on the corner of the Temple of the Frescoes.
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Video: Iguanas at Tulum.

There are huge numbers of iguanas at Tulum.

Opposite the Temple of the Frescoes is the House of the Chultun, the House of Water, so-called because of an underground cavity used to collect rainwater - a chultun. As the building is large and made of stone it was probably the house of a high-ranking nobleman.

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The pillared entrance of the House of the Chultun leads to a vestibule lined with stone benches.
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House of the Chultun
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The entrance to the cenote.
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House of the Cenote
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El Castillo rises above the surrounding structures. In the foreground is the Great Palace, to the left is the Temple of the Diving God.
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This carving above the entrance to the House of the Chultun could represent the lid of a chultun.

There is another water-related building in the north of the site, the House of the Cenote - it was built over an underground water pool.

East of here, perched virtually on the cliff edge, is El Castillo, the largest and most imposing of the buildings remaining, and the lovely Temple of the Diving God.

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Entrance to El Castillo compound.
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El Castillo
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El Castillo from the south-east.

El Castillo has three niches above the two columned entrance which held carved figures of which only two remain. There were also masks on the corners of the cornice. The entrance faces away from the sea - this is a place dedicated to the setting rather than the rising sun.

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Mask on the corner of El Castillo.
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The diving god above the entrance which gives the temple its name.
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Temple of the Wind
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Carvings on El Castillo including the Diving God.
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Mask on the corner of El Castillo.
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El Castillo backs onto the cliff.
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Temple of the Diving God
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Structure at the southernmost point of the city.

 

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At the southern end of the site is another small building, this one with a doorway facing the sea.

We walked south along the cliff where there are great views of El Castillo perched above a strip of sandy beach and on to the southern end of the site and a small building whose entrance faces the sea - perhaps a token temple to the rising sun, or a lookout.

 

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Temple of the Wind
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North of the Temple of the Diving God, and also on the cliff edge, is the Temple of the Wind. It is a small building, like the one we had seen on the southernmost extremity of the site, but set on a circular base. Nearby are altars for offerings.

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Altars near the Temple of the Wind.
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Tulum is a small site and doesn't take long to see. We were back at the hotel well before lunch to spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach - lunch, drinks and reading the order of the day.

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A pelican hunts in the surf close to shore.
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