About the place and its name:
Tulum is one of the best-known architectural sites
registered and recognized throughout the western world.
The Spanish chronicler,
Juan Díaz wrote about the site in 1518,
when he narrated having seen a city "as
large as Sevilla" with a tower, which was undoubtedly the Castle of Tulum, and
which at that time was still occupied by the inhabitants of this municipal
Sources from the XVI Century designate the site
with the name "Zamá," possibly a reference to the Maya word for "morning" or
"sunrise," which is quite believable given that the site is located on the
highest part of the eastern coast, at which point contemplation over the sunrise
is indeed a special experience.
The name of Tulum thus appears to be relatively
recent. Translated into Spanish as muralla (wall) or palizada
(fenced enclosure), it clearly refers to the wall which is in fact still
standing. This name seems to have been designated to the city when it was
finally laid in ruins, and it is precisely with this name that it is referred to
in the 19th Century, when Stephens and Catherwood "rediscovered" it completely
abandoned, just before the War of the Casts.
Location and access routes:
Tulum is located 128 kms. to the south of Cancun and is easily accessible by
Federal Highway #180, which is a modern, four-lane highway on the Cancun - Playa
del Carmen stretch, and two-lane on the return trip from Playa del Carmen to
From Cancun, there are a number of travel agents
which organize guided visits, as well as local coach companies that offer a
regular service between these two points.
The Mayas developed a highly intense network of
maritime trade, sailing across the marvellous Caribbean in their crossings:
pre-Hispanic ports and cities lined the whole length of the coast.
The most famous cities nowadays are Cancun,
Xelhá, Tancáh, El Meco, Xcaret and Playa del Carmen, among others. The most
important, regarding size and the high density of the population, is Tulum,
whose location above the ever-changing green of the sea produces an effect of
The site of Tulum is strategic for its defense:
on one side is the cliff that drops down to the sea, whilst on the other side is
a stretch of marshland covered in mangroves.