Tulum - Zama ¨Place of the Dawning¨

Location: Quintana Roo, Mexico

80 miles south of Cancun, 35 miles south of Playa del Carmen,
25 miles south of Puerto Aventuras, 15 miles south of Akumal,
40 miles from Coba,  Can be visited as a shore excursion for
cruise ship passengers docked in Cozumel or Calica port.



The ancient name of Tulum was Zama, meaning ¨place of the dawning sun¨. How it got this name is obvious as this ancient Mayan city is situated on a cliff which faces east toward the beautiful turquoise waters of the life-giving Caribbean. This is surely one of the most scenically beautiful of all Maya archeological sites.

Tulum was a city of main importance between 1,000-1,600. This was a place for the elite of the Maya world. At first glimpse one might mistake Tulum for an ancient country club, with its beautiful grounds and sweeping views of the sea. If one explores deeper, however, this illusion is disturbed by the presence of a large twenty foot wall that surrounds the site which bespeaks of the need for defense against invaders from both land and the sea. Tulum is one of the first cities that the Spanish Conquistadors encountered in Mexico. It was the only thriving Mayan city they found. Intimidated by its size and grandeur they didn´t stay to visit.

Tulum has a number of interesting structures from the ancient Mayan world. Graceful columns and elegant carvings give one an appreciation for the architectural achievements of the Maya. Some of its main structures are the Temple of the Frescoes, the Castillo pyramid and the Temple of the Diving God. Unique corner masks grace the outside of the Temple of the Frescoes. Inside are fantastic 13th century murals depicting ancient ceremonies. One of the few surviving images of the Mayan goddess of fertility and medicine, Ixchel, can be found here. Red paint still clings to the stucco on the outside of the temple. It is believed that at one time all the buildings in Tulum were painted red.

The Castillo is known more for its scenic location than its size. Although its front facade has all the features of other Mayan temples, its back side seems more like a fortress. Small windows face out toward the sea, providing an excellent lookout post from which to watch for sea faring invaders. Visitors feel compelled to photograph this impressive structure standing regally against a backdrop of the beautiful Caribbean.

The Temple of the Diving God is so named because it has an unusual figure above the doorway that appears to be diving headfirst to earth. There are many theories about the meaning of these curious carvings which also appear at the Mayan site of Coba but few other sites. They have also been called ¨the bee god¨ or ¨the god descending¨ and have been associated with the planet Venus. It is a popular symbolic motif in the temple doorways at Tulum which contain several of these unique figures.

Perched atop cliffs overlooking the blue Caribbean, Tulum is a favorite among visitors to Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Iguanas bask lazily on rocks in the sun; gentle waves caress the shore. The pristine beach is so beautiful it is almost surreal. It is easy to imagine the ancient Maya landing at this bustling seaport, their canoes filled with trade goods. Savvy visitors bring a bathing suit and and take time for a refreshing and swim and a bit of sunbathing. Here you´ll discover why Tulum is a treasure of the ancient Maya world.

What to bring when visiting Tulum:
Your curiosity and sense of adventure, sunglasses and/or sun hat, a lightweight rain poncho or collapsible umbrella (in tropical climates occasional showers can happen any time of year) and water. You can buy cold bottled purified water at the entrance to the ruins and there are also several restaurants serving lunch. Tulum can be visited as a shore excursion from cruise ships docked in Cozumel or Calica port.

Maya Sites Travel Services excursions to Tulum:

Day excursion to Tulum & Coba!

For other tours that include Tulum visit our Yucatan Excursions page!

Traveling April to mid-December?
Private tour to Tulum, Coba, Chichen Itza and Ek Balam
is included in our Off Season Vacation Packages


Spring Equinox at Chichen Itza & Dzibilchaltun
March 19-22, 2015
With Archaeologist & Maya Expert
Alfonso Morales Cleveland
Plus Ek Balam, Uxmal, Labna,
Tulum, Coba & More!
For more information call our U.S. office at our toll free number 1-877-620-8715
Outside of the U.S. (country code 1) 505-255-2279
Or, e-mail us at
[email protected]. See you soon!

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