— This post was updated from its original April 28, 2015 version.
The legendary Tulum ruins are among the most visited sites in all of Mexico. A day trip to this mythical place reveals why.
Located at the southern end of the Riviera Maya, Tulum is full of white-sand beaches, historical sites and natural attractions.
Tulum’s impressive archaeological site is the only one directly overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The “El Castillo” tower was a lighthouse that guided ships toward this major port into the Maya kingdom.
Tulum attracts millions of visitors from around the globe every year and is one of the fastest growing eco-destinations in Mexico.
Without further ado, here are 7 fun facts about the Tulum ruins:
1. ‘Zamá’ Was How They Called Tulum
Tulum’s original name should not to be confused with that of its Cajun sister to the north, New Orleans, the place on the Bayou known as the “House of the Rising Sun.”
The first inhabitants of Tulum named their city Zamá, meaning “Place of the Dawning Sun,” as it was among the first places in the Maya kingdom to receive sunlight each day.
Consequently, the name Tulum means “trench” or “wall” in Mayan.
2. Tulum Served as a Fortress
Speaking of walls, did you know Tulum is one of the very walled cities known to be built by the Maya?
Sitting on a cliff overlooking the hypnotizing azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, the Maya built the walls as protection.
As a result, Tulum keep out not only seafaring invaders, but also fellow Maya of a lower pecking order.
3. Tulum Was a Major Maya Port
Built as a key port for Cobá, one of the major cities in the Maya kingdom in the 13th century, Tulum continued to be a functioning population center. That is, until shortly after the Spanish conquest began.
By then, the remaining inhabitants were wiped out by disease brought by the Spaniards.
In spite of the city’s importance, no more than about 1,600 people ever inhabited Tulum at one time.
4. Also a Trading Powerhouse
Additionally, Tulum served as a major trading post for both inland and seafaring goods from far away places.
For example, obsidian came from Ixtepeque, in southern Guatemala. That’s about 430 miles (700 kilometers) away.
5. An Archaeological Must-See in Mexico
Furthermore, after the great Teotihuacan outside of Mexico City, and Chichén Itzá (one of the New Seven Wonders of the World), Tulum is the third most visited archaeological site in all of Mexico.
With such stiff competition left behind by generations of talented Aztec and Maya ancestors, this ranking is no small feat in and of itself.
6. A Natural Aquarium Is Nearby
In addition, not far from this world-renowned tourist attraction lies yet another one, more famous for its present than its past.
With the label of world’s largest natural aquarium, Xel-Ha is a beautiful aquatic park along the Riviera Maya coastline.
With calm, natural bays for snorkeling, you can enjoy the beauty of the region’s flora and fauna at this all-inclusive park.
Xel-Ha includes water activities, ecological attractions, restaurants and stunning scenery. All of this, you can enjoy while you relax in a hammock or walking around park.
7. Visiting Tulum Ruins Can Be Done In Style
Most noteworthy, excursion packages are available to visit Tulum starting at $69 USD. This includes round-trip transportation, admission and tour guide.
Your options include shared or private tours as well as half-day excursions to the site, combined with visits to either Xel-Ha, Akumal or Cobá.
No doubt about it, Tulum is a great place to enjoy the incredible beauty of the Mexican Caribbean waters.
Let Amstar Take You to Tulum
Amstar is your local partner for the top tours and activities in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
We’re online and in destination 365 days a year to make sure you can relax and enjoy your vacation in this tropical paradise.
Feel free to contact us online or through our toll-free number for the United States and Canada at 1-800-895-3000. We have all the information about Tulum or any of our other destinations in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Costa Rica or Hawaii.