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Listed under Sacred Spaces in Mexico.

  • Photo of Tulum
  • Photo of Tulum
  • Photo of Tulum
Photo of Tulum
Photo by Jimba
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Eighty miles south of the tourist resorts of Cancun, in the Yucatan state of Quintana Roo, stand the ruins of the Mayan city of Tulum. Its original name long forgotten, Tulum is a Nahuatl term meaning 'walled city'. While occupied from as early as the Mayan pre-classic period (300 BC – 250 AD), nearly all the existing structures date from the late post-classic period (1200 AD - Conquest) when Tulum was a maritime trading center. Recent research has shown that Tulum was also a pilgrimage site for Maya women on their way to the holy island of Cozumel, where stood the sanctuary of the goddess Ix Chel (pronounced eesh-chel). Ix Chel was the preeminent goddess of the Maya pantheon from 100 to 900 AD. Her shrine at Cozumel was visited by large numbers of women from throughout the Maya territories, making it one of the greatest pilgrimages in the pre-Colombian world. Ix Chel figures prominently in the Tulum temple murals, and the coastline in the Tulum region is fascinatingly female, with a multitude of coastal towns having the feminine Ix (eesh) prefix in their names.

Though architecturally somewhat crude compared to other classic Maya sites such as Uxmal and Chichen Itza, Tulum has one of the most beautiful settings of any city constructed by the Maya. Perched on a cliff overlooking pristine beaches and an aquamarine sea, the Temple of Kukulkan dominates the ruins. This structure, called El Castillo (meaning 'the castle') by the conquering Spaniards was never a castle but rather a shrine and ceremonial center.

Photo: The Temple of Kukulkan, Tulum, Yucatan

Sacred Sites Information on Tulum.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Other expert and press reviews

“Life in ruins”

By: Melanie Bell for the Sydney Morning Herald First Published: April 10, 2009 Tulum's walled ruins crown a cliff that drops 12 metres to white sand washed by aqua water. This setting is the major attraction for tourists and they invade by bus, taxi an… Read more...

Written by press. Continue reading on

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

When you're bored of the ruin head for the beach

One of the more idyllic places for a ruin, right on the coast with a beautiful white beach beneath it. That enables you to relax and take your time and choose to see this ruin when others are not there. The beach used to be almost deserted too, but that might have changed.


Beautiful Mayan ruin on edge of sea. Contains the carving of a figure that looks like an astronaut. Lovely sandy beach nearby.

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