The beauty of archaeological Tulum: where history encounters nature

Filed under: Places to Visit - by Louise Hennessy

The beauty of archaeological Tulum: where history encounters nature

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place so happily situated’

This line, from an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice , sums up the walled city perfectly…..

Confusing for some, Tulum is the name of the archaeological zone, the name of the town in which it is located, and also that of the stunning stretch of beach hideaways close by; none of which seem to have anything in common with the others. In this case, we are referring to the first on the list.  Even for those who are not particularly enamoured by historical visits during their holidays, Tulum is extremely special.


Being a much smaller site than Chichén Itzá and much more compact, the pathway in is fairly short. Enjoy emerging from the short tunnel  through the initial wall ( after awkwardly lowering your head so as not to knock it off the ceiling), pause for an instant to straighten up, blink away the sun’s glare, and allow the view to come into focus…

Remains of the fortified city can be seen dotted about, upon an uneven, slightly grassy, dry terrain; and to your left, the Castillo (castle), the largest, and principal temple in Tulum. After having visited other ruins it struck us how different the feeling is here, perhaps due to its close encounter with nature. It’s hard to shake the feeling that there is something hidden, that there’s more to this than meets the eye, and then it all becomes  clear;  as you round the last corner of the Castillo, you are dazzled by the turquoise hues of the sea , and the sun’s sharp reflection upon it.

The ruins of Tulum are quite literally situated on the threshold of the Caribbean waters, the only Mayan city in fact, which is. The sparkling backdrop is the secret weapon of the city, allowing you to drink in a panorama of history and nature in the very same gaze; the remarkable contrast of sandy-coloured, crumbling constructions with the vibrant, constant thriving of the sea is something we have not yet witnessed elsewhere. You could stare at it for a very, VERY long time….

And that’s not all. It’s hot work even just wandering around the ruins, the sun being particularly fierce right here, and it’s torture being able to see the inviting water down below.  But if you peep over the edge of the bluff you’ll see that wishes really do come true. The tiny cove at the foot of the small cliff (reachable via a few wooden steps) is perfectly apt for swimming. Don’t forget your swimsuit, it may be the most refreshing dip you’ve ever taken…

spiaggia tulum site

Photo by Isabella Biava @


With regards to the ruins, we would say it is well worth while joining a guided tour, more than anything to complete the whole experience of the visit. The size of the city prevents the tour from being overly long, and the guides manage to point out the most fascinating of info, our favourite being the engraving of a woman giving birth on the facade of the Templo de los Frescos (Temple of Frescoes) , a detail which would most definitely have gone amiss if an expert hadn’t pointed it out to us.

Most definitely a city of contrasts, the hustle and bustle at the ticket booths could all seem like too much, but when you cross the turnstile into the leafy pathway  leading to the ruins, the stillness of nature takes over. It is almost like crossing into another world….

tulum field

Photo by Isabella Biava @


Our little-known fact: If you like one-offs, try to catch the phenomenon which occurs on the Winter Solstice(December 21st) where sunlight streams in through a precisely positioned window in the wall of the Templo del Dios Descendiente (Temple of the Descending God), shortly after sunrise, illuminating the area beneath the hands of the Gods portrayed on the opposite wall.

Remember that we would be delighted to book a tour for you at our concierge desk!

Tell us about your impressions of Tulum!

Back to Blog