If you do one activity on your trip to Riviera Maya make it a visit to Tulum.
Tulum is not only a charming, artsy town with a bohemian vibe but it is mostly known for the large ruins located there.
When we walked onto the grounds I was blown away. I have seen plenty of ruins before but never anything like this- palm trees, green grass, blue skies and amazing views. Don’t forget the 500+yr old ruins/buildings you get to walk around!
The Mayans had it good in Tulum. They built their city on seaside cliffs overlooking the bluest ocean I have ever seen. In fact, don’t forget your swimsuit – while touring the ruins you can actually take a break and hit up the beach for a swim in the beautiful warm water! Have you ever seen ruins that you could also swim at? Before my visit to Tulum I hadn’t.
The good folks at the Riviera Maya tourism board hired a guide when we arrived to the ruins. This was the first visit (of any ruin anywhere) where I had the privilege of having things explained to me. Normally Randy and I just wander around, try to eavesdrop on other tours and make up our own stories. Having a guide for the Tulum ruins changed how I travel. I realized that if you really want to learn about a place you really are better off paying a little extra to hire a guide.
On top of learning about the ruins we also learned how the Mayan lived their lives at Tulum – how they dressed, the gods they believed in and what they believed happened to the soul after death. Ruins look fairly similar around the world – it’s only when you have a passionate guide, as ours was, who can fill you in on the secrets and history of an area does the place really come to life. Our guide (pictured below in all white) was Mayan and loved telling us about the history of his people – the good and bad. A story I remember in particular was about the fateful day that life at Tulum came to an end.
The Mayans were trusting and peaceful people and they flourished at Tulum for hundreds of years until the Spanish decided to take over. During the conquest almost all of the inhabitants of Tulum were slaughtered. The Spanish then went on to kill the chief in a way that I thought was quite cruel. They befriended him by giving him a mirror to look in. The chief had never seen a mirror and had no idea what he even looked like. You can imagine how awe inspiring it must have been to look at his own image for the first time. As the chief studied himself in the mirror for the first (and last) time the Spanish stabbed and killed him. Imagine seeing yourself for the first time and then watching your own face as you are stabbed to death! Ouch.
I took a lot of photos at Tulum and I hope you enjoy them. Of all the activities we did as part of the Riviera Maya press trip this one was by far my favorite. If you’re headed to the Mayan Riviera be sure to schedule in a trip to Tulum – it’s a sight you should not miss.
Right outside the entrance to Tulum these Mayan performers were practicing a harvest ritual that involved tying ropes (not bungee cords) to their ankles and around their waists while spinning above the trees. Scary!
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