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Monday, March 15, 2010

Visiting the Mayan Ruins of the Walled City of Tulum in Mexico

When our cruise ship landed in Cozumel Mexico - we decided to skip the tourist trap shops and visit the mainland and the Mayan city of Tulum. Since Cozumel is an island off the coast of Mexico - we had to take a one hour jet boat to the mainland. After that it was a one hour bus ride down the coast to Tulum.

Tulum was one of the last Mayan cities built. Around 1200 AD - this walled city was built on a cliff along the coast  of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is from this beautiful perch that the Mayans fought the invasion of Cortez and the eventual takeover of all of Mexico by the Spanish. The Mayans were no match for the invaders that had horses and guns - let alone the wheel.

Tulum is walled on three sides - the fourth side being is protected by the 40 foot cliffs along the Caribbean Sea. Inside the walls are temples and the foundations of the homes of wealthy leaders. According to our guide - on March 21st - the first day of spring - the sun shines through two openings that align to project an image on a wall on the side of the temple.

To me - it was surprising to see 800 year old ruins - so close to my home in Florida - that are so well preserved. The people of the Yucatan Peninsula consider themselves to be different than the rest of Mexico. Up until the 1950s - they refused to build roads connecting their civilization with the rest of Mexico. Today - Tulum is one of the top three tourist attractions of the country. The city is built of limestone quarried locally of the "Mexican Riviera."

Most of the tourists come to Tulum by bus. It is not uncommon to see 50 tour buses in the parking lot at one time. The best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon - before the tour buses arrive. Unfortunately we arrived at high noon - and spent the two hottest hours dodging other tourists. The temperature was 95ยบ and everyone was jockeying for the limited amount of tree shade. Many cooled off by taking the 40 feet of steps down the cliff to play in the beautiful surf. It was so hot and tiring - that Lulu who usually will do anything to get into the ocean - decided against the hike down and up the steep steps - especially up.

To me - the most important thing was that this was the spot where Cortez and the Europeans invaded Mexico in 1519 - 100 years before the pilgrims - not too many years after Columbus came to America.

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