Tag Archives: Maya

Tulum, Mexico – Impressions

Just a short handful of years ago Tulum Pueblo was a quiet little town near the ancient cliff top Maya fortress of Tulum. Few visitors came to the town itself, most busing in directly to the ruins from Playa del Carmen, an hour to the north, or Cancún, a further thirty minutes beyond that.

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Over the past few years that quiet little town has begun to grow as a tourist destination with restaurants and resorts growing along the waterfront. The Caribbean coastline is beautiful to behold with its golden sands and clear waters.

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Unfortunately because of the growing number of resorts, which charge you to get access to the beach, finding a long stretch of beach to enjoy is difficult if you don’t have your own vehicle. And while bicycles are rentable everywhere in the town it’s still a long ride to a good beach.

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With the growing popularity of the area, the food and accommodation is of high quality and makes it worth staying a night or two. The area also has plentiful cenotes, with several hidden and smaller ones near the beach.

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But beyond the beach, the cenotes and the town, the ruins are the number one attraction in the area. The fortress was once called Zama meaning ‘City of Dawn’ as it faces the sunrise on the Caribbean Sea. It has since been renamed Tulum meaning ‘wall’ in the language of the Maya because of the great wall around the fortress city.

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Tulum was one of the last Maya cities built and unlike many in the region, it’s very compact and small. A tour of the complex will take only an hour if you dawdle. And because it’s the third most visited historical site in Mexico, after Chichén Itzá and Teotohuacan, the site is often swarming with tourists.

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There is access to the sea from the ruins and many tourists come to swim in the pristine waters beneath the 12 metre cliffs on which the ruins are situated.

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Templo del Dios Viendo – Temple of the Wind God.

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Next I travel north to Cancún, my final destination in Latin America.

The World Wanderer.

Merida & Uxmal, Mexico – Impressions

Capital city of the Yucatán peninsula region and with one million people, Merida is the 12th largest city in Mexico. Merida was built by the spanish conquistadors in 1542 and named after a city in mother Spain. It was built on top of a Maya city and some consider it to be the oldest continually lived in city in the Americas.

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Merida also has the esteemed privilege of once having the most millionaires in the world living there and the architecture in the city shows both this and its colonial decent.

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The centre of the city was alive with people during my visit, with the main plaza seemingly full at all hours of the day and night. This was primarily due to the city celebrating Carnival, plus, like many other plazas in Latina America, the main plaza is a free internet hotspot. A quick walk around the historical centre and I found many hotels, restaurants, horse-drawn imperial wagons and smaller plazas, all well maintained and functional. My favourite restaurant even has a wall commemorating the day of the dead…

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Beyond the city, the Yucatán Peninsula was the main region of the Maya civilisation with the majority of ancient cities scattered around the countryside. Studies have estimated the number of Maya cities at nearly 5000 and this includes one of the most important cities, Uxmal – pronounced ‘ooshmaal’.

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Uxmal was thought to have been built around 200BC and was abandoned before the arrival of the spanish 1700 years later. The city is said to span 35 square kilometres, with more than 95% still covered in jungle.

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The derived meaning of the name Uxmal is ‘three times’, because the city was said to have been rebuilt three times by different kings through ages. The intricacies of the carvings on the buildings also surpass any of the other ruins I’ve seen to date.

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Uxmal has a large section set aside for nuns, who were bred for ritual sacrifice. This large plaza and its associated buildings are among the original buildings in the city.

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There is also a very well-defined ‘court’ for their ball games, which was a similar sport played in most other Mayan cities. Teams could only use the grassy area in the centre and using only their hips – and sometimes paddles – to get a ball made from rubber through a goal. A goal is the just visible protruding ring on the right, the one on the left is no longer there. Because of the growth of rubber trees here, rubber balls were invented in this part of the world 3,500 years ago.

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After a two hour tour around the ruins in the heat, we were taken 16km south to Kabah, a smaller city that was invaded and integrated into the city-state of Uxmal, one of several in the region.

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Kabah’s temples are being restored and will eventually hold the original 260 masks on its walls, representing the 260 days as defined in the Maya ritual calendar.

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Next I head to the town of Valladolid to visit another Maya site, the city of Chichén Itzá.

The World Wanderer