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    Tulum, Mexico: the ancient Mayan city of dawn

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    Judit Llordés

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    If you are passionate about the history of the Maya, you should visit - at least once in your life - the ancient city of dawn: Tulum. Reaching it is simple and cheap.

    Tulum, Mayan city of dawn.
    The ancient Mayan city overlooking the ocean accessible from Playa del Carmen with little change.

    Located on top of a cliff overlooking the sea, Tulum is one of the most impressive and famous archaeological sites in Mexico, therefore for this reason it is certainly worth a visit; but if I also told you that you can easily reach it with little money from Playa del Carmen or from many other coastal locations?

    How to reach Tulum

    There are various ways to reach the archaeological site: tourist buses, guided tours, taxis ... these means certainly have advantages, but a rather high cost.
    So if you want to save, as it was in our case, I recommend that you take advantage of the very cheap collective taxis, better known as Colectivo.

    The Colectivo is the most used means of transport by Mexicans. They work more or less like our scheduled buses: they travel back and forth along the road that runs along the coast, stopping at the request of passengers.
    They are easily recognizable, in fact they are buses for 12/15 people, usually white, with the word “Colectivo” and their destination on them.

    We took the Colectivo from Playa del Carmen at Calle 2 Norte between 15th and 20th, but it can be taken from many other places: just inquire where it passes first and stop it with a wave of your hand as it arrives.
    If you signal a Colectivo to stop and it doesn't, don't worry, it will just be full; wait 5-10 minutes and another will pass.

    Once you get on, tell the driver that you want to get off at “Tulum Ruinas” and enjoy the ride; the duration is more or less than an hour. The cost each way is just about forty pesos each (about € 2) and, once you arrive, from the stop you can reach the entrance of the site with a pleasant walk of about ten minutes.

    The entrance to Tulum: a tip

    An important thing to remember before entering the site is that the only bathroom in the area is next to the ticket office, so use it before entering. There are no bathrooms or bars inside the archaeological park.

    Once you have paid the entrance ticket which, if the price has not changed, is 65 pesos (if you enter with video cameras you will have to pay a supplement of 30 pesos), you can finally immerse yourself in the beauty of the ancient Mayan fortress on the sea.

    The origins of Tulum

    The city was originally called Zama (ancient Mayan word for dawn) and was probably dedicated to the worship of the Descending god.
    From the top of its cliff, the sunrise from the depths of the sea must have been an extraordinary supernatural spectacle for the Mayans; in fact it was the movement of the sun at dawn that influenced the construction of several of its buildings.

    For example, during the winter solstice, the light of the rising sun passes through a precise row of windows to the right of the Castillo (most important building on the site) projecting itself into the city center.

    Zama later changed its name to Tulum (mura, fence) for the long, still recognizable walls that were built around it. It is still unclear whether this barrier was built to protect the complex of temples and palaces from any invaders or to divide the priests from the common people who lived outside. In fact, we must remember that, as for all Mayan archaeological sites, the part of the city that has come down to us is the one built in stone, therefore only the government buildings and places of worship. The rest of the city (houses and places for ordinary people) was built of wood, so nothing is left of it.

    The tour of Tulum, unique in the world

    The site is made up of various buildings and in front of each of them there is a board showing various information and curiosities in Spanish and English. So, even if you have not purchased the tourist guide at the entrance, the visit is still very pleasant and easy to understand.

    The site is visited every day by many tourists (this is the only thing that can spoil your visit), so for obvious reasons it is not possible to climb the ruins and the path is bordered by ropes.
    Despite the influx of people, on each building and on the surrounding meadows you will find a huge number of iguanas who, like silent sentinels, will watch your movements.

    The archaeological site is not large, the whole tour through the ruins will last more or less a couple of hours. However, we believe that for its beauty, its uniqueness (and its price), it is worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.

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