Note: This post originally appeared on my previous travel blog, “Weekend Wanderer”.
So my visit to the ancient Mayan city of Tulum had a bit of a rocky start. Through Viator, I had booked the “Early Access to Tulum Ruins with an Archaeologist” tour, which is managed by Amigo Tours. The reservation confirmation stated that I needed to call the tour company prior to the tour date, to confirm my pickup time from my hotel. But I tried calling both the US and Mexican phone numbers listed, and they were both ‘out of service’. I had the activities director of my hotel try as well, and he was unable to get a hold of anyone through the provided numbers. So we assumed it was a scam, and he explained to me that I could just take a local bus and explore Tulum on my own. But then to my surprise, I got a phone call the night before from the tour, confirming my pickup time – I explained to them that something is wrong with their listed contact info, but they claimed that the phone numbers were fine. Huh. Multiple reviews on TripAdvisor indicate that I am not the only one who’s had this issue, so hopefully they will get with the program and figure it out someday.
Anyway, my tour van pulled up at the ass-crack of dawn for my 6:45am pickup time, and after picking up a few more passengers, we left Playa del Carmen for the 45-minute drive to Tulum. The early pickup time was totally worth the effort, because we were literally the only people at Tulum when we arrived – we had the whole archaeological site to ourselves! (Well, except for one large iguana guarding the front gate). This was a real treat, because Tulum is the Yucatan Peninsula’s most-visited Mayan site, attracting more than 2 million people annually.
Tulum is surreal. Looking at the amazing ruins of this Mayan city, strategically positioned on cliffs overlooking the aqua waters of the Caribbean, it feels almost like those ancient people left just yesterday.
Our guide explained that most people think the stone doorways to the city are low because the ancient Mayans were short people. And while it is true that the Mayans were/are a shorter race, the purpose of the low doorways was actually to force invaders to lower their weapons to be able to enter. That would make them an easy target for the armed Mayans waiting on the other side.
The archaeological site also has a gorgeous, albeit small, beachfront. A section of beach is roped off for part of the year, so that turtles can lay their eggs in peace. Of course, that section happens to be particularly beautiful:
But the rest of the waterfront is gorgeous as well. The waters were a bit rough when I visited, so there weren’t many people on the beach.
After walking along the cliffs in the strong Mexican sunshine, it was a nice break to take a stroll along this path through the jungle:
As you exit the archaeological site, there is an area setup with various (aggresive!) vendors and souvenir shops.
There is also a performance area where men do this sort of acrobatic dance routine while hanging from a very tall, rotating pole.
I arrived back at my hotel before 1:00pm, which was fantastic. It was well worth getting up early to see the ruins without the crowds and get back to Playa del Carmen with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the sunny day.