Travelling in Mexico in the 1920s, DH Lawrence wrote that the country 'has a faint, physical scent of her own, as each human being has…'
Tulum had the faint aroma of sea salt and humidity, as the Caribbean breeze sweeps through this quaint coastal town and yet there's a heavy, sticky heat that leaves you gasping for a beer.
Our day spent in Tulum did not disappoint and I think the fact that these ruins overhand the crystal blue Caribbean Sea have something to do with it.
A bit of background:
These are the ruins of what was once a small city during the final decades of the Mayan civilisation. It incorporates the clifftop Castillo, and the Templo de las Pinturas. Further inland, the Cobá archaeological site has pyramid-shaped temples with views over the surrounding jungle.
The Pyramid El Castillo is the most striking (which is why it's featured on all of the Instagram snaps of Tulum) Standing tall on the cliff, this structure was as a lighthouse to guide incoming ships safely to shore through the coral reefs that protect the shoreline.
We drove to the edge of the archeological site, parked and then walked about 1.5 miles to the official entrance. It became clear that some people had other things in mind, as you can use the same entrance to visit the beaches below the ruins. It felt like we were in a theme park as we walked along with hundreds of other tourists; families with young kids and packed coolers, groups of teenagers wearing swimsuits and towels slung over their shoulders and various groups of tourists prepared to visit the ruins (We fell into the latter group)
Before seeing the ruins, you have to walk (what felt) like another mile or so through rainforest and vegetation to reach the actual site. It was so hot and humid, but we were hit with a very nice breeze as soon as we entered the site clearing. The site is beautifully maintained, with a clear path and signage, making it easy to navigate on your own.
It’s easy to get lost in imagining what a day might have been like for the Mayans as you crouch through the narrow man-made stone entryway into the walled ancient city.
Though you can't access the ruin buildings, you can still get close enough to see detail of the structures as well as peek inside windows and doorways.
The ruins were beautiful, and the surrounding landscape was breathtaking - the water was so blue! (This coming from someone who lives on a tropical island and can often take the Caribbean sea for granted) I instantly understood why everyone made the trek to this beach!
We walked around for just under 2 hours and had it not been so hot, we would probably have stayed the entire afternoon and taken a dip in the sea (Ironic, I know, but we were burning up in the midday sun!). The only downside to the beautiful beach was the huge crowd - they looked tiny ants scattered across the sand. We were more interested in being able to explore the site than spending our time on the beach amongst the masses (again, acknowledging that we come from a tropical island and aren't as excited by the prospect of sitting on a beach)
We slowly made our way back to the entrance (You end up doing a huge loop) and decided to take a trip into the town of Tulum for a cold beer and a late afternoon snack.
Unfortunately, due to our tight schedule during this trip, we couldn't spend as much time as we would have liked in Tulum. Visiting the Mayan ruins in Tulum was on the top of our list during our stay in Playa Del Carmen, so we had to prioritise and leave most of the Tulum "Must Do's" for our next visit to Mexico.
Next on our list: Visiting some of the eco resorts in Tulum and soaking up more of the beachy, hippie vibe in town!