Tigger Travels - Journal of Adventures. (not a travel agent)
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Tulum Maya Ruins Site
Long time dream lives up to all expectations and so much more!
Like many people Tigger has met traveling, it has long been a dream to take a trip to ruins from the Mayan empire in Mexico. There are many to choose from but the best opportunity he found was a stop out of Cozumel during a West Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic. It was the second of two week long, back to back cruises (another family member's dream but that is another story!!).
Getting to any of the larger ruins involves a bit of land based travel. From Cozumel Tigger boarded a substantial ferry that could hold a couple hundred passengers. It has two enclosed decks and an open air area on the wide double hull vessel but despite the width the crossing over to Playa Del Carmen was one of the roughest rides! Fortunately, Tigger's family is rather robust when it comes to boat rides and despite the dozens of people using the barf-bags his older son (15) rode like a cowboy and the younger (14) fell asleep. It was a windy day!
After a quick walk through Playa Del Carmen's main shopping street we met a comfortable motor coach that was air conditioned that took us to the entrance of the Tulum tour. At this entrance there is a large shopping area that features performances illustrating traditional Mayan celebrations and rituals. Photo opportunities are available with the performers in full ornate dress for a very modest fee/donation.
Bring water as there is nothing available for purchase once past this entry shopping area. There are bars and shops here and prices are typical tourist prices, i. e. $4-5 for a beer, etc.
Past this shopping area there are two choices to get the next 1/2 mile to the strictly walking portion of the tour, there are covered wagons pulled by tractors or a comfortable walk along a wide paved path. Going to the ruins, Tigger rode with the group but chose to walk back.
The entrance of the trail is 'guarded' by a large pavilion called the visitor center that is staffed simply to make sure only paying customers enter the ruins. The fees here for only access to the ruins are not very much, but from a cruise it really should be booked as a full excursion. This will guarantee a return to the ship without missing embarkation, something you never want to experience! Currently (Apr '13), Disney Cruise Line offers the Tulum Ruins excursion for $99/$75 per adult/child. WELL WORTH IT!!
A little practical history before walking in to the ruins
The Tulum ruins site right on the coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The name was derived from a Yucatec Maya word meaning "I don't understand what you're saying."
It is located in the state of Quintana Roo, one of 31 states in Mexico. It was named after an early patriot of the Mexican Republic, Andrés Quintana Roo.
Tulum was an important site for worshiping the Diving or Descending go and had an estimated population of 1,000 to 1,500 from as early as AD 1200 up until contact with the Spanish in the early 16th century. Before that century was over, it was completely abandoned.
The area was protected to the east by steep cliffs that overlook the Caribbean and on the remaining sides by a wall that ranged about 16 feet tall and over 25 feet wide. This wall was well over 1,200 feet long, too! The whole site from north to south is 5-600 feet long.
Despite is relatively compact size it is one of the best preserved coastal Maya sites in the country and is only a short distance from Cozumel (via Playa Del Carmen) and Cancun. This may be the primary reason it is one of the most-visited Maya civilization sites in the region.
Now for the good part
Up to this point the whole visit is simply anticipation. Our guide wisely chose to take the path leading to the northern entrance of the site accessed by following the path behind the visitor center. Entering this way unfolds the drama and grandeur of the site gradually ending at the climax of the site which overlooks the large Castillo with the emerald Caribbean as a backdrop.
There are a number of structures and terraces throughout the site, some of which still sport original artwork carefully preserved despite centuries of erosion. Prepare to be amazed by the detail still evident in the Temple of Frescoes as faces still look out at passersby.
To the right of the Castillo, follow the path to the heavy, rugged wooden stairway down to the beach and enjoy a swim in the crystal clear water. There is just enough beach to enjoy catching some sun however Tigger was there at the beginning of spring break traffic and it was pretty crowded but still manageable. This is a good reason to pick and choose the time of year for your visit.
Still, this is the only site Tigger has visited, but the experience was fantastic! Every bit of the trip provided exposure to the way of life of the Mayan people over nearly a millennium of history. If you have the opportunity to visit the site it should be a high priority! Wear comfortable walking shoes, bring water and a snack, have your bathing suit on and pack light.
Recommendations for Cruise Ships
Date taken: 2013 04 08
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