Imagine a place where ancient history and untouched nature meet on a majestic coastline. Where the benevolent Mexican sun shines down as it does on Cancun but without the crowds, where you can watch exotic marine wildlife as diverse as an aquarium’s swim past but without glass barriers.
That is Tulum.
This tiny, largely rustic Mexican town is widely considered to be one of the most promising future stars of tourism anywhere in the world. Despite an almost exponential increase in investment since the 1990s, Tulum has largely retained its historic character and laid-back attitude.
There are more hotels here than a few years ago but even the largest of them are small compared to the mega resorts of Mexico’s famous coastline. There is an emphasis on the development of less intrusive boutique hotels and you can even find tourists lazing the day away in the hammocks that are the only beds in their accommodation. Simple single-storey constructions with thatched roofs of palm leaves inspired by the Mayan tradition also abound.
Tulum first gained recognition early in the last century upon the discovery of the ancient ruins of a pre-Columbian walled city along the Tulum coast. Considered one of the best preserved Mayan sites on a coast, the ancient city can be found atop walls 39 feet (12 meters) high. It was built around 1200 A.D. in the tradition of its larger and more popularly-visited sister sites of Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza and features a similar brand of Mayan temple and town architecture. It nevertheless is more compact which makes exploration relatively easier.
Apart from the ancient ruins, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site of Sian Ka’an also lies in the Tulum municipality. Encompassing over five thousand square kilometers of land, sea, islands and coral reefs, and possessing abundantly rich animal and plant biodiversity, it represents endless adventure and discovery for the intrepid traveler.
A popular activity is cave snorkeling. Large cenotes can be found in Tulum, and many are regularly visited by tour groups. If you are up for a swim session in the sea, you might also see the giant turtles that frequent the area.
Environmentally-conscious visitors might be pleased to hear that most of the accommodation infrastructure still does not have electricity supplied. Some may have generators on site, but others forego power altogether.
If you are looking to get closer to nature and discover how man might have lived centuries ago, Tulum is worth an eye-opening visit in a world where that experience is ever further away.