By Joshua Rivero
Did you know that Tulum used to be a walled city and was the last city built by the Mayan people? In fact, Tulum was a site of worship dedicated to the Great Descending God by the Mayan people back in the 13th century.
Given the city’s vast history, many grand adventures and exciting activities await travelers in Tulum — here are 5 of the best!
Dive into a Cenote
Cenotes are large pits that form as a result of limestone eroding or collapsing, leading to a massive hole in the surface of the earth that exposes groundwater. Eventually, the cool groundwater mixes with rainwater deposit to form what are essentially massive holes of water in the ground. The word "cenote" is usually associated with the Yucatan Peninsula, as that’s where the Mayans drew their water supply. Being that Tulum is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, the city is brimming with access to dozens of cenotes of varying sizes!
Swimming and snorkeling are allowed in most cenotes depending on their sizes. If swimming in a giant underground pool of water sounds scary to you, there are some cenotes that have walkways which allow you to travel through sinkholes without having to become submerged in water. People regard cenotes as having incredible healing powers, which make them very attractive for spiritual journeys.
Venture Through Ancient Mayan Ruins
Arguably the most alluring part of Tulum are the Mayan Ruins that rest upon a grassy hill overlooking a beautiful ocean. The ruins are massive and known to have a magical energy that sucks in visitors from all across the world. So popular are these ruins that they have slowly become the face of Mexico’s cultural niche, appearing as the front cover of many guidebooks.
Aside from visiting an absolutely stunning archaeological site, there’s the Mayan Beach (a part of the Caribbean Sea) that can only be accessed by entering the ruins. Be sure to bring your swimwear when you go!
Honorable Mention: Cobá Ruins
As the crowds at the Tulum Mayan Ruins can get packed, here is an alternative: Cobá Ruins are nestled within the Tulum Jungle, about 30 miles away from the Tulum Mayan Ruins. Venture into the jungle and finish off your journey by climbing the Ixmoja, the tallest pyramid in all of the Yucatan Peninsula. If you're the adventurous-type, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Tulum!
Visit Tulum’s UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mexico’s premier World Heritage Site in Tulum is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve near the northeastern edge of the Yucatan Peninsula. Here you’ll experience a beautiful rainforest, tropical canals from ancient times, coral reefs, and diverse wildlife. Sian Ka’an translates to “where the sky is born” and it most definitely lives up to that name.
Marvel at Daniel Popper’s Beautiful Sculpture
A larger than life piece of artwork made of rope, steel, wood, and greenery, Escultura Ven a la Luz was crafted by multidisciplinary artist Daniel Popper for the first Art With Me event in 2018. Standing over 10 meters tall, this sculpture was dedicated to the fragile and sensitive ecosystem of Tulum. According to Popper, it is a stark representation of the deep connection between ourselves and nature.
The sculpture was originally used as an entryway to the festival. It now resides as a permanent feature of Ahau Tulum, a hotel located on Tulum Beach.
Shop at Tulum Pueblo
What’s a trip to a historically significant city without doing some souvenir shopping at local markets?
Tulum Pueblo, or as the locals call it, El Centro, is Tulum’s prime destination for all your shopping needs. Dozens of markets and grocery stores are located around the center as well as small shops. You never know what kind of exquisite handmade crafts or pieces you might find! Be sure to also try out some mouthwatering street tacos, ceviche, or fresh coffee while you're there.