Going to Tulum: The Mayan Big Three
So first off, I’ll start this post by congratulations, Mexico. As of today, Mexico is in on track to advance out of the group stage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Their next and last game, against Croatia, will determine their fate! I just love this game!
We often look at Mexico as our fun, rowdy neighbors to the south. It’s easy to forget that Mexico was home to two of the world’s most famous and mysterious ancient civilizations: the Aztecs and the Mayans. These two civilizations combined constructed over 100 pyramids, more than you’ll find in Egypt.
Need some inspiration to go off and explore the Mayan ruins throughout the area? The Yucatan Peninsula has three major sites open to the public. Each has their own personality, so you’ll have to decide which one(s) fit you travel style and schedule:
The Bucket-List: Chichen Itza
For most people, if they are going to go to one of Mexico’s Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza will be the one they chose to visit. The great pyramid is not the tallest in the Mayan World. The city was not the largest in the Mayan World. What Chichen Itza lacks in size, it makes up for in presentation. The majority of the site has been excavated and is visitor-ready. Just remember to bring bug spray, sunscreen and a hat!
This particular pyramid, with a temple at the top, was where Mayan aristocrats were sacrificed. Contrary to popular belief, human sacrifice was an Aztec tradition that spread to the Mayan culture.[/caption]
During the summer and winter solstices, the light from the rising sun creates the illusion of a snake traveling down the steps of the pyramid.
This series of skulls evolve into these angry looking faces. Our guide said the Mayans often spoke in opposites. So these skull actually represent life!
The Stunner: Tulum
Once the trading and spiritual hub of the Yucatan, the ruins at Tulum are a great example of the upper echelons of Mayan life. The spiritual, political and business classes lived within the city walls, while the rest of the local population living just outside. As the only Mayan site on the shore, Tulum was a central location during the solstice ceremonies since it is the first location to see the sun rise. If you are planning to come for a visit, remember to wear your bathing suit and bring a towel, because the beach is absolute perfection!
This view of Tulum shows the main temple and the surrounding homes of the important folks like the spiritual, government and business leaders who lived within the city walls.
[caption id=”attachment_1071″ align=”aligncenter” width=”598″> This watchtower and lighthouse overlooked the water to help incoming canoes navigate into the city’s harbor.
A gap in the coral reef mades this patch of sand and turquoise water used to serve as Tulum’s trading harbor. Now closed to swimming, there is a beach where visitors can swim in another part of the site.
The Explorer: Coba
If you ever dreamed of having an Indiana Jones-like adventure, you need to head out to Coba. The Yucatan’s least visited of the three pyramids is arguably the most authentic. The site has four groups of ruins, and that’s only the 2% of the site that has actually been excavated. Walk through the jungle and arrive at the Great Pyramid. This is hands down the highlight of the visit. The 120-step pyramid is the only one that you can still climb, but pace yourself. The steps are tall and it is HOT and HUMID! If you are nervous about climbing, just hold onto the rope that runs down the middle of the stairs.
The Great Pyramid at Coba reaches 137 feet up and peaks over the tree tops of the jungle.
Looking up from the bottom! Grab the rope if you need some help climbing up. Oh, and don’t look down until you are safely at the top.
Once you get to the top, you get these endless views of the jungle.