Tulum is the third most visited archeological site in Mexico after Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza. “Tulum” in Yucatan Mayan means “wall”. The ancient name of Tulum was Zama, meaning ¨place of the dawning sun¨. This name is fairly obvious upon first sight, the ruins of this pre-Columbian Maya city are situated on 12 meter tall cliffs along the East coast of the Yucatan peninsula. Tulum is the only significant Mayan settlement on the coast.
Tulum was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. Both coastal and land routes converged at Tulum which indicates that Tulum was a major trade center for the post classic Mayans. The beach is ideal to bring merchant canoes ashore. A large number of artifacts have been found in or near the site that show contacts with areas all over Central Mexico and Central America. Tulum was first mentioned by Juan Diaz, who was a member of the 1518 Spanish expedition.
Tumlum’s architecture resembles that of Chichen Itza, just on a much smaller scale. There are three major structures of interest at the Tulum site: El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God. El Castillo, was also a lighthouse to make navigation easier. When two torches aligned, it showed the way through the reef.