author:Dr. Sheri Rosenthal
I adore the Mayan Riviera as it is sometime called, because of its simple beauty and wonderful energy, the perfect place for a spiritual journey! Tulum’s white limestone beaches and sapphire blue Caribbean waters are also perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling.
I would like to share a little of the history of the place, at least from the point of view of the archeologists. Most people’s experience of this area is often limited to a visit to Cancun, and although it is a beautiful area, it cannot compare to the rest of the coast that is largely undeveloped. Especially the more southern area comprising the Sian Kaan Biosphere which is a protected reserve.
“Sian Kaan” means “where the sky is born” and is a habitat for thousands of birds as well as all the terrestrial and aquatic animals to be found in the coastal area. The Yucatan is also famous for its cenotes; Mother Nature’s own crystalline fresh water pools which are immersed in history and Mayan ritual. These cenotes are actually windows to the vast underground rivers that flow beneath the ground through submerged caves. The cenotes have provided freshwater to the land inhabitants for millennia. In the Tulum area the best cenotes are located south of the Tulum Pueblo and along the road to the Mayan ruins of Coba.
When the Spaniards arrived at the walled fortress of Tulum in 1518, they considered it as large and beautiful as their beloved Seville. They may have been struck by its location, or the beautiful painted facades of its buildings. Tulum’s name is more recent than its oldest structures, and translates, not surprisingly to “wall” from the Mayan language. The city’s original name is believed to have been Zama or “place of the dawn,” in reference to its position by the sea looking eastward.
The approximate date of the city’s construction is unclear. While it is believed to have been built around 300 BC, the majority of the buildings appear to date from between 1200 to 1500 AD, when the city was inhabited by the Mayans and gained its greatest importance. With its strategic position at the top of a cliff, Tulum made an excellent fortress. The city is surrounded by walls on three sides with the fourth side well protected by the sea. When the Spaniards arrived within 70 years of their conquest, Tulum was completely abandoned, although some Mayan pilgrims continued to visit the city.
Also fascinating is the ancient city of Coba. Although Coba, located 45 km (28 miles) northwest of Tulum, is less well-known than either Tulum or Chichen Itza, it is one of the oldest Mayan cities and predates other better known cities in the area. Coba is located near five of the largest lakes in the Yucatan Peninsula. It covers an area of about 70 square km (28 square miles). Most of the buildings in Coba are un-restored, which isn’t surprising, given that there are approximately 15,000 structures throughout the city.
The five lakes of Coba are without a doubt the main reason why the Mayans settled here. Coba reached its peak around 600 AD, yet it was mysteriously abandoned three hundred years later. Some archaeological evidence suggests that around the 8th century, when the population of the city was at its peak, it may have had as many as 55,000 residents!
All in all this is a wonderful location to spend time looking at yourself and what you have created in your life. When visiting on a spiritual journey, allow lots of time for self reflection, ceremony and ritual, swimming and dancing, and a sunset catamaran ride.