Destination: Mexico: Tulum
The Mayan ruins in Tulum are not considered as important as those at Chichén Itzá, a three-hour drive from the Riviera Maya, or Cobá, located in the nearby jungle, but the setting, on a hilltop high above the piercing turquoise sea, is unbeatable. The site, believed to have been a Mayan port city, was occupied from the first to 16th centuries, and some of the well-preserved buildings are decorated with carvings and frescoes. The centerpiece is the Castillo (castle), which served as a temple and a fortress. All the Yucatán’s archaeological sites are huge tourist destinations, but especially those in Tulum, since it’s the easiest to reach. Go early in the morning to avoid crowds. The complex is exposed, with little shade, so be sure to bring lots of sunscreen and water. Umbrellas, to keep the rays off your face, can be rented at the entrance and are an excellent investment. Behind the Castillo is a staircase that leads down the 39-foot cliff to one of the Riviera’s prettiest beaches, and if you’re early enough, it’s a lovely spot for some sunbathing and a dip. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
TIP: If you have time, plan an excursion to Cobá and Chichén Itzá; Maroma and Paraiso de la Bonita can arrange helicopter rides to the latter that take only 45 minutes. Prepare for a visit to any of the three with The Lost Cities of the Mayas: The Life, Art and Discoveries of Frederick Catherwood, a gorgeous coffee-table book that features illustrations by the 19th-century artist who traveled to the Yucatán peninsula in 1839 and was one of the first Westerner to see these ruins.
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