Our first tour was a trip to Xel-Ha and Tulum. You've seen and maybe been in those big tour buses. They are pretty nice with reclining seats, air conditioning, even a bathroom if your desperate. We were picked up right at our hotel and drove for about 2 hours. Xel-Ha was great. It is mostly a natural water park. It surrounds a bay right next to the Caribbean Sea. First we went snorkeling in the bay. I'm not much of a fresh water fan. I have a hard time getting more than my feet in it. Just the thought of all the animal waste grosses me out. I know it's lame but I really get kind of creeped out. That being said, I was a little more than hesitant. But, I did it. It was so cool. We got in first thing so the water hadn't been mucked up by people kicking up dirt and sand from the bottom. It was so clear and beautiful. The bay had lots of shallow rocks and small islands. The fish were just swimming around like you weren't even there. They were so bright and colorful. There were schools swimming around and one big blue guy holed up in a cave that was pretty intimidating. We did that for about and hour. It was so cool, I'm so glad we did it.
Next we went and got something to eat. The park had 5 restaurants. The ticket price included all-you-can-eat. We filled up at the Mexican spot and then headed to the beach. The beach was covered with rocks, not sand, and big chunks of coral. There were tons of tide pools. They were really neat to explore. There was a ton to do like swimming with he dolphins, scuba diving, bike riding, cave swimming, rope swings into the water, but we were a bit short on time considering we were also going to some ruins. After combing the beach we headed back to the main area and got some ice cream and drinks to cool off with.
Next we headed to Tulum. Tulum is the only Mayan ruin located right on the coast. It is so amazing. It sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean and is surrounded by a huge wall on all the other 3 sides. The original way in is very narrow and tapered at the top so only one person could go through the wall at a time. Here is Gary going through the entrance.As we entered the courtyard it was almost surreal. As you enter you see the courtyard in front of you with the buildings in the distance. Our tour guide was great. He grew up just five miles away and had a real love and excitement for the area. He gave us a 30 minute history lesson, pointed out the most interesting points and then turned us loose to explore the area. It was incredible. I wanted to touch the buildings to make sure they weren't Styrofoam. They weren't. This is a wide view of the main building. The temple is the one with the 3 doors on top. They believe that there was never any human sacrifice at this location. It was mainly used as a calendar. They think that only a few families (maybe 10 or so, about 100 people) lived within the walls. Just the government leaders, priests, and their families. But over 5000 people that belonged to the same "tribe" lived in the surrounding area. They also think that very few people were allowed inside the walls. Not like a village square or something. People did their selling and trading outside of the wall.
The building just to the left of the temple is the solstice building. It is where they watched the stars and kept track of the seasons. There's more description of that building following.
Do you see the little tiny hole inside the building at the top of the door? It is on the back wall. This building faces exactly east and every 4 years (leap year) the moon would shine through this hole on the summer and winter solstice. The next picture is a back view of the building.
The beautiful overlook just behind the temple. Facing South.
Walking back down from the temple toward the courtyard.
This is a view of the beach from the other side of the temple. Facing North. The building in the distance is a watch tower.
These guys were all over the place. This one was posing for her photo shoot.
This tour was so amazing. I can't wait until I get some time to research it and find out what BOM scholars and archaeologists believe this location was. It was really neat to just imagine the lives and people that lived here. We could almost visualize the people walking around. As we sat and listened to the guide describe the things this place was used for and what was studied here I couldn't help but get emotional thinking about the history that played out here.