Click for Tulum photos.

From : Piste
To : Tulum

Bus : ADO
Distance :
Time : 2:45
Price : Mex$ 99

El Castillo, overlooking the beach.
Tulum lies some 130km south of Cancun. Its main attractions are at water's edge ; Mayan ruins and beautiful beaches.

We arrived in the town of Tulum on a bus from Piste. Since this bus station did not offer left luggage services we stowed our backpacks at a nearby hostel (no assurances given, but we really had no choice) for the day, dined on the sidewalk outside a restaurant and headed for the ruins in a collectivo.

The archeological site at Tulum is one of the few enclosed settlements built by the Mayas, and the only one with such an extensive boundary still standing. It dates from around 900 AD when the main Mayan centers had been abandoned. It served as a port and fortress, protecting sea trade routes. It is estimated to have had a population of around 600; the priest and noble classes residing within the walls and the rest of the population would have lived outside the walls.

El Castillo, the watchtower perched on the edge of the cliff, is thought to have once been a lighthouse.

The Templo de las Pinturas is a two storey structure with columns on the bottom level. Its decoration was amongst the most elaborate at Tulum and included relief masks and colored murals in the inner wall. The masks extending around the corners of the facade are believed to represent the rain god Chaac.

Playa del Carmen

Click for Playa del Carmen photos.

From : Tulum
To : Playa del Carmen

Bus : ADO
Distance :40 miles/64 kms
Time : 1 hour
Price : Mex$ 31

The beach at Playa del Carmen
With Cancun becoming too busy for some, Playa del Carmen became the destination of choice for people who were looking for a more laid back vacation. Its beaches are pristine and it has good choice of accommodation and restaurants.

Playa's pedestrian mall, Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue), is a popular place to stroll and dine, drink and people watch.


Click for Cancun photos.

From : Playa del Carmen
To : Cancun

Bus : ADO
Distance :42 miles/68 kms
Time : 1 hour
Price : Mex$ 34

Cancun's famed white sands
Protected from crashing waves by coral reefs, Cancun's turquoise sea and powdery white beaches are legendary.

After a computer study determined that the best site in the nation for creating a new, world-class resort was a narrow sand strip enclosing a lagoon on the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun was created from scratch. The first hotels opened in 1972 and the building boom still continues in the 23km(14 mile) long hotel zone called the Zona Hotelera. It has a four lane divided highway flanked on both sides by mammoth hotels, shopping centers, dance clubs and restaurants.

Virtually every type of modern high-rise luxury can be found along the beach. Most visitors probably don't go beyond a few hundred feet of the water during their entire stay here. Unlike the rest of the country, tourists can get by speaking only English, spending only US dollars and eating only familiar food. All forms of water sports are on offer, but most arrive there just to lay around on the beach and down endless rounds of colorful drinks with little umbrellas perched on the edge.

Since we are not the "resort" kind of travelers, we decided to stay in downtown Cancun, and were quite content to take a bus to check out the famous beaches. Downtown Cancun is a planned city as a service center for the resort. It has its fair share of shops, restaurants and malls but is, in general, less expensive than the resort area.

Other options included exploring the nearby island of Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) or the larger island of Cozumel but those involved additional days, so we skipped those.

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Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun