Sunday, 12 April 2015

Tulúm Travel Diary – Part 1

Here's the first part of my travel diary about Tulúm, Mexico! I wanted to write it as soon as I could, before the memory of sand underneath my feet, hot nights with the background sounds of tropical birds, sleeping under thatched roofs, and waking up to the sunrise over the ocean and the sound of the waves diminishes (I hope it won't. I will try to keep everything in mind as vividly as I can). 

Tulúm was even more beautiful than I imagined. It was my first trip to both the Caribbean and to Mexico – and maybe it was a good place to start. Of course Tulúm is not Mexico, it is merely one tiny town – and mainly beach road –  with a dreamlike beach, Maya ruins and a lot of beautiful hotels, restaurants and shops. Thus, I don't feel like I got to know Mexico during this trip, but maybe I got a glimpse of it. Especially because we also travelled around Yucatán a little bit.

When my aunt and uncle visited Tulúm about 20 years ago, there was nothing there except for the Maya ruins. No hotels, no bars, restaurants or shops. It is crazy to think that this little microcosm has developed in such a short time. Tulúm is still a long way from the mass tourism and the hotel blocks of Cancún or Playa del Carmen – and I think this is precisely why people come to Tulúm. There, you can mainly find small "eco chic" hotels with relatively simple cabins or huts, which do not have electricity all the time and often use sea water in the showers. Most restaurants in Tulúm have stone ovens with naked flames and use local ingredients for their food. It feels a little bit like a beach community of dropouts – but at the same time quite hip and stylish. 

This first part of my travel diary will cover general information about Tulúm, what to bear in mind when going there, what to see and do. I will publish a second part in which I will feature the hotels we stayed in (four different ones), and our favourite restaurants. In other words, answers to the only question you have to worry about when on holiday: "Where are we going to have dinner tonight?".
Enjoy part one!

Click on the images to see them larger.

Visiting the Maya ruins of Tulúm. Jumpsuit by Asos, sunglasses by Illesteva.

Tulúm's beach road and shops along it.

Dreamcatchers Tulúm-style.

A perfect Mexican dinner at Mateos.

The beautiful Gran Cenote (can you spot me in the water?).

Lagoon Xel-Ha in Akumal.

Embroidered cotton dress by Baum und Pferdgarten, bracelets by AnniLu, Tiffany and others, rings by Catbird and Natalie Marie Jewellery, photographed in our Casita at Papaya Playa Project.

Cenote Dos Ojos.

Extremely beautiful and incredibly delicious: Posada Margherita.

Colour explosions: souvenir shops in Tulúm pueblo.

The ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá.

The beach bar at Papaya Playa Project.

I have already tried to describe the general atmosphere of Tulúm. And when doing so, I was referring to one part of Tulúm: the beach area. You need to know that Tulúm consists of two parts: Tulúm pueblo, a little town along a main road, and a long stretch of the Caribbean beach with a little road lined by hotels, restaurants and shops.

Even though you will want to stay in the beach area (after all that's what this holiday is all about, right?), you should definitely pay a visit to Tulúm pueblo. Not just because there are supermarkets, banks and other necessities, but also because town is a whole different thing. I recommend to do your souvenir shopping in town: there are a hundred shops to choose from and the prices are a lot better than in the touristy beach area. The same goes for restaurant prices. You will definitely note a difference when you go to restaurants in town (and there are some really good ones!). 

Speaking of prices, Tulúm is expensive. One could say that you pay a lot for the simple pleasure of a straw hut. And especially prices for drinks and meals are quite high, sometimes as high as or even higher than restaurant prices in Hamburg. As I said, eating out in Tulúm pueblo is cheaper.
We always paid in Mexican Pesos, not in US Dollars, because that's what we got from the ATM's and because the exchange rate was slightly better for us this way.
Always remember to take enough cash with you. Almost all restaurants and shops in Tulúm do not take credit cards.

Also, if you want to get out of town from time to time, I recommend to rent a car for the whole duration of your trip. We picked up a rental car at the airport which we kept for the whole two weeks of our stay and we found it very convenient that we could just drive to town or go on a day trip on our own. (Look for good rental car deals at home, before you start your trip.)

With our car we were able to see quite a bit outside of Tulúm, too. Here's what you can do in and around Tulúm:
  • The Tulúm ruins: the ancient Maya city is the main tourist sight and origin of modern day Tulúm.
  • Cenotes: these natural swimming pools, that were created when caves collapsed, are an absolute must-see. You can snorkel with fish (and sometimes turtles) in the turquoise water or just admire the caves. I loved Gran Cenote, which is very close to Tulúm.
  • Xel-Ha: If you like snorkeling definitely drive to Akumal and its lagoon Xel-Ha. When we went there, the weather wasn't the best and still the lagoon and its tropical fish were amazing!
  • Chichén Itza and Ik-Kil Cenote: If you're in the mood for a longer day trip, go to the ancient Maya city Chichén Itza. It is a fascinating place with a dark, brutal history. When going there you pass Valladolid, a colonial town, and you can learn a lot about Yucatán simply by driving around it. You will also pass the beautiful Ik-kil Cenote.

Some general information that might be useful in Tulúm: 
pack mosquito spray, high sun screen (SPF 50), and a torch (when you walk back to your hotel from a restaurant on the beach, the path might not be lit). You will probably not need any or not a lot of warm clothes – when we stayed in Tulúm, it was still hot in the evenings.

The second part of my travel diary will follow soon!

All photos taken by myself with the Sony RX100 III Cybershot (or my iPhone).

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