Originally known as Zama (city of dawn), the beautiful archaeological site of Tulum (Yucatec Mayan word for fence, wall, or trench) with its surrounding walls may have been built to defend against both invasion and to separate classes. One of the third most visited archaeological sites in Mexico, just after Teotihuacan (40 kilometers north of Mexico City) and Chichen Itza, it is located 80 miles (129 kilometers) south of Cancun at the end of the Riviera Maya, about a two-hour drive.
Constructed along the coastline on a 39-foot (12-meter) cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, Tulum was a prominent trading and navigational port for the city of Coba during the Postclassic period (1200 AD to 1500 AD), with the earliest inscription as far back as 564 AD. Unlike most other cities, Tulum was still occupied at the time of the Spanish invasion in the 16th century.
Tulum contains structures that are characteristic of Mayan cities on the east side of the Yucatan Peninsula, but relatively condensed in size, which is uncommon of a typical Mayan city. One of the most significant structures is El Castillo (The Castle) a temple to the Mayan god Kukulkan, which appears to have doubled as a lighthouse for incoming boats; it measures 25 feet tall (7.5 meters) and was built at the highest point. Many excavated structures can be seen in Tulum, such as the Temple of the Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God, the House of Columns, House of the Well, and the watchtowers at the western wall corners.