Carr. Tulm-Puerto Juarez Km. 240, Tulum, México - Xelha ruins Map
A little known and easily accesible group of ancient Maya temples, known as Xel Ha, is located 15 minutes north of Tulum pueblo on Hwy 307. Xel Ha (which means mixing of the waters in Mayan) is also the name of the large cove and tourist park nearby, famous for it´s magical swimming and snorkeling.
The location of Xel Ha is important in order to understand why this area was so vital to the spiritual life of the ancient Maya people. For it was here that pilgrims came from all over Maya land (now known as Central America and the Yucatan) for their once in a lifetime pilgrammage to the island of Cozumel. In days long past gone, Cozumel was named Ixchel, which is the name of the Maya goddess of fertility. For it was here, on this beautiful island only accessed by large canoes, that Maya men and women performed their ceremonies for abundant fertility, usually right before marriage.
Upon entering the archeological zone of Xel ha, there are two main areas of interesting ruins which were built during the Maya classic period (300 to 900 AD). The first area which is literally alongside the highway, you will find buildings of stone lying in bliss among large Ceiba trees. The Ceiba tree is the Maya tree of life. Seemingly reaching out in all directions, the Ceiba grows fast and strong from the bottom up, growing branches before growing leaves. For the Maya, the Cieba tree is a natural example of the Christian cross or DiVinci´s Vitruvio, exemplifying our connection to the underworld, in all four directions (north, south, east and west) and our connection to above (God, space and extra terrestrials).
Among the ruins you´ll find a cirular bath area (which could have been a choltun, which is a Maya water collector) and a beautiful ancient wall painting of the honey god, which unfortunately was sandblasted by hurricane Wilma a few years ago. Still you can see the red paint hand print from the original mason who constructed the temple for the Maya shaman.
The real secret of the Xel Ha Maya ruins is the original sac be (Mayan for white road) which enters 1 km into the jungle. At the end of this natural rocky road, now quite rustic after a milenia of jungle growth, is a beautiful cenote (hole in the rock of fresh healing mineral water) along side the mini jaguar house. This mini group of spectacular ancient ruins includes a painting of a descending jaguar, representative of the descending god, one who plays in the underworld. For the Maya, cenotes and oceans represent Xibalba, the innerworld or underworld. Just as everyone goes to sleep every night and everyone dies, the Maya metaphorically and shamanistically entered these "worlds" in meditation.
Here you can sit as the Maya priest/shaman sat, with his or her back to the cenote (representing your connection to soul and otherworld through your third eye and crown chakra) and meditate while looking with your physical eyes upon the mini, almost childlike, rock temple only a few meters away.
The nice thing about this magical jungle experience is that birds of many different feathers greet you as you visit, large iguanas scurry into their rock condos as you pass by, as tree snakes silently watch every move you make. Because this is not a popular tourist attraction, you can have the entire experience to yourself.
Be sure to refresh yourself by jumping off the rocks into the cool water. But please do not use suntan lotion if you are going to swim as it destroys the natural delicate water balance.