The most outstanding building of Tulum is the Castle, El Castillo, pictured here and perched on Tulum's highest cliff. This temple-topped pyramid also served as a watchtower and a lighthouse. Like many important structures in the Mayan world, the current building is the result of different stages of additional construction. It began as a palace-like base, the staircase added at a later date and eventually it was crowned by the temple on top. The doorway to the temple has columns in the shape of rattlesnakes, with the tails supporting the roof and their heads adjoining the floor. Due to the rapidly increasing number of tourists to Tulum, El Castillo is now roped-off, and not possible to climb.
Although it is named as such, it really isn't a castle at all. It was mainly used for sacrifice and ritual celebration, with the king making his royal proclamations (sometimes involving death sentences), from the very top of its staircase.
There are three known entrances to El Castillo, but rumor has it there was a fourth, secret entryway, known and used only by the king himself. Supposedly, it was located at the very bottom of the cliffs, far beneath the castle, and could be accessed only via one secret passage that led to a hidden beach grotto.
Photo captured November 18, 2011.
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