TRAVEL GUIDE: LIZA’S POSTCARD FROM TULUM

Just for you, I’ve got the inside scoop on where to stay and what to see in Tulum, Mexico. Join me, as I explore the local jewellery scene in my bejewelled travels and all that this bohemian paradise has to offer. This is just the first of many Jewelled Travel Guides coming up on GEMOLOGUE.

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TRULY TRANSFORMATIVE TULUM

For the past couple of years, I have been treating myself to a very special birthday getaway to fabulous places like Oman, Marrakesh, and my favourite, Maldives. This year, I am in Tulum, Mexico – my new happy place. Tulum reminds me so much of Maldives – a place that keeps drawing me back again and again.

Tulum’s oceans sparkle with the same intensity as Maldives. It boasts as having one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and I agree – it is absolutely stunning. The soft, creamy Formentera sand, the Mykonos charm and the waters that shine like a magnificent Paraiba Tourmaline gemstone, this trip was truly transformative.

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Prepare to fall asleep to the sound of the waves every night!
  • Forget about shoes! The sand is too sumptuous for footwear.
  • Be prepared to fall in love with the best beach along the Yucatan coast.
  • Embrace the wellness spirit and brush up on your yoga. You don’t want to be the awkward one at the back of the beach yoga class!
  • Travel off season, like I did in May.
  • Save yourself the headache of renting a car and get a transfer from Cancún.
  • Iguanas rule the nest in Tulum.
  • Wear loose clothing, because the dining experience is seriously delicious!
  • Don’t drink the water! Cenote water is salty.

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Once a hippie community, Tulum remained a Mayan mystery for more than 30 years. No one knew this place existed, except the Backpackers and Bohemians. They loved this rustic, secluded lifestyle, and set up home in wooden cabanas dotted along this beachside paradise. Now it’s an eco-friendly escape to recharge and get to know each other better!

GEMOLOGUE TRAVEL GUIDE TO TULUM 

STAY IN TULUM:
Azulik Hotel (Sky Villa, 2 nights maximum)
Nomade Tulum Hotel
The Papaya Playa Project
Be Tulum Beach & Spa Resort

MUST SEE IN TULUM:
Mayan ruins
Swimming in Cenotes
Turtle Watching
Day Trip from Tulum: Chichen Itza

LUNCH IN TULUM:
La Popular, Nomade Tulum Hotel
The Papaya Playa Project

DINNER & DRINKS IN TULUM:
Casa Jaguar for their oven-roasted fish
Gitano for live music and a lively atmosphere
La Popular, Nomade Tulum Hotel

PARTY IN TULUM:
Friday nights at The Papaya Playa Project (once-a-month big bash)
Party Thursdays at Casa Jaguar

SHOP IN TULUM:
La Casita de Xaman
Gitano Boutique

GALLERY IN TULUM:
Residencia Gorila

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The Azulik Hotel made a lasting impression on me and I fell in love with its luxurious, rustic charm. From the moment you arrive, you can feel yourself giving into the positive vibes all around you. I was welcomed to the Sea Villa with a glass of tea, followed by a Mayan ritual to prepare you for the rejuvenating powers of Azulik.

This place is a diamond in the rough, and an enchanting place for couples to spend a romantic vacation, with a touch of Robinson Crusoe! 

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Imagine taking this walk every morning to the beach, wearing nothing but your birthday suit! Of course! It’s my birthday! What else would I wear?

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It’s just like living in a tree house, and such a pleasure to the senses. So many things to marvel at, as I wander around the hotel. There’s still construction going on and new restaurants to open.

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These delightful candles are lit every night at 5 p.m. and left to burn all night. It’s so romantic. But don’t worry, there is a place to charge all your gadgets and also WiFi is available.

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The Sky Villa at Azulik has its own private beach access, outdoor tubs and a hanging, circular bed. You can book a massage out on the terrace, but make sure you ask for Eduardo. The best massage I’ve ever had! He was taught by his grandmother, who is still practicing her craft.

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I felt like a hippie living in Tulum! Check out Get The Look and see what I mean!

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 My comfortable bed decked out in a mosquito net looks a bit like a blushing bride on her wedding day! Mosquitoes aren’t really a problem at this time of year, but the hotel provides natural repellent just in case.

Au naturelle is definitely the theme of Tulum, right down the homemade soap and cosmetics. Clay from the life-giving Cenotes makes a great mask and is amazing for mosquito bites, sunburn and blemishes.

The Cenotes draw a lot of people to these parts of Yucatan for the crystalline fresh water pools, said to have healing powers that refresh the soul. The Cenotes run underground beneath the rock through caves and natural pits. They’re a natural wonder and greatly respected in this area. It’s a beautiful world to visit. Make sure to take along a snorkel or book a scuba diving session and explore Mother Nature in this underwater world.

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Birthday cake for breakfast? Why not! Tucking into this after a amazing yoga session on the dock overlooking the sea is truly magical.

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Tulum is very happening when it comes to fashion, and there’s a sort of like Burning Man vibe in the air. Hippie living! Yet unlike the psychedelic, tie-dye fashion of the 60s, here the hip colour is black. Is it a crime that I don’t own a  black bikini?

My favourite beachwear is from Missoni, mixed with some of my favourite jewels like these fun necklaces from the Anissa Kermiche collection. Can you read my body language!

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Tulum is the ultimate experience in relaxation and romance. A true mix of ancient and modern that stands out in its architecture, the landscape, the cuisine, and the traditional Mayan massage and spa treatments! With ancient Mayan ruins as the backdrop to this tropical seaside retreat, it’s a romantic getaway beyond compare.

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The Mayan Riviera is the most stunning place with some of the most sought-after beaches in the world. But Tulum stands above all of them as being the most beautiful. It’s a rare archaeological site and it makes me wonder if there are gems in those waters, as blue as the most precious Paraiba Tourmaline.

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Exploring the ancient ruins is a beautiful way to escape for an afternoon and dive into history. These ruins are Classic examples of the ancient craftsmanship that went into building this Mayan fortress. The crowning glory of this ancient Mayan city sits perched above the clear, turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, protecting precious Tulum from seaward invaders.

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Cooling off in the shade, a happy creature in Tulum, grinning from ear to ear! Kinda like me! I haven’t stopped smiling since I got here!

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Look how beautiful the scenery is here. Throughout the structures, you can find murals painted with crushed lapis lazuli of the deepest blue and red. This stone is believed to have some spiritual link with humans, dating back 6,500 years. I just so happen to have one of my favourite Iradj Moini bracelets with me in lapis lazuli. You can check it out on GET THE LOOK: HIPPIE LIVING IN TULUM.

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It’s amazing what you can do with three metres of hand-painted silk from Malaysia. Just something I picked up when I was there recently.

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The star of eco-chic, Tulum is so colourfully Bohemian, and yet so secluded from modern life. The locals keep to themselves, especially the fishermen, and treat Tulum as a sanctuary, safeguarding it from prying eyes and the maddening Cancun crowds.

I was surprised to learn from a local artist who I met when I was exploring Tulum, that he was denied access to film a documentary. And my Mexican yoga teacher, who was raised in India and moved to Tulum 15 years ago, told me that it took him 10 years  to convince the local fishermen to sell fish to him directly.

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Rustic, colourful, breathtaking, you can’t help but feel inspired in Tulum. Its beauty and tranquility transsport you to a different dimension in space and time. It’s great to know that its natural, undisturbed state will be sustained through initiatives like United for Tulum.

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I just loved hanging out at The Papaya Playa Project. It’s an eclectic space for artsy folk to commune and be one with nature. There’s a true community spirit at this place and their philosophy is inspiring, as they work together to preserve Tulum’s natural beauty.

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I loved sitting by the beach at The Papaya Playa Project at breakfast time, watching the waves and drinking my favourite coconut milk loaded with tropical fruit. From the upper level of the double-decker bar, you can see for miles.

In the evenings, the place comes alive with funk and soulful music and live DJ somewhere in the palms! Once a month when the moon is bright and full, The Papaya Playa Project host a big bash Full Moon Party. Tons of fun overlooking the beach.

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The menu here is also delicious and very authentic with a few shakes of experimental thrown into the mix. It’s a fusion of Mayan and Mexican dishes. The ceviche were amazing. I couldn’t get enough!

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I have been back from my Tulum vacation for less than 24 hours, and I’m already in a state of culinary depression. Will I never experience perfect shrimp, octopus, and fish ceviche again? I guess I will have to come back!

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It’s so beautiful walking along these pristine beaches with nothing but the sound of the waves. During one of my sojourns down the beach, I marvelled at a sound that had a spiritual and earthy sound to it. It was coming from the Nomade Tulum Hotel. Who knew Tulum could get more beautiful, but this place is swoon-worthy and I cancelled all my other reservations and moved in for good! I wish!

The Elements is one of my favourite places to spend a few minutes to unwind. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in the ambiance and the music of the wind chimes. The Garden of Sacred Tones is the creation of Moral Turgeman. It captures the ancient history of this place, and produces a music quite unique to the moods of the breeze coming in off the ocean. Listen to it here.

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That’s not all you will love about the Nomade Tulum Hotel. It is quite the extraordinary spot, a transitional place to liberate the mind and let go of all of life’s worries. So much positive energy here. It’s a therapeutic place with daily yoga sessions, dance ceremonies, sound healing, and other medicinal and ancient shamanic wisdom to transform your mind.

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These beautiful beaded necklace captures the vibrant, rich hues of this region. Beading is a traditional Mexican craft that dates back centuries, and often carries rich symbolism in the patterns and designs.  Silver, amber and lapis lazuli all share a rich history with the Mexican Mayan people.

Exploring the local shops and boutiques full of local crafts was so much fun. There was one boutique full of beautiful cloth and jewellery that caught my eye. They’re part of an social enterprise called fabricasocial.org. Everything is in line with Fair Trade standards, and each creation has a label with the name of the local female artisan who made it and how many hours it took her.

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When you book a suite at the Nomade Tulum Hotel, you wake up every morning in your king size bed, and walk barefoot through soft, creamy sand till you reach your own private day bed down by the crystalline, tourmaline blue water. Pure heaven!

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SHOP BEAUTY PRODUCTS I LOVE:

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Just like the murals of the Mayan ruins, the colours and textures of Nomade Tulum mimic the natural surrounding aesthetic. Even their reception area looks like my dream office. Pure delight!

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Now all you need is a packing list. Here are some of the essentials I recommend bringing…

Do not forget about a jewellery travel box. My favourites are by Smythson, because they’re compact and stylish, and fit nicely into the side pockets of my luggage. You can check out my travel tips on TOP TIPS FOR JET SETTING WITH JEWELLERY.

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 Part of the appeal of Tulum is the chance to slow down, lounge on the beach, and do absolutely nothing. The perfect setting made for perfect beach-lounging.

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Having breakfast today at the holistic restaurant Macondo at Nomade Tulum. Here you can enjoy a fairytale atmosphere as you tuck into sumptuous local fruits. You can even order superb vegan, gluten-free food like this anytime during the day, and they’ll deliver it to you on the beach. I feel very lucky and spoiled.

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Nomade Tulum Hotel is the best beach front hotel I found in Tulum and I liked it so much that I canceled my stay in Be Tulum Beach & Spa Resort next door – a luxury private resort without Tulum character.

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For dinner, La Popular fish market doesn’t disappoint. The food was delicious! What I wouldn’t do to tuck into a plate of the grilled seafood right now!

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Fresh juice anyone? Cocktails? It’s on the house? We’ve got lots. Don’t be shy!

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Life’s simple pleasures: If you’re in the right location everything is magical. I ran across the beach and swam in the rain with pelicans flapping their big, beautiful wings above me. Such a special birthday, I’ll never forget.

SHOP BEACH JEWELS (UNDER $60):

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Skull culture is very Mexican and their traditional Day of the Dead celebrates the death and rebirth cycle of life. It’s beautiful. Here, the afterlife is as important as the one on earth. Maybe that’s why everyone is so chilled here.

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Here are two of my favourite local jewellery finds. Notice the lapis lazuli blue, Mexican amber, and that beautiful radiant red that you see everywhere. In ancient Yucatan, before the Spanish arrived, jewellery in this region consisted of jade, coral, abalone shell and some gold. You can follow the jewellery journey when you study the Mayan nobility, in their elaborate, feathered costumes.

The Yucatan Peninsula was a hive of culturally diverse societies living together and bringing with them many skills and crafts like agriculture, pottery, hieroglyph writing, calendar-making and mathematics. They were pioneers in their day, and are considered one of the original cultures of the New World.

Their 3,000-year reign ended, it seems, abruptly in 900 AD when all the villages were abandoned. It remains a mystery to this day why there was such a big hurry to leave such a beautiful area.

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Here is a beautiful example of Mexican pottery, recognized the world over for its terracotta colour and organic design. I think the chef might be trying to create an edible Mayan ruin from my veggies. Gotta love that guacamole fortress, though! This is the best recipe ever! When I get home, I’m going to try and recreate it.

Now I’m curious to try other Mexican restaurants in places like NYC and London. Let me know your favourites in the comments below.

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Sadly, that brings our transformative Tulum trip to an end. Would love to hear your feedback below, especially if you too have enjoyed this magical, mystical place.

And stay tuned for my next trip. You can follow all my  adventures @GEMOLOGUE and @LIZAURLA.

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GEMOLOGUE by Liza Urla features exquisite global discoveries, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews – a celebration of fine jewellery, fashion jewellery and vintage jewellery.

All photos belong to GEM Kreatives for GEMOLOGUE. Material on this website may not be copied, broadcasted or adapted without written consent.

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