Coba is one of the most undisturbed archaeological sites in the region, beautiful and mysterious, a large ruined city of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization, located 26 miles northwest of Tulum and 56 miles east of the Maya site of Chichen Itza. A paved road links Tulum with Coba and it is definitely worth the drive. On the way to Coba, you will pass through three small traditional Mayan towns which sell beautiful local handcrafts.
Prepare for your walk
Once at the entrance, you might want to get water or refreshments at the wooden stands, since there are no other refreshments available on the site, then get ready to walk through the jungle with good shoes and mosquito repellent. You can either walk, rent a bicycle or even rent a “taxi tricycle” (this last option sits two people very comfortably and you are driven around under the trees).
The best time of day to go
On an early morning walk, you can see many species of birds, butterflies and animals, even a spider monkey and large ceiba trees (sacred trees) intertwining with ancient stonework. The beautiful natural setting of Cobá is a pleasure to explore.
Just a little background on Coba
Coba means “ruffled waters”, derived from the five small lakes in the proximity. A series of elevated stone and plaster roads called “sacbes” radiate from the central site to various smaller sites near and far. The walk to the main pyramid is about 2 miles; the main routes are well signalized paths but there are many smaller tracks leading into the jungle. To adventure into these, a guide is advisable. You’ll find guides by the entrance. Allow at least half a day to see the main structures and arrive early to avoid the heat of the day. There are no crowds here, as Coba is not on the tour bus routes. The site contains several large temple pyramids, the tallest known as Nohoch Mul, 137 ft high. It is quite easy to go up, but not as easy to come down if you suffer from vertigo. There’s a rope you can hold on to. Rest a bit and take the time to admire the view from the top, unlimited jungle, lakes and the site itself.
A number of ancient raised pedestrial highways, called sacbeob, radiate out from Coba to other Maya sites in the area, the longest being over 60 miles long, running west to the site of Yaxuna.
The History of Coba
Coba is estimated to have had more than 50,000 inhabitants at its peak of civilization, and this built up area extends over some 30 square miles. The site was occupied by an agricultural population in the 1st century. Coba’s major construction seems to have been made in the middle and late Classic period, about 500 to 900, with most of the dated heiroglyphic inscriptions from the 7th century. However Coba remained an important site in the Post-Classic era and new temples were built and old ones kept in repair until at least the 14th century, possibly as late as the arrival of the Spanish.
More things to do around Coba
After exploring the site, you can either pay a visit to the beautiful cenotes nearby or to the Spider Monkey Sanctuary, which deserves a full mention in a next post. The closeby Club Med hotel serves good, traditional Yucatecan food and has a great swimming pool to cool down after going up and down the pyramid.
The Coba Archaeological Zone opens from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. If you want to go in the afternoon, be sure to arrive before 4:00 pm or they will not let you in.
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