Close to the Riviera Maya, Archaeologists believe Cobá was one of the most important ruin sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. In 400 A.D. to 1100 A.D an estimated 50,000 people lived inside the Mayan site. During the height of Cobá's influence in the Classic Period (600-900 A.D.) the city spread over 80 square kilometers.
Cobá was opened to the public as an archeological site in1973. With an estimated 6,000 structures, few are actually restored or excavated giving your visit a unique feel of discovery and wonder not found at other Mayan Ruins.
The restored structures are connected by shady, well-groomed trails under a jungle canopy. However, the air can be extremely humid and the trails long, so wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water to make the visit comfortable. Another option to get around this immense area is to rent a bicycle and or hire a Mayan Limo, chauffeured tricycles, inside the ruins.
The Nohoch Mul Group, Conjunto Pinturas and Macanxoc Group can viewed in about 2.5 hours on foot, 1.5 hours on bicycle and in an hour on the Mayan limo.
The main structure at Coba, Nohoch Mul (meaning large hill), is 42 meters tall (138 feet), the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula that can be climbed by visitors. At the top of the pyramid there are fantastic views of jungle and surrounding lagoons with Macanxoc Lagoon to the east and Cobá Lagoon to the southwest.
Another pyramid known as Templo de la Iglesia, ‘Temple of the Church’, is second in height at Cobá. From this summit visitors have a spectacular view of the Macanxoc Lagoon.
There are a large number of stelea at the Coba site, all protected by thatched roofs structures. The stelea, large stone slabs, contain drawings and glyphs that document major events and historical facts that happened in the city of Coba.
Besides the numerous structures, mysterious ancient roads through the jungle called “sacbes,” radiate out from Cobá.
Cobá was the hub of a Mayan system of roads called sacbes, constructed by the Maya for commerce and generally traveled by foot. About fifty sacbes, each between 10 and 30ft wide are within the grounds of Coba; with one sacbe reaching 62kms/100km. Sacbe’s were built of limestone and required a lot of manpower during the construction of these roads. The effort required to build these wide and long paths exceeded that of stone buildings and temples.
The transportation of goods along the sacbes was done by people carrying parcels and often occurred in the cooler temperatures at night. The white limestone would illuminate from the moonlight and essentially provide “lights” for travelers to see. Some of the sacbes are long enough to have been seen by astronauts on a shuttle mission. What archeologists have discovered is that the Maya did not use the wheel or wheeled vehicles to transport their goods on these roads, though they were aware of and familiar with the use of the wheel.
Despite its size and historical significance, the Coba ruins are visted less frequently than other surrounding sites. It is presumed that the location, isolated and off the coast, between the coastal town of Tulum, and Valladolid in the state of Yucatan is the main reason for this lack of tourism. With new highways, more information and a greater interest in the interior of the east coast of Mexico, Coba is becoming a focal point of Mayan attractions.
Coba is best accessed from the Riviera Maya through Tulum. The famous Coba road is found at the first intersection in Tulum. Travel west (away from the beach) and go about 30 minutes to the ruins (follow the signs). Watch the road for potholes and the dreaded speed bumps located at each village! Food and lodging can be found near the ruins.