Merida Yucatan Mexico Information-Travel Guide

Cobá Mayan ruins





Cobá is a must see

Cobá is one of the most important archaeological sites in the area. Built between two lakes during the Classic Period (600-900 A.D.) it was at one time a very large city spread over 80 square kilometers. The main pyramid, Nohoch Mul meaning 'large hill', is 42 meters tall (138 feet) and is the highest in the Yucatan peninsula -photo below. Another pyramid known as Templo de la Iglesia, 'Temple of the Church', is second in height at Cobá and from its summit there is a spectacular view of lake Macanxoc.





The Maya prospered here

Between 400 to 1100 A.D., in Cobá's heyday, nearly 50,000 people lived within Cobá confines, but despite its size it is not visited as frequently as some other major Maya sites. It stands isolated and off the coast, between the coastal town of Tulum, and Valladolid in the state of Yucatan. Besides the structures there are mysterious ancient roads through the jungle called Sacbes which radiate out from Cobá. Smaller trails lead to other aspects of the ruins. These ruins were opened to the public in 1973 but only a few of Cobá estimated 6,000 structures are restored or uncovered. Most are still buried under centuries of thick jungle growth. The top of the gigantic Temple of the Church affords a fantastic view of Lake Macanxoc to the east and Lake Cobá to the southwest. You'll also see many stele, glyphs, and sculptures showing weathered carvings of Gods, actors and complex inscriptions.

The restored structures are in 5 groups connected by shady, well groomed trails under the jungle canopy. You may see or hear monkeys and an incredible variety of jungle birds. Walking can be hot and the air humid so wear comfortable shoes and carry some water if you really want to see all the major areas. The Nohoch Mul Group, Conjunto Pinturas and Macanxoc Group can all be seen in about 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace.


There are a large number of stele at the Coba site with thatched roofs (recent additions) above them - presumably to protect them. The stele are fairly large stone slabs which have drawings and glyphs. One stele is dated November 30, 780 A.D. in Mayan glyphs.









Sacbe - the white road

Cobá was the hub of a system of roads called sacbes, constructed by the Maya for commerce and general travel by foot. There were about 50 sacbes which were between 10 and 30ft wide; one was about 100km long. They were built of limestone and it is estimated that the manpower and effort required for their construction exceeded that for the stone buildings and temples. It is interesting that the Maya did not use the wheel to aid transport even though they were familiar with it. Transportation of goods along the sacbes was done by people carrying parcels. Some of the sacbes are long enough to have been seen by astronauts on a shuttle mission.

Getting there

From Tulum at the traffic light intersection of the Coba road and highway 307, travel west (away from the beach) and go about 30 minutes to the ruins (follow the signs). There are two interesting towns along the way selling arts and crafts, and a few rustic restaurants on the road as well. Watch the road for potholes, there are also speed bumps at at the villages! Food and lodging can be found near the ruins.




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