An Afternoon at the Coba Ruins

Visiting the Coba Ruins in Mexico

Chichen Itza is probably the most famous Mayan complex in Mexico. Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, tourists flock from Cancun and points south to climb the pyramid (climbing now barred) and enjoy what that civilization left behind.

Another site that has opened in recent years is Coba, about 44 km northwest of Tulum on the coast. Tours usually include time at Tulum before moving on to Coba, or vice versa. Such a tour easily takes a full day.

Coba was just being excavated when we first travelled to Cancun years ago. On this trip, we wanted to see what had been uncovered, and climb the tallest pyramid (42 metres or 138 feet) in the Yucatan.

The Coba complex has barely been uncovered. Archaeologists, who began work on the site in the early 70s, have found two intact ball courts, pyramids and other structures, but it’s understood that the complex is huge – some 80 square kms – and it will take many more years yet to reveal the rest of the city, which remains overgrown with trees. The top of the pyramid, known in Mayan as Nohoch Mul, offers an unparalleled view of the area, and a person can pick out clumps of trees that rise above the canopy where other pyramids or temples could exist. The city was abandoned about 1550. A more in-depth look at Coba and other Mayan ruins can be found in this book on Amazon.

As anyone who has climbed Mayan pyramids before, the way to the top of the Coba pyramid is steep with shallow, high steps the norm. A rope down the middle of the stairs helps get people up and down safely.

From the entrance, we hired a three-wheeled cart and a driver to take us around the complex. At one time, the roadways throughout the complex were elevated and paved with stones and plaster. One of these roads stretched for some 100 kms (62 miles), but all of that has been worn away or removed leaving the ground uneven.

The ball court and other structures can only hint at what the city must have looked like at the height of its use.

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