Cobá holds the ruins of a large pre-Colombian Maya civilization located on the Riviera Maya. Lesser known than Tulum, the name Cobá means turbid (cloudy) waters - probably having to do with the five cenotes (underground rivers) in the region, which may have played an important role as a source of water for agriculture in the development of this zone. At one time the city is believed to have had 50,000 inhabitants.
Much of the area is still unexcavated, although recent excavations unearthed a stele, which is unique to the Maya world, as it is covered in hieroglyphics. A restored ball court confirms that the popular ball game was practiced here. Bloodletting rituals traditionally followed Maya ball games at Cobá and slaves were forced to participate. This differs from what was practiced at the later site of Chichen Itza, where the captain of the winning team was beheaded after the game.
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Day trips to Cobá and Valladolid
Only a 45-minute drive from Tulum, ancient Mayan culture comes to life in the jungle enclave of Cobá. Bilingual guides are readily available at the archaeological site and will lead you through the maze of stone paved roads that made up the once bustling Mayan center. Much of the site is yet to be excavated and remains a mystery, but one theory is that Cobá was once a major epicenter for Mayan life. Nohoch Mul, the largest pyramid in Cobá, offers a stunning view into the jungle ecosystem surrounding the ancient city.
Just an hour’s drive further inland, the 500-year-old colonial city of Valladolid boasts picturesque pastel-colored walls, unique storefronts, and an authentic look into life in Mexico’s interior. Creative studios dedicated to ancient Mayan craft, like Dutzi Design and Coqui Coqui Perfumeria, have set up shop on a quiet side street just past the city center. Founder of Dutzi Design, Ariane Dutzi, creates eco-friendly bags and employs over twenty local Mayan artisans, while Coqui Coqui Perfumeria has a storied legacy of bottling the smells and scents of the region.
The Mayan ruins at Coba make a fantastic complex of ancient history being uncovered from the jungle. Visiting was like being in Raiders of the Lost Ark. We saw the base of a tree sprout up atop a corridor next to a Mayan temple, and replaced the stone roof with its own roots. It was surreal to walk in the corridor with ancient stone walls being roofed by the "newer" jungle.
The Mayans of Mexico must have thought they were on top of the world as they gazed from the top of their impressive pyramids!.. I love exploring the Mayan ruins in Southern Mexico in Chiapas, Yucatan, and further into Belize and Guatemala.... Some ruins take a little time and resourcefulness to get to, and some are a bit easier, and still offer great rewards! Coba is a large site just 20 miles from the town of Tulum. First settled about 100 ad, and flourished from 200ad-600ad, which was the classic period for the Maya civilization.. Coba is great because it has a natural feel of forest, and dirt tracks among the hundreds of stone structures, some still unearthed... The gem is the main pyramid, which towers over 120 feet from the forest floor. When you stand on top, and look out to the vast lowland jungle and out across the Yucatan for miles, it is humbling and beautiful experience, and you help but wonder how the ancient Maya saw their world....
Congratulations, you've made it down to Playa del Carmen, Mexico and have some time to explore some ruins. You could follow your friends' advice and head toward Chichen Itza or Tulum to take in some local history. Or . . . you could strike out on your own and visit a place off the beaten path. A place that would give you a 'traveler's glimpse' into the heart of this unique part of Mexico. If you choose to be the iconoclast, you should visit the grand Mayan site of Coba. If Chichen Itza and Tulum are more 'tourist friendly' stops, then think of Coba as the 'raw' version of what you want to see. These ruins are not refined, and they are not spoon fed, but they are indeed real. You can climb a temple, canoe through swamps, rappel down cliffs, zip line across the jungle, and end with a cave swim - all in this place called Coba! So pack your bags, get your flight, and go with what you DON'T know . . . your adventure awaits.
Want to climb a Mayan pyramid? Its a great experience and surveying an ancient mayan city from above is breathtaking. However, with more tourists visiting the Mayan world, climbing to the top of many of the pyramids is now prohibited. Luckily, there are still a few that allow access and the best is Cobá.
The main pyramid of Nohoch Mul has around 120 stairs taking you up 130 feet high where you can...