Explore Coba

Mayan city in its primal state

Cobá has the tallest pyramid of all the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan and only a small amount of the site’s buildings excavated. At the height of its population in 400 to 1100 A.D., nearly 50,000 people lived within Cobá. These facts are not readily known by visitors to the area making Cobá an exclusive ruin site.

The site is located on and around 5 lagoons with 3 cenotes close by; the water source for the Mayan settlement. As a major commercial trade center, imports coming into Tulum were trekked to Cobá and further distributed to surrounding Mayan cities. The elaborate system of limestone roads called ‘sacbes’ (pronounced soc beys) that wind through the site points to the distribution of goods to the surrounding areas. There are 50 documented sacbes that range in width from 10 to 30 ft wide up to a length of 62 miles.

As more visitors seek a deeper understanding of Mayan history, Cobá is becoming a more popular ruins site that people want to visit and explore. The site is enormous, so one of the easiest and fun ways to get around are with Mexican tricycles chauffeured by local drivers. These tricycles are affectionately called ‘Mayan Limos’ and are a wonderful option for those not looking forward to a long walk. If a personal chauffeur is not on your agenda, rent a bike so you can cover all corners of this Mayan settlement.

We love to walk the site, but understand that this is not the best option for all visitors. The entire site is 80 square kilometers but visitors only have access to a small portion of the buildings. Shade and lagoons create an authentic and cooler experience while checking out Nohoch Mul and the Templo de Iglesia, the two most popular pyramids at Cobá.

Interesting facts about Coba

  • The main pyramid, Nohoch Mul meaning ‘large hill’, is 42 meters tall (138 feet), the highest in the Yucatan peninsula.
  • The Templo de la Iglesia, ‘Temple of the Church’, is a close second in height, with a great view of Lake Macanxoc at the top.
  • Cobá was built in 100 BC, but encountered most of its activity and its highest population between 400 to 1100 A.D.
  • Only a small percentage of the structures in Cobá are restored or uncovered with an estimated 6,000 structures to be part of this 80 square km site.
  • Discovered in the late 1800s, Cobá remained a mystery until the later 1920s due to its remote location. In 1973 a road was built to the site, which opened up public access.
  • A number of stele (large stone slabs) are found within Cobá decorated with drawings and glyphs. One stele is dated November 30, 780 A.D.
  • Transportation of goods along the sacbes was done by foot, even though the Mayans had knowledge of, and an understanding about the wheel.
  • Cobá saw major construction in the settlement in the middle and late Classic period, about 500 to 900. Hieroglyphic inscriptions date from the 7th century
  • Cobá had a lot of power with the Mayan communities, which is why it is considered an important site. This power was because of the control over agriculture, trading routes, and more importantly water resources.
  • After 600 AD, the development of Chichén Itzá changed the political influences in the Yucatán peninsula and began eroding the dominance of Cobá. Once an influential powerhouse, Cobá focused on maintaining its spiritual and religious contributions after 1000 A.D.
  • Coba was abandoned in 1550 when the Spanish conquered the area.
  • Mexican National Institute of Anthropology & History began archeological excavations in 1972 directed by Carlos Navarrete but most of the builiding remain buried in jungle and natural debris.

Explore Coba your way!

No matter which Loco Adventure option you choose, Cobá is a day tour that will have you back to your original destination in less than 8 hours. If stopping off in local villages is part of your adventure, this will be a full 8-hour day, but it can be done in less time. Located close to Tulum, Tulum visitors can make the trip shorter. If you are in Playa del Carmen or north of Playa, the day will take longer. This trip is far less overwhelming than Chichen Itza.

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