Cobá in Quintana Roo in Mexico houses the remains of a once vast Maya city.
History of Cobá
It’s thought that the city developed around 632 AD and peaked between 800 and 1100 AD. Whilst it is thought that Cobá originally spanned a massive 60 square kilometres and had a population of up to 50,000, the current archaeological site has yet to uncover all its remains.
Whilst Cobá began to decline in the 12th century, it remained an important site with buildings constructed and maintained until at least the 14th century, and potentially until the arrival of the conquistadors in the early 16th century, by which point it was abandoned.
Cobá was consumed by the jungle, and it was only in the late 19th century that western explorers and archaeologists reached it for the first time. In the 1920s the site became known to the archaeological community but it was only really in the 1970s that major archaeological work was undertaken as prior to this Cobá was too remote / hard to access.
What can be viewed today is spread into four sections, named Grupo Cobá, Chumuc Mul, Macanxoc and Nohoch Mul.
Grupo Cobá contains a large holy pyramid called the Temple of the Church, translated as “La Iglesia”. Nearby, along a worn path is a playing field used to play ball games, signposted as “juego de pelota”.
The most impressive site at Cobá is its Great Pyramid, also known as the Nohoch Mul Pyramid. Rising to a height of 138 feet, the Great Pyramid is the second tallest of all Maya pyramids in the region after Estructura II at Calakmul. Climbing the steep stairs of this pyramid can be daunting, but the views are great.
Residential areas at Cobá were set up in clusters of 15 houses, joined together by sacbeobs (elevated walkways).
Widely regarded as one of the more atmospheric sets of ruins in Mexico, Cobá is buried deep in jungle vegetation and there’s plenty to explore: allow half a day to wander round fully, wear decent shoes for climbing, and remember insect repellent.
There are cenotes close by (about 7km), and bikes are available to rent on site. The modern day town of Cobá is about 2km away if you’re in need of refreshments.
Getting to Cobá
Cobá is roughly equidistant between Tulum and Valladolid, along Ruta 109. It should take about an hour to drive there from either, and buses run regularly.
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