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Yucatan 2004

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Coba Page 1          

   A visit to Cobá requires some effort but is worthwhile. Its name means "ruffled waters", derived from the five lakes in the vicinity, and it is one of the oldest Mayan settlements on the peninsula. It also has the highest pyramid in the area and the greatest concentration of sacbeob (Mayan roads constructed from stone), both of which suggest a major city - yet the ruins were not discovered until the late 19th century.  Only a small fraction of the many structures in this vast site have been excavated and this, together with the remoteness and jungle setting, contribute to the feeling of exploring new ground.

   Cobá was a thriving city from around A.D.600, although it had been settled for around a thousand years before this date.  It is more similar to Tikal in Guatemala than to its Mayan neighbors, and depictions of female Tikal royalty on several stelae found here have led to speculation that there was at least one marriage between the royalty of the two cities.

Map from Planetware

   Another interesting feature of Cobá is the convergence of around forty sacbe (ancient roadway), built by the Maya, one of which has been traced a distance of 60 miles. Each sacbe was constructed with stones to a height of one to two meters and then covered with white mortar.  Their purpose is puzzling as this civilization had no wheeled transport and had yet to see the horse, but may have been built for religious processions and pilgrimages.

   Coba is about an hour drive into the interior from Tulum.   You pass interesting little native villages and houses along the way, which are just barely carved out of the dense jungle.


   Interactive map from Planetware

   The first group of structures (Grupo Cobá) is within view of the entrance. Our strategy was to walk to the furthest point first (Nohoch Mul pyramid) and work our way out - so this was actually the last group of structures we saw.   We made a quick stop at the ballcourt, and then hiked to the Nohoch Mul pyramid.

   If you can follow the signs without getting lost, you can hike to Nohoch Mul, the largest pyramid, over a mile (nearly 2 km) away. The walk is interesting as there are several stelae, protected by palapa roofs, shown where they were discovered and there are many more unexcavated mounds along the way. This is also a good chance to observe the jungle life; butterflies, birds and insects abound but the path is wide and foliage well cleared.

   Nohoch Mul towers above the jungle. The steps are disintegrating in places (look for shell-like carvings in others), but climbing the pyramid is not too difficult. Descending is a bit unnerving, but the scenery at the top is beautiful - miles of jungle, lakes and a good view of the site as a whole. The temple, which crowns the pyramid, was added later and is similar in style to those at Tulúm; there is a carving of the descending god at the entrance.

Ball court Nohoch Mul Pyramid
Ball Court Nohoch Mul Pyramid
Nohoch Mul Pyramid Chris

139 feet tall
2nd highest Mayan structure in the Yucatan

Would you quit messing around up there ?!
View Looking down the Nohoch Mul Pyramid
View from atop the Nohoch Mul pyramid Looking down the Nohoch Mul pyramid
Looking up the Nohoch Mul pyramid Looking up the Nohoch Mul Pyramid
Looking up the Nohoch Mul pyramid Looking up the Nohoch Mul pyramid

   In the Grupo Cobá is La Iglesia, a pyramid over 65 ft (20 m) high and the second largest at Cobá. The steps are steep and crumbling, and climbing has been prohibited. This is because it is so crumbly that people have (allegedly) fallen from it to their deaths.  I guess I'll pass up that opportunity ...

La Iglesia La Iglesia

La Iglesia
65 feet tall
In the “Coba Group”

La Iglesia Chris
La Iglesia One of my typical poses

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