Coba is one of the most beautiful and amazing archeological sites in Mexico. Those who have visited it, know that this is not far from the truth. Rival city of Chichen Itza for centuries and similar in importance and size, Coba is a mystical, little-explored place of large dimensions, nestled in the lush jungle in the state of Quintana Roo, in southeast Mexico. It is the ancient land and home of the Mayan Empire.
From above, Coba looks like its located right in the middle, between the archeological zone of Tulum and Chichen Itza, two renowned, popular places of historical interest. Due to its location away from urban areas, Coba maintains an untouched, unexplored atmosphere compared to other archeological sites.
It is a large site nestled in approximately 19,768 acres of inhospitable tropical forest. Coba is home to hundreds of structures (dozens of them still unexcavated) interconnected by 45 trails or sacbeob, and features the tallest pyramid in the entire Yucatan Peninsula: the impressive Nohoch Mul, a structure that's more than 147 feet tall. From its top, it offers a spectacular view of the jungle.
There is no clear information about the origin of the name of this archeological site, which during the pre-Hispanic era reached a population of 50 thousands inhabitants. However, in his books, the famous Mayan explorer Erik Thompson used to call it "Kinchil Coba" or "site of cloudy waters", which makes plenty of sense, since the unexplored Coba was built between two lakes.
Coba: A Legacy of the Mayan EmpireHistorians date Coba beginnings at around 200 or 100 B.C., and speculate that around 1000 A.D., was the most important Mayan city in the Yucatan Peninsula. This was mainly due to the great farming territory, its many rivers, and its many commercial routes used by other people from other Mayan cities.
The archeological site of Coba is divided into several architectonic groups, based on its construction date and function -residential, ceremonial, and funerary.
Since the archeological site of Coba is still being explored, only some groups are open to the public:
- Coba Group - This is the first section located by the main entrance, which opens the doors to this extraordinary Mayan world. Some of the structures found here are La Iglesia (an 82 foot tall temple), a group of royal buildings and houses, along with a ball court. This group clearly shows that Coba was a very important Mayan city.
- Nohoch Mul Group - A group that includes the colossal pyramid of Nohoch Mul, the beginning of Sacbe 1 (dirt roads covered with white stucco) that connects to the city of Yaxuna, and the impressive structure known as La Gran Plataforma (The Great Platform), a building not yet explored. La Estructura X (Structure X) is also located here, a residential complex that houses Stela 20 -the best preserved stela in the entire site. A few meters from this group, there is Xaibe, a structure that was recently discovered.
- Paintings Group - This group features the most recent structures in Coba, and some frescoes in the main building.
- Macanxoc Group - This is a complex of small temples, altars, and several stelae.
Even though it is in the middle of the tropical forest, the archeological site of Coba offers basic services for visitors such as a parking lot, bathrooms, several small eating places, and art crafts stores on the outskirts. There are also professional guides available and bikes for rent to explore this exuberant jungle area. It is open to the public everyday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., or depending on the season. Admission is very accessible.
Coba is a place like no other in Mexico. Either visiting this extraordinary site own your own or on a guided excursion, Coba is ideal for those who want to be in direct contact with nature and are willing to explore this admirable legacy of the Mayan Empire.