In a region which boasts one of the "Seven Modern Wonders of the World" (Chichen Itza),and the most visited Mayan ruins in the world (Tulum),is it not surprising that Coba is the oft overlooked little brother.
I recently celebrated my birthday,so Cynthia and I decided to spend the day taking a trip to these fantastic Mayan ruins deep in the Yucatan jungle.
Coba is different. Based over an area covering 60 square miles,only a fraction of the ruins have been discovered and excavated. The site sees far fewer visitors than is better known family members,and the result is a more authentic and peaceful experience. Due to its size,the best way to discover Coba is by bicycle. If you’re feeling lively and can cope with cycling in the searing heat,you can rent and ride your own,however,Cynthia and I paid one of the local employees to take us round,and his nuggets of information added great depth to the experience.
One of the most mysterious aspects of Coba,and one of the great unsolved questions of the Mayan civilisation,is the existence of the Sacbes (meaning white roads). These are paved roads that run in perfectly straight lines through dense jungle,some are as long as 100km. How the Mayans managed to build these roads so straight with limited tools and resources is hotly debated by archaeologists. Coba has more than 50 of these sacbes spreading out in all directions and linking it to several surrounding small towns. In its prime it appears that the city was a regional hub for trade,religion and education,with a population of circa 100,000 and an incredible 6,500 temples. Coba fell from prominence in the ‘Post-Classical’ period as Chichen Itza rose to become the main centre in the region,before finally being abandoned in the 1500s with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
The highlight of anyone’s visit is the climb to the top of the main pyramid. It is the tallest Mayan structure in the whole Yucatan Peninsula,standing at 42 metres (138 feet) and is one of the few that remains open for the public to climb. The energy-sapping 125 steps are worth every drop of sweat,and once you emerge above the jungle canopy the views are astoundingly breath-taking (tip – if you don’t like heights,don’t look back as you ascend,the stairs are very steep and very high!).
Once you’ve explored the whole site you can stop to recuperate and eat in the modern town of Coba,which is small but offers several well priced and high quality Mexican restaurants. Finally,for the more adventurous visitors,there is also a nerve-racking 200m zip line over the local crocodile-filled lagoon to round the day off!
In conclusion,if you are looking for a more off-piste day trip deep into the jungle and away from the tourist masses,Coba is a highly recommended option.