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Cobá

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 A Hidden Mayan City in the Jungles of the Yucatan

 

 

 

  

The Cobá

Cobá, a Mayan Center

 

 The Nohoch Mul Pyramid at Coba

About 30 miles (47 Kilometers) northwest of Tulum, you will find Cobá, a large Mayan settlement that is largely unexcavated and partially unexplored.  The site is huge and occupies over 11,000 acres (50 square kilometers), although it is hard to grasp the city's  size when visiting, as most of it has been reclaimed by the jungle. 

The city of Cobá dates from the 5th century A.D. and  is considered to have been the largest of the Mayan settlements in Central America.  Estimates of its population range widely, but scientists believe that the city supported at least 50.000 residents at its peak. Somewhat curiously, the Cobá ruins appear to have slipped out of common knowledge for several hundred years  and the site was rediscovered only in the 19th century.

Cobá, which translates into "waters stirred by winds",  remains largely unexcavated and it is the raw nature of the site that makes touring here so exciting.  We think it is likely that during your visit you will ask yourself "What lies underneath the jungle over there? What was life like here?  Where is the rest of the city?" Only a few of the estimated thousands of buildings on the site have been excavated and this may reflect the determination of the jungle to reclaim its land.  Even today, the battle to preserve the excavated building from the jungle growth  does not appears winnable.  Of course, in part, that it what makes this natural site so interesting and mysterious.

         Temple de las Iglesia (Temple of the Church) at Coba)

Cobá  traded through many of the ports along the coast (Tulum, Xel-ha, Xcaret) and was connected to other areas by the sacbes (cemented stone roads or causeways). The city was located deep in the jungle, presumably because of the availability of large amounts of surface water in several nearby lakes.  The reason for the city's decline is unclear, but Cobá appears to have peaked in the 10th century and to have been abandoned by the 12th century.

 

The buildings available for touring are spread out over long distances and you should be prepared for a considerable amount of walking.  Try to arrive early in the morning, as the sun later in the day is brutal and activity then can be quite uncomfortable.  While there are a few stands and toilets at the entrance, there are no other facilities available deeper into the site.  Be sure to have an adequate supply of water, sun-screen and wear a hat.  Mysterious looking passages are everywhere at the Coba site.

Guides are available for hire at the entrance to Cobá and are a good idea if you want to know more about the local history and the sights you are seeing.  If you want to go it alone, you can rent a bike to speed up crossing between sub-sites or hire a tri-cycle-like cab whose driver will do the legwork for you. 

There are several areas to visit at Cobá and each is worth exploring, but visiting everything may take more time than you have available.  One of the most popular areas to examine is the Nohoch Mul Group, a  site that contain the pyramid of Nohoch Mul - the tallest pyramid-structure in the Yucatan at over 12 stories high.  Other areas at Cobá with popular sights are the Coba Group, Macanxoc Group and Chumuc Mul.

Cobá is noted for its  two ball courts.  The ball fields form is a narrow corridor between two sloped walls with a hoop near the top.  Apparently the goal was to pass a rubber ball through the hoop to score a goal, although original records of the game and its rules do not exist.

       The hoop at the ball court at Coba

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Cobá is not as popular as Tulum or Chichen Itza, but it feels more real than these excavated and partially reconstructed sites.

 

 

 

 

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