Cancun & Riviera Maya
Cobá Pyramid & Maya Ruins
Separated from Tulum by inland jungle, Cobá is an ancient city and Maya village spread out over several kilometers.
Separated from Tulum by inland jungle, Cobá is an ancient city and Maya village spread out over several kilometers. The sprawling forest complex (occupied from about 100 AD to the 1500s) is a joy to wander either on foot or by bicycle. If you plan to go by the former, prepare yourself for 6 km (3-4 mi) of walking; bikes can be rented for around MX$45/day.
The ruins, which might remind one of Angkor Wat in a parallel universe, stands in solitude today, for those that love to explore archeological sites without the buzzing throngs. For the most part, the landscape is silent except for the cry of a spider monkey or the occasional bird call. Many of the buildings have been taken back by jungle, and trails are pleasantly shaded by tall hardwood trees and giant palms.
To get a bird’s eye view of the ruins separated by miles of dense vegetation, climb one of the pyramids. It’s the best way to grasp the site’s immensity. One could spend several hours here among the local wildlife – toucans, egrets, butterflies and more. The ruins may not be as pristinely maintained as in Chichén Itzá or Tulum, but the scale and wild feel more than make up for it!
Important to note: Stay on the main roads, wear comfortable shoes, and bring insect repellant and drinking water. Wandering off on narrow paths might get you lost inside the jungle; do not attempt this without a qualified guide. There are no bathrooms in the complex, and there is just a small store selling water for cash only.
- Cobá Group: To the right of the entrance. The pyramids here surround a sunken patio. There is a 79 ft high temple facing a large plaza here dedicated to the god of rain, Chaac. To this day, some Maya still make offerings and light candles here before harvest season. A restored ball court lies on the rear left – a sacred game was played here to petition the deities for fertility and other blessings.
- Chumuc Mul Group: Along the main path, left. Little of this cluster has been excavated; the main pyramid is decorated with colorful stucco motifs (the site’s name means “stucco temple”).
- Nohoch Mul Group (Large Hill group): Half a mile / 1 km past the last site is the tallest pyramid at Cobá. Its 120 steps climbs 12 stories high, leading up to a spectacular view up top.
- Castillo: Beyond Nohoch Mul is this structure with nine chambers accessed through a stairway. On the south are the remains of yet another ball court, with the surviving stone ring through with the ball was thrown.
- Las Pinturas group: This large, patioed pyramid features polychrome friezes on its walls (hence its name, meaning “the paintings”). A massive stone slab here shows a man standing with both feet on a couple of prone captives. From here you can follow a smaller path for 1km (½ mile) to the next point of interest…
- Macanxoc Group: Near its namesake lake. You can access the main pyramid by a stairway.
Carretera Federal Tulum 307, 77793 Cobá, Q.R., Mexico; Opening hours 8AM–5PM daily.