Coba Mexico

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The Coba Ruins are located between two lakes in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, and was once an important Mayan city. Despite its proximity to the coastal tourist areas of the Riviera Maya, Coba is much less well known than any of the other great Mayan cities. Only a small fraction of the many structures have been excavated and this, together with the remote jungle setting, add to the feeling of being an early discoverer.

Knowledge of the Coba Mayan ruins were never completely lost, but they were not examined by scholars until the 1920s.

Coba
Climbing the Nohoch Mul. Photo credit: Franklin Tello

History of Coba

As a source of water Coba’s lakes attracted Mayan settlers from earliest times but a strong population growth in the area did not occur until around 100 AD. Between 200 and 600 AD, Coba dominated a vast area, including the north of the state of Quintana Roo and areas in the east of the state of Yucatán. To maintain its influence, Coba established military alliances with the Classic Mayan cities in the south.

After 600 AD, the emergence of powerful city states of the Puuc culture and the emergence of Chichén Itzá challenged the dominance of Coba ,which had more closer ties, both cultural and economic, with the Classic Mayan centers of the Petén to the south. This is reflected both in its architectural style and in the presence of a large amount of carved stelae.

Unfortunately the stelae are in poor condition so not as much is known about Coba’s history as other Mayan cities in the south. Archaeological evidence however indicates that by the 8th century it had as many as 50,000 people. Cobá was also the hub of a system of roads called sacbes, constructed by the Maya for commerce and general foot travel. Some of these roads go east to the Caribbean coast, while the longest runs over 62 miles (100 km) westwards to Coba’s stronghold Yaxuná.

Coba’s downfall came with the rise of Chichen Itza and the long war between the two cities. In 860 AD Yaxuná was destroyed by Chichen followed by the defeat of Coba itself. The decline of Coba preceded the main collapse of all the Mayan cities in the region. The city was to revive a little centuries later when some new temples were built and old ones kept in repair until at least the 14th century, possibly as late as the arrival of the Spanish.

Coba Group B Ball Court
Group B Ball Court. Photo credit: archer10

Map of Coba

The map shows the location of Coba. The buttons on the left can be used to zoom in or out. Click and drag the map to move around.

Highlights

Coba contains several large temple pyramids. The main pyramid, Nohoch Mul meaning ‘large hill’, is 138 feet (42 m) tall. Another pyramid known as Temple of the Church, is second in height at Cobá and from its summit there is a spectacular view of lake Macanxoc. Besides a large number of stelae, there are also two ballgame courts.

Visit Coba

There are several buses to Coba from Cancun (3 hours), Playa del Carmen (2 hours) and Tulum (1 hour). The tiny village of Coba has a small cheap hotel, several simple restaurants and an upscale Club Med hotel.

The entrance fee is M$45.

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