One of the oldest Mayan cities, Coba was a grand settlement that developed in the jungle around a group of lakes and cenotes (sinkholes) that, like Tulum, belong to the Classic and Postclassic periods of Mayan culture.
Is located around two lagoons. A series of elevated stone and plaster roads radiate from the central site to various smaller sites near and far. These are known by the Maya term "sacbe" (plural "sacbeob"). Some of these causeways go east to the Caribbean coast, and the longest runs over 100 km to the west to the site of Yaxuna. The site contains several large temple pyramids, the tallest, known as Nohoch Mul, being 42 meters in height. The Mayan ruins of Coba in the Yucatan peninsula might be one of the largest cities of the area, and it has the highest pyramid built by the Maya.
About 90 km east of the Maya site of Chichen Itza, about 40 km west of the Caribbean Sea, and 44 km northwest of the site of Tulum, with which it is connected by a modern road.
Coba, it's located in the central part of the state of Quintana Roo and deep within the jungle, one must take the road from Tulum west for 25 miles and then turn to the road leading into the jungle found before the next urban area.
Coba is associated with the Mayan sun god and, due to its architectural style and stages of construction, three groups of important buildings can be found there: Coba, Macanxoc and Nohoch Mul, home to the Yucatan Peninsula's highest pyramid (139 ft) which offers a magnificent view of the surrounding jungle. All of these sites have the famous Mayan steles: important structures depicting relevant information about ancient Mayan events and beliefs.
Coba has an estimated of 6,500 structures, and only a handful have been cleared from the jungle.
One of the main attractions of Coba is the Nohoch Mul, the highest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula rising 138 feet. You can climb the 120 stairs of the pyramid to have an incredible view of the jungle and the other structures of the site. There is another pyramid called Temple of the Church, which is Coba's second highest building. From the top you have a great view of Macanxoc lake, one of the two lakes that are close to Coba, which is a rather rare particularity in this region.
You will find several sac-be -roads built by the Maya- stretching from Coba to many directions. There are 50 sac-be that have been uncovered, many of them measure 10 to 30 feet wide. One is more than 100 km long, and it is suggested that it required more manpower to build it than the pyramids at the site.
The site has several styles with Mayan glyphs; one of them has a glyph that reveals the date November 30, 780 A.D.
The first traces are from 100 to 200 AD, although it flourished during the period between the years 300 and 900 of our era. Its political importance in the region lasted until 900 and 1200 AD.
Coba's importance in its time is linked to the great cities of Tikal and Copan. It may have been a center of crop production and the place from where goods and services were distributed between the coast and the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula--something like a commercial, political and religious capital.
Indicative of this is the existence of an enormous network of trails or sacbe that served to connect distinct groups of importance in Coba with other places in the region, reaching as far as the interior of the Peninsula.
There is a 62 mile-long Sacbe that extends nearly to Chichen Itza. Together this network is over 125 miles long.
Knowledge of this expansive site was never completely lost, but it was not examined by scholars until the 1920s. John Lloyd Stephens mentioned hearing reports of the site in 1841, but it was so distant from any known modern road or village that he decided the difficulty in trying to get there was too daunting. For much of the rest of the 19th century the area could not be visited by outsiders due to the Caste War of Yucatán. Teoberto Maler paid Coba a short visit in 1893 and took at least one photograph, but unfortunately did not publish at the time and the site remained unknown to the archeological community.
An amateur explorer Dr. Thomas Gann published in 1926 the first first-hand description of the ruins. Gann gave a short description to the archeologists of the Carnegie Institution project at Chichen Itza, which sent out an expedition under J. Eric S. Thompson who made a number of return visits to the site through 1932, in which year he published a detailed description.
The site remained little visited due to its remoteness until the first modern road was opened up to Coba in the early 1970s. As a major resort was planned for Cancún, it was realized that clearing and restoring some of the large site could make it an important tourist attraction.
The site is perfect for a relaxing day. You can enjoy the archaeological site and then the two lakes to refresh yourself. Besides, if you arrive early in the morning you can enjoy the jungle and the tropical birds, butterflies and monkeys playing around.
Local guides are available at the entrance to the site, as well as bicycle rentals to get to some of the farther ruins within the archaeological zone. Coba, like all archaeological sites in Mexico open to the public via INAH, is free to Mexican citizens on Sundays and national holidays.
There is a small pueblo near the ruins, with some restaurants and small shops selling local crafts
Bring very comfortable clothes and shoes since Coba covers an extensive area within the jungle. Do not wander off the main trails. There are no services of any kind found within the zone so bring whatever you may need including drinking water, sun block and insect repellent. Return to Tulum for lunch or dinner.