Abandoned for almost half a millennia, Coba (or Cobá) was once one of the most important cities of the Mayan Empire. But since the Spanish conquest nearly 500 years ago, this ancient city has slowly succumbed to the stranglehold of the surrounding forest.
Coba is quite simply massive, and most of the site remains unexcavated, a prisoner of the Yucatan jungle. Yet historians estimate it was once home for between 40,000 and 50,000 people.
Coba is actually a number settlements, each connected by a network of limestone roads called sacbeob (singular sacbe). Coba itself covers an area of approximately 30 square miles, but at the height of its importance it influenced a much wider area. In fact, the longest of the sacbe joins Coba to the Mayan site of Yaxuna, 62 miles to the west.
The broad, limestone expanse of the Yucatan Peninsula has no surface rivers. So located as it is around several lakes, Coba was once a jewel of the Mayan World. In fact, the name Coba means ‘waters stirred by the wind’ in the Mayan language.
The whole of the Coba site is absolutely fascinating. Pyramids, ballcourts and other wonders emerge from the trees as you wander the sacbeob through the jungle.
At 137 feet, the main Nohuch Mul pyramid (also known as Ixmoja ) is the tallest in the Yucatan, and more than half as high again as the famous El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan) at Chichen Itza.
The cherry on the top, is that you can go to the top! That’s right, unlike El Castillo, you can still climb Nohuch Mul.
And if you can handle the 120 (or so) vertigo-inducing steps, the views from the summit of Nohuch Mul are breathtaking. Of course, once you’ve made it to the top, you have to get back down again!
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