Climbing An Ancient Mayan Pyramid at Coba, Mexico

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.

'La Iglesia' (The Church), one of Coba's larger pyramids

‘La Iglesia’ (The Church), one of Coba’s larger pyramids

La Iglesia, with one of Coba's many stone stelaes under the thatched roof

La Iglesia, with one of Coba’s many stone stelaes under the thatched roof in the foreground

One of the tunnels under La Iglesia

One of the tunnels under La Iglesia

A carved head or skull on La Iglesia

A carved head or skull on La Iglesia

A glyph or pictogram on one of La Iglesia's many steps

A glyph or pictogram on one of La Iglesia’s many steps

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.

One of the ballcourts at Coba

One of the ballcourts at Coba

Detail of the stone ring, probably used for scoring

Detail of the stone ring, probably used for scoring

The second of the Coba ballcourts

The second of the Coba ballcourts

A carved tablet of Mayan script on the second ballcourt

A carved tablet of Mayan script on the second ballcourt

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.

IMG_4177The 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.

One of many stelae Coba, covered in carved images called glyphs

One of many stelae Coba, covered in carved images called glyphs

The glyph-covered stelae document all aspects of Mayan life

The glyph-covered stelae document all aspects of Mayan life

Sadly, most of them are badly eroded and difficult to decipher

Sadly, most of them are badly eroded and difficult to decipher

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.

One of Coba's smaller pyramids

One of Coba’s smaller pyramids

IMG_4174But without doubt, the most impressive structure at Coba is the great pyramid of Nohuch Mul. The name is Mayan for ‘great mound’ and it couldn’t be more appropriate.

Our first glimpse of the main Nohuch Mul pyramid

Our first glimpse of the main Nohuch Mul pyramid

Nohuch Mul

Nohuch Mul

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.

Can you spot Rich at the top?

Can you spot Rich at the top?

How about now?

How about now?

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.

The step climb up Nohuch Mul isn't for the faint hearted!

The step climb up Nohuch Mul isn’t for the faint hearted!

View across Coba from the top of Nohuch Mul

View across Coba from the top of Nohuch Mul

Structure at the summit of Nohuch Mul

Structure at the summit of Nohuch Mul

Ecstatic to be here!

Ecstatic to be here!

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!

The first step's a doozy!

The first step’s a doozy!

Rich gingerly making his way back down Nohuch Mul

Rich gingerly making his way back down Nohuch Mul

Made it!

Made it!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of  Stairs, Steps, Ladders  from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Cherry On Top from Michelle of The Daily Post and Jo’s Monday Walk, of course.

IMG_4199If you’re the sort of person that loves visiting unique and historical places on your travels, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

The Great Migration (cover)And if that’s not enough for you, the first Jaspa’s Journey adventure, The Great Migration, is now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Amazon and other online booksellers! The first two sequels are scheduled to be released by Speaking Volumes later this year.

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
This entry was posted in Adventure, History, Jaspa's Journey, Mexico, Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Climbing An Ancient Mayan Pyramid at Coba, Mexico

  1. Cee Neuner says:

    These are some great photos. Some of those steps I would love to see but not climb. 😀

  2. Anita says:

    It must’ve been exhilarating to reach the top! Vertigo-inducing indeed…

  3. Wow i’ve never heard of this place (and I’m Mexican), the view at the top is incredible! I’d love to climb it when it’s not too hot. But it’s probably always warm as it is the yucatan peninsula.

  4. restlessjo says:

    Definitely looks like warm work! Thanks for another interesting share Jaspa.

  5. Pingback: Cherry on top (Front) | What's (in) the picture?

  6. Pingback: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge-Stairs-Steps-Ladders – WoollyMuses

  7. ghostmmnc says:

    All those ruins with the structures and signs carved into the walls and steps is so interesting. I’d love to see them, but oh, those stairs! I’m not good with stairs of any kind these days. 🙂

  8. I enjoyed the tour of the pyramid. Thank you for posting.
    We visited in the late 70’s … was – way – before I started to photograph my vacations.
    You make me want to return. Nicely done …
    Isadora 😎

  9. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : City of Birmingham (24 hours in Brum) | restlessjo

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