About 7 KM from the archeological area... there are two well-known 'cenotes'. The one I visited was called Tamcach - Ha, awesome!! Blue clear water inside a huge cave... and if that's not enough, when you are walking down the stairs, you can jump to the water from two different points... one is 6 meters high, and the other one is 10 !!!
The area is divided by three different sub-areas... in the front part you'll see a pyramid and some smaller buildings. Then you can get deeper into the jungle, about 1 KM... you're gonna get to some small buildings (Conjunto Pinturas). If you keep walking the same way, you'll get to some sort of sculptures (Grupo Macanxoc). But if you turn to the left (you'll see the sign)... you'll get to where the big pyramids are.
Besides some smaller buildings, there are two big pyramids. You can climb to the biggest one... a very tough duty, but what you see from up there is worth all you have in mind! You're gonna be 20 or 25 meters above the top of the trees, with the whole jungle at your feet.
A wonderful location, with the expansive lake and shorelines ringed by forest with the exception of the stretch between the ruins and the town (running as far as the Villa Arquelogica hotel). It calls for time to hang out at the shore and do little (sadly, the presence of crocs prevents swimmig in the lake) - watching local fishermen, wading birds, the occasional turtle.
With the tallest pyramid of the Mayan ruins in Yucatan and probably the biggest city, the fact that Coba remains virtually unexcavated makes this a quite extraordinary destination. Jungle paths link the structures that have been, to date, excavated. In between, foliage covered mounds indicate there's still a lot more to come! And wander off the main linking paths and you feel like an intrepid explorer who's discovering the site for the first time.
There are 2 ball courts that have been excavated at Coba, this is the one that is closest to the entrance. The ball court has two stone walls with a field in between, the two walls have hoops through which it is believed that the Mayans used their hips and elbows to get a ball through the hoop.
It is believed that human sacrifice was the eventual outcome of the game but theories differ on whether it was the winners, an honor to be sacrificed, or the losers, paying with their lives.
Nohoch Mul is the main pyramid at Coba, at 126 feet the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula. You can climb the 120 steps to the top to have a look over the vast surrounding area.
From the top you can see the two lakes on the outskirts of the site and the observatory that you pass on the way to the pyramid.
Although it's harder physically to climb up, going down seems much more dangerous for slipping and falling. Wear good shoes or sandals, there is a rope going down the center you can hang onto
OK, so we were crazy and forgot our swim suits. So we got down to our underwear and swam in the Cho Ha cenote. The water was only slightly cool, which was refreshing since the cenote itself is more of a cave and has a rather warm air temperature.
This cenote is only 5 - 8 minutes past Coba. Keep driving past the ruins of Coba, through a tiny village, and on your left about 8 minutes or so down the road will be the Cho Ha cenote. It was only recently discovered, and the families in the village pooled their money together to make this cenote open for public use. So support it and tip the local Mayan guides!
If you are going to make the drive to Coba, don't skip this cenote. The water isn't very deep, it is safe, and how many people have swam in an underground cave in the jungle? It is a cool thing to experience and say you have done.
The spelling is probably wrong, but the Cho Ha cenote was as much fun, if not more, than the actual ruins of Coba. This cenote is on the same road leading to Coba, only keep driving past the ruins, through a tiny village, and this cenote will be on your left hand side, maybe 5 - 8" past Coba. You can't miss it.
They locals recently discovered this cenote, and only made it into a public cenote with the last year (2003). You enter through stairs a tiny hold in the ground and end up in a big cave.
The water in the cenote is crystal clear and only slightly cold. It isn't very deep, but it is kind of scary and exciting to be swimming in an underground cave.
Although the spelling is probably wrong, this cenote was fun. You can get to the bottom by stairs or rappeling. The locals have rope and such set up for rappeling into the cenote. I think we paid $3 for the both of us to rappel.
This cenote is on the same road taken to get to Coba, only you continue driving past Coba through a tiny village. You will see the cenote on your right, about 5" past Coba.
Although this is not a cenote you can swim in, it is worth a look. There are animals that have made their homes in the bottom of the cenote, including two tiny deer. We enjoyed feeding the deer and a spider monkey.
This is the large temple in Coba. It is quite a walk from the main entrance, perhaps a mile or 2 over a bumpy path. It is worth seeing, but I recommend renting either a bike (around $4 - 7) per person or even better, a local will drive you and another person around on a large tricycle like contraption. It has a padded seat, which I wish we had done. Even on bike, our rears were sore from the bumpy roads. The local will drive you for around $7 - 10 for the day; and don't forget to tip.
Since the temple is so far away, there is a little stand located near it with water, drinks, and snacks. The temple is quite a climb, so wear tennis shoes. Women in little flip flops trying to climb the temple were really struggling, and since you are hours from the nearest hospital don't take a chance on falling.
There used to a game played by Mayan people called Pelota. This game was played in a proper field that is still visible in several Mayan ruins. Cobá has a small (compared to the one in Chichén Itzá) pelota "courtyard". This place consists of a kind of corridor between walls with some Gods designed on walls and a kind of hole, ... louzy description, please see the photo!
Actually there are some versions as to the rules of this game, each believing to be correct one. The version i was told it's about men playing this pelota game with a stone ball weighting about 4 kg. Apparently they played the game with the ball on their hips, which seems strange to me since ball is hard and heavy, but that's what i was told.
One of the game versions says the winner (a man not a team) died at the end of the game. This was his prize: a sacrifice for the Gods, ...which was a great honour back then.
I got used to see ruins look like stone coloured, ... and i guess i imagined they have always been that way. I was so wrong!! These buildings were colourfully painted with pigments that Mayan people extracted from nature, such as roots.
If you look closely at some stones you can still see traces of colours, such as the one on photo, where you can still distinguish some reddish and blueish spots.
Also, if you look closer at some stones you can see shelves and traces from marine life. Apparently some million years ago this place was covered by sea.
This coloured stones can be found on right side of La Iglesia pyramid, on a kind of square where formerly were built several houses. Probably these houses hosted some "government" and religious services. Actually some vestiges of these houses are quiet good, but as mentioned earlier Cobá is not the best well kept Mayan ruins.
This pyramid called La Iglesia (The Church) is an important building in this Nohoc Mul Group we were visiting.
The big pyramid also belongs to this group, the only one we visited in Cobá.
La Iglesia is a pyramid shapped building, 24m high. There is a staircase leading to the temple (top of pyramid), which is in poor condition.
This pyramid wasn't built all at once. Frequently these pyramids start as small buildings that grow accordingly to population needs. And sometimes they grow with different styles, since there were several ephocs in Mayan civilization each ruled by different caracteristics.
Just in front of the pyramid you can see a curious kind of shelter that hosted some goddess.
In the side of the pyramid there's an entrance to a small room that is open to visits. Actually it is very small and somewhat dark, so there's not much you can see. This room had religious activity.
The big pyramid is huge (42 m high) and slope but easy to climb. At least on the way up, since i have vertigo and the way down was not so easy for me. But i sat once a while and all was ok. I got down without any problem. There is a rope all the way so that some people can grab it and feel safer, although most people weren't using it, not even me with my vertigo.
The view from up there is amazing, ... you can see for km and km, since the ground is plain and all you can see is green around you. Ocasionally you can notice some other buildings emerging from the green. Once you finish climbing the steps there is nothing else to see but the awesome view. The pyramid has nothing else on top and the access to the other side is restricted.
Enjoy the view, take beautiful photos and drink some water, it is really hot up there, ... and rest, since there are 128 steps down and 2 km waiting for you, under hot weather.
There are some ruins by the park entrance, where the guide took some time to explain what we were about to see.
Cobá ruins are very extensive (70 square km) and buildings are mainly grouped around the lakes - 2 big lakes and 3 smaller. This water abundance brought many people to Cobá and it is believed that almost 40.000 people lived in this city. Cobá means Town of Wind-Ruffled Water and was inhabited until the 17th century (Spanish conquests).
Some say that there are around 10.000 buildings in this mayan city, still so much to be discovered underneath green vegetation. Cobá used to be a major city, with religious and commercial activities and these ruins where first time discovered by and Austrian researcher in 1891.