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
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.
Cobá ruins are still mostly undiscovered. They are in the middle of the dense jungle and it is believed that beneath all those trees and vegetation there is still so much to discover and explore.
It is somewhat touristic, as these ruins have the tallest piramid of Yucatán, but not as crowded as other ruins i visited. It is very hot, so you'd better take some water with you and wear light fresh clothes made of natural fabrics such as cotton and linnen. And take confortables shoes as the main pyramid is 2km from park entrance, you will do at least 4 km plus going up and down pyramid (128 steps, times 2!!).
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.
After the explanations about those ruins is time to visit the main pyramid. The guide didn't go with us, he explained what we were about to find and waited for us at the park entrance. The main pyramid is about 2 km from the ruins we just visited, and there are 3 ways of getting there:
> renting a single bycicle
> renting a bycicle with a man to pedal it, ...
We opted for the single bycicle. It is not expensive but i don't remember how much i paid for it. There are some arrows that show the way, so there will be no problem finding the pyramid, as there are also other people walking and riding their bycicles. Most people were walking on the day we visited the ruins.
On the way to the main pyramid, there is a small pyramid.
We made a stop there, both to rest and drink water (it was so hot!!) and to take photos. It is a nice place to stop since most people walk straight ahead for the big pyramid and that way you can enjoy your time there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Coba is one of the largest Mayan sites and is spread out over a great distance. Walking Coba can be an all day event as the distance between the structures can stretch into a 20 minute walk. That said its a wonderful walk through the park as you are literally in the middle of the jungle. Many people though choose to rent a bike, which cost about $8 U.S. for the day and can be rented at the entrance of the site. Biking through the park is a lot of fun and definitely a unique experience. If your planning on spending a whole day at the park I would recommend renting a bike which will enable you to see the whole site without having to break a sweat. Now if you truly are of the lazy sort you can also arrange to be carted around by a porter. This is expensive but it looked like it was fun!
The different structure within Coba are basic yet breathtaking. They don't have the magnificence of Chichen Itza or Palenque but they are deceptively big. Because they are hidden in the jungle you don't actually see the structure until you literally walk into them. Its part of the charm of visiting Coba, the structures pop out at you without warning and thats where the breathtaking awe comes into play. The people of Coba certainly didn't have the artistic flair that their Mayan counterparts in Chichen Itza had but they must of had a lot of manpower, or mayan power, because the main pyramid is far larger than Chichen Itza's El Castillo. Plan on more than just an afternoon to appreciate Coba!
We had to drive about 3 hours (and a bit more cause we had to get the guide). Most of the drive goes straight through jungle. The have made a straight road to Coba. So with the rain we had sometimes there wasnt anything to see.... but then sometimes... there was... a house! So keep your eyes open and your camera ready!