Exploring the Mayan Ruins of Cobá in Mexico

Cobá is an ancient Mayan city 44 km northwest of Tulum, and surprisingly bigger than the famous Chichen Itza.

Cobá is located in Mexico‘s Yucatan Peninsula, near TulumValladolid and Playa del Carmen, making it the perfect place to explore on a day trip from any of these places.

From Tulum there’s one bus to Cobá at ADOS (9:30 – 70MX$) it takes around 1 hour and is direct.

When we arrived this place took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting such an amazing and beautiful place, and for the fist time paths with shadows. Walking around was very pleasant. The place wasn’t crowded at all and we had most of the ruin set just for us. The emblematic Nohoch-Mul Pyramid with it’s 42-meters was the only place with some people, but still nothing extraordinary.

We paid 65 pesos admission fee and then we began exploring the ruins by foot, but that is up to you, you can choose to walk, hire a bici-taxi, or rent a bicycle. I just love to walk and this place is just amazing for that, imagine quiet paths through the peaceful, relaxed and natural environment of a surrounding jungle, and you are there. When you are walking you can absorve more details, I could see mounds of rocks covered in vegetation, which were unexcavated ruins.

Only a small portion of Coba has been excavated and many of the structures remain hidden in the jungle.

If time is short I recommend renting a bike or bike taxi, as it is a much faster way to get around and see all of the structures, (regular bicycles- 45 pesos; two-person bicycle taxis – 190 pesos).

The Nohoch-Mul Pyramid is the tallest in Yucatan and unlike many other ruins in the peninsula this one can be climbed 😊 and it really deserves the effort, the views are spectacular and breath taking. From the top, you can see the surrounding jungle landscape and lush green tree-tops.  I could see the village of Coba and both lagoons, its importante to take a minute here to admire the incredible views of the natural beauty around you.

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There’s a thick rope in the middle of the stairs for safety, but climbing down the pyramid, it’s more difficult than going up, so be careful. The stone steps were slippery from erosion and from people climbing them over the years.

There’s only one first class bus back from Cobá at 3:10, and 2 second class after that.

You can also rent a bicycle at the entrance (~50MX$) to visit the 3 nearby underground cenotes not further that 8km. Cenotes are underground sinkholes filled with fresh water, found all over the Yucatan. The closest ones are the Choo-Ha with crystal blue water and stalagmites hanging from the ceiling. The Tamcach-Ha is an underground cavern and the las one is called Multun-Ha. The entrance fee for each cenote is 55 pesos ($3 USD).

This cenotes  are off the beaten tourist path and are a perfect place to visit for a refreshing swim in a magical and serene place after exploring the  ruins.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Chichén Itzá Maya Ruins

We woke up at 7am, and we took the fist bus from Valladolid to Chichén Itzá (1h-  $31), I can’t recommend you this enough, It’s really essencial to arrive as earlier as possible. Chichén Itzá is one of Mexico’s most visited attraction, I don’t need to say much more than that..  do I 🙂

Chichén Itzá is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, so independently of what kind of traveller you are;  solo travel, backpacker, all-inclusive, etc. you will end up there like everybody else.. Chichén Itzá is an icon and its central location in the peninsula of Yucatan, makes it incredible accessible. And don’t think that because is the largest archeological site in Yucatan you can’t fell the heaps of people, believe me..  this place gets seriously overcrowded, and you can feel it 🙂

Although I generally tend to prefer exploring lesser-visited places that are situated a little further off the main tourist path, Chichen Itza still makes a perfect day or half-day trip. I can’s say they are my favourite but the still are magnificent and definitely worthy of a visit.

Despite the fact that all inclusive trips to Chichén Itzá are very popular and abundant, It couldn’t  be easier to visit it on your own, and I do recommend it, first because you can walk and stop as many time you want and where you want, its cheaper, and you can get there before the crowds.

When you arrive early you beat the crazily large crowds, tour buses and the hundreds of vendors that are selling the same thing along every pathway. Waking up early will pay off, and you will have almost the entire ruins to yourselves.

If you end up visiting Chichén Itzá, I’m sure you will not be let down, they make a fantastic introduction into Maya culture and beliefs! It’s always better to have a guidebook with you so you know what you are looking at 🙂

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha