Explore The Mayan Ruins Of Cobá
The large ruined city of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, deep in the Yucatan jungle. It can be reached within 2 hours from Playa del Carmen and 1 hour from Tulum.
The city was once the most powerful in the region, controlling farmland, trading routes, and important water sources.
Cobá is estimated to have had some 50,000 inhabitants at its peak of civilization, and the built up area extends over some 80 km². The site dates back to 500 to 900 AD and was afterwards abandoned for unknown reasons.
What differentiates Cobá from other famous Mayan sites such as Chichén Itzá and the Ruins of Tulum, is that the majority still lies unexcavated.
Archaeologists have estimated that 6,000 structures exist, but only sixteen settlements are for public viewing.
Also, Cobá has one of the few Mayan pyramids that you are still allowed to climb (this is no longer possible in Chichén Itzá).
After having visited other famous sites in Yucatan, I can say that I enjoyed exploring Cobá the most.
The site doesn’t have as nearly as much visitors as Chichén Itzá and Tulum which makes the visit very pleasant.
If you go early enough, you might even be lucky to have the site almost to yourself.
The best starting point to explore Cobá is from Tulum (it is closer than from Playa del Carmen).
The ADO bus leaves daily at 10:11 am from the town center and returns in the afternoon at around 3:10 pm, giving you enough time to discover the site. The bus ticket costs MEX 76/ USD 3.2 per way and the journey takes less than an hour.
Buses and roads are in excellent condition. From the bus stop it is literally only a few meters to the entrance and ticket counter.
The site is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm. Entrance fee for non-Mexican citizens is MEX 65/ USD 3. If you bring your GoPro or other filming devices you will need to pay a surcharge for the permission to shoot videos.
You have several options of getting around the site. The most economical way is to explore the area by foot, but be aware that Cobá is widely spread and you need at least 3 hours to see the main sites.
There is also an option of getting chauffeured tricycles for MEX 125/ USD 6 for 1.20 hours or MEX 200/ USD 9.80 for 2 hours.
My recommendation is to rent a bicycle right after passing the entrance. It only costs you MEX 50/ USD 2.40 a day. Navigating around is quick and easy as there are bicycle route signs along the way.
The site is a maze of jungle roads and walkways. Some lead through the main areas of the site, others shoot off the side and into the jungle.
The highlight of the 16 sites is the large pyramid called Ixmoja which is part of the Nohoch Mul group of buildings. It used to be the heat of Cobá.
The pyramid is 42 meters tall and you can climb the 120 steps up to the top (watch out – the stone steps are steeper than they look!). There is a thick rope in the middle for safety.
From the top you have stunning panoramic views over the lush jungle landscape stretching out in all directions. A perfect photo spot!
Few Insider Tips…Avoid visiting Cobá on a Sunday or on public holidays as Mexicans have fee admission on those days and it can get more crowded. Wear comfortable shoes. Even if you get around by bicycle or tricycles you will need good footwear in order to climb the pyramid. I went there with flip flops and regretted it because the steps are very slippery. Buy a small information map at the entrance. It only costs MEX 10/ USD 0.50. There are hardly any signs or explanations at the 16 sites so if you want to understand a bit of the history you will need a map. Use the toilets at the entrance before you enter the site. There are no wahsroom facilities within the Cobá area. Bear in mind that you will need at least 2 hours to explore the main attractions. If you come with a bus or a group, head to the Ixmoja pyramid first once you enter the site or do it at the end of the visit. If you go with the flow and follow the route, you will have all the people climbing the pyramid at the same time. Use mosquito repellents! As you are in the middle of the jungle it goes without saying that mosquito’s and other insects are everywhere. You are allowed to bring your own drinks and water into the site, however there are also 3 restaurants located in front of the entrance which serve good quality local food at very decent prices (not overpriced like at other tourist attractions).