Coba, ruled by women – highest pyramid at the Riviera Maya

Coba is a Maya site on the Yucatán Peninsula in México, and is just 40 kilometers from Tulum at the Riviera Maya.
This ancient Maya enter is different from the two other well known Maya cities, Chichén Itzá and Tulum, especially through its vast size and the fact, that you can find the highest Maya pyramid of the northern Yucatán peninsula here.

Die große Pyramide in Coba
Nohoch Mul – the highest pyramid in the northern area

The fact that the ruins of Coba are surrounded by dense jungle and that it is still allowed to climb the big main pyramid makes it a worthwhile destination for the tourists of the Riviera Maya.

Looking down Nohoch Mul
Looking down Nohoch Mul

You can visit Coba with a rental car or simply by means of a guided tour. In all tourist resorts along the Riviera Maya  such Coba Tours are offered.

The center of Coba is located between two big lakes. Because of the large extent of the ruined city, it is advisable to wear good shoes. This is recommended if you intend to climb, especially on the main pyramid.

Power of nature, as seen at the ball court in Cobá
Power of nature, as seen at the ball court in Cobá

However, you can hire a local bicycle taxi at the entrance to the Maya ruins and get a comfortable ride over the long distances.

Coba is unique to the northern Yucatán because of the architectural style used there. It is more reminiscent of pre-classical buildings of the Petén area and shows no resemblance to that found in the classical cities of Yucatán Puuc style.

The tall house - backside
The tall house – backside

It is an amazing experience, if you have climbed the great pyramid. With a height of 42 meter, it rises far above the treetops of the surrounding jungle and allows for a wide panoramic view. It is impressive to see other distant pyramids of Coba uplifting from the  fresh green of the rain forest. The small temple building on top of the pyramid still exists.

bicycle taxis waiting for customers
bicycle taxis waiting for customers

Numerous stelae and inscriptions were found in Coba. Unfortunately, the limestone found in the surroundings of the town, that was used to create these stealae, is of such a poor quality that these inscriptions are barely recognizable. Most of them cannot be deciphered today, because of natural erosion.

A stela in the woods
A stela in the woods

The settlement of Coba may already began 200 BC. This hypothesis is supported by ceramic finds, which were detected during excavations.

The ball court
The ball court

From the decipherable parts of the inscriptions,  many Maya researchers assume, that Coba was ruled by women mainly.

Around 1500 AD the city was abandoned. Coba was not longer populated at the time the the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Yucatán.

A Tillandsia in Cobá
A Tillandsia in Cobá

Today about 1500 people live in the small village on the outskirts of the Maya city of Coba. During it’s  heydays the area of Coba was probably inhabited by more than 50.000 people. It is assumed, the small site and famous site of Tulum beside the Caribbean sea was the harbour of Coba and controlled by them.

Due to the close proximity, it is advisable to start the tour to Coba from Tulum. In Tulum itself and at the beach front, there are numerous hotels or hostels. It is also possible at the same time to visit the ruins of Tulum.

If you want to learn more about Tulum, you can look at this article about this city at the Riviera Maya.

I recommend my article “Getting Around – Yucatán – Riviera Maya” to anyone planning a complete tour of the Yucatán and the Maya World. In this post I described several tours through the world of the Maya on the Yucatán peninsula and along the Riviera Maya.

Those looking for more information about Coba, can find it at Wikipedia. However, only the Spanish version of the article is correct in detail.

Therefore, I recommend at this point anyone deeply concerned with the culture of the Maya, the book “Maya – Divine Kings of the Rain Forest” written by “Nicolai Grube”.

>>> Read more about the Maya sites at the Riviera Maya

Christian Schoen

Christian Schoen is a globetrotter, travel writer and author of the very successful travel guide "The Maya Sites - Hidden Treasures of the Rain Forest". He loves to visit temples, pyramids and any kind of ancient ruins. The SLR in his hand, he can be met on adventurous hiking tours in tropical jungle landscapes - sometimes - or just somewhere in his neighbourhood, the Black Forest Mountains in Germany.

5 Responses

  1. agnesstramp says:

    How come I’ve never heard of this place before? Extremely interesting and so unique. How long did it take you to fully explore it?

    • admin says:

      I did spend a full day and found it was not sufficient. Two days are a good time for all of these sites, because mostly there are several building in huge areas.

  2. Wow, this seems like quite the workout to get to the top! I will absolutely put it on my list for when I get to the Riviera Maya someday:-)

  3. As a woman, I have to say that this makes me smile. We are planning a summer trip to the Yucatán and we are definitely going to have to swing down here so I can show the husband and the kids all about it and of course makes jokes about how I rule the family!

    • Crischo says:

      I see what you mean by ruling the family ;-)

      Just to give you some arguments:
      While I was sitting on the top of the pyramid, a group of old-aged tourists climbed up there, slowly indeed.

      After they reached the top, I heard man said to a woman: “If your husband would really love you, he would have carried you up the stairs.” This made them all laugh, including me…

      Have fun there in Yucatán!


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