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Coba is perhaps the most archaeologically significant Maya site after Chichen Itza, although it doesn’t enjoy the same international fame. Its location in Quintana Roo makes it an excellent idea for a day trip during your stay!

A mysterious name

Even today, despite linguists’ best efforts, the name Coba remains a mystery. Some say it means “murky water,” while others suggest “crossing point” or “wind-blown water.” However, it is certainly a reference to Lake Macanxoc and Lake Coba, located close to the city.

As the area was poorly irrigated but nevertheless needed to grow corn, this plentiful water played an important role in Coba’s power, making it one of the major Maya centers of the Classical era, controlling several smaller cities in the region.

The decline and brief Renaissance of a great city

Coba’s decline was a consequence of the rise of its rival Chichen Itza beginning in the 7th century and the long war between the two cities. This decline preceded the main collapse of all the Maya cities in the region.

The city was revived some years later, new temples were built, and the old ones were maintained until at least the 14th century, while Chichen Itza had long been abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived. Coba’s religious importance no doubt contributed to its brief Renaissance.

An exceptional state of conservation

Coba’s isolation in the heart of the forest played a major role in its conservation. It was rarely visited before the end of the 20th century, while its eternal rival, Chichen Itza, attracted crowds. Now accessible to tourists, although only a small part of the 30-square-mile site has been explored, it provides a striking illustration of the evolution of Maya culture.

Several construction periods can be distinguished in the city’s expansion, with each enlargement taking into account previous buildings. The overall effect is one of evolutionary harmony, making the visit extremely enjoyable. The various groups of structures allow you to step back in time.

A breathtaking view

Nohuch Mul, or “the great mound,” is the highlight of this visit. It’s the largest pyramid in the Yucatan, and one of the few in good enough condition for visitors to climb to the top. It offers breathtakingly beautiful views of the forest.

Located about 30 minutes by car from Tulum, Coba is clearly a must-see on any trip to the Yucatan.