The Yucatan Peninsula was once a powerful Mayan center, home to some of Mexico’s largest and most impressive ancient cities. Whilst the renowned site of Chichen Itza attracts large crowds to marvel at the famous Kukulkan pyramid, the lesser known but equally impressive archaeological site of Coba, just one and a half hours’ drive from Playa del Carmen, provides a unique experience that shouldn’t be missed.
When visiting any ancient ruin, it’s best to arrive early to beat the crowds and the heat. The good thing about Coba is that it is set in dense jungle which provides shade when walking between the different structures. One thing I noticed about Coba was it’s size – it is a very spread out site, so we decided to hire bicycles to explore the grounds.
The fact that Coba is so spread out means that you will often be alone while exploring the different structures. Looking up at the pyramids, imagining the ancient ceremonies taking place in the heart of the jungle is a spine tingling experience. The fact that there aren’t hoards of other tourists around makes it even more special.
The highlight of a trip to Coba is of course, climbing the main pyramid (as long as your legs are up for the challenge). Going up is not as hard as it looks, and there is a rope running the length of the climb for added support.
The views at the top, however, are absolutely wonderful. Here you can imagine you’re a Mayan King gazing out across your Kingdom. The view of the dense green jungle stretching out to the horizon is just spectacular. It’s nice to be rewarded for the physical exertion of the climb!
Of course, what goes up must come down. The climb down is slightly more difficult, and a little hard on the knees, but still totally worth it. I always enjoy ancient sites where you can climb the structures, as it just adds more adventure to the day.
Another great thing about Coba is its proximity to some beautiful cenotes. As it was late in the afternoon by the time we arrived, we chose to visit the closest one, with the help of some directions from the locals. We made our way down a dirt road and through a local village, where a sign led us to the entrance of the cenotes.
We couldn’t believe our eyes as we made our way down the wooden steps which led into an underground cave filled with clear blue water.
The water was refreshingly cool as we took to it with our snorkels to explore the strange underground land. The Mayans of Coba certainly had access to plenty of water for swimming and drinking!
It was a much needed swim after the exploring the ruins, and we let the cool clear water refresh our minds and bodies before heading back to Playa del Carmen.
There was just one more stop to make, however; the lagoon near the entrance of the ruins. We arrived just before sunset; the calm surface reflecting the pinkish sky as some friendly dogs came to greet us and say ‘hola’.
Although we were intrigued by the signs for crocodiles, we were quite relieved we didn’t get a visit from them!
It was a fantastic day, cycling through the jungle, exploring an ancient city, climbing a pyramid and swimming in a natural pool. I’d recommend it to anyone who would like to experience nature, history, culture and adventure all in the one location, just a short drive from the heart of Playa del Carmen.