Cobá: Find the Yucatan’s Tallest Maya Structure

You have probably heard that the Maya Calendar is coming to an end this year, December 21, 2012 to be exact. When I had the opportunity to visit the Yucatan Peninsula recently, I was beyond ecstatic because if this end-of-the-world stuff is true then I figured I’d better take the chance and see the region while I can. Plus, seeing the Cobá Maya ruins and climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid – the Yucatan’s tallest Maya structure – have been on my dream travel list for a long time.

Seeing this beautiful and historic destination was everything I hoped for, but before arriving what I was really curious about was the vibe throughout the region. Were natives spending their day in prayer as the final days get closer? Were people going to warn me of what was to come?  Were tourists going to depart wondering about the fate of our world?

It ends up that fear wasn’t part of the equation at all. The local Mexicans I spoke with offered a similar unison insight: The world isn’t coming to an end. It’s a new beginning.

My response was…that’s a relief.

Thus, I was able to enjoy the magic that is knows as Cobá and learn, explore and look around in wonder at the region that offered a glimpse at the way the Mayas lived, worshiped and played.

Jorge was our guide. If you stay at Viceroy Riviera Maya there is is good chance you will meet him, as he is a regular guide for resort guests on the Cobá excursion. You will be lucky, too, because he is a wealth of information.

A regular tour includes transportation, professional bilingual guide (like Jorge), entrance fees, soft drinks and snacks on board and a three course lunch. As of fall 2012 the cost is $628 USD price per two people plus 11% tax. If you’d prefer luxury transportation the cost bumps up to $875 USD for two people plus 11% tax.

Ancient. Beautiful. Cultural. Memorable. That’s how I describe my day in Cobá. Here are some of the reasons why…

Templo de la Iglesia, ‘Temple of the Church’. As the first of several stops, this temple is just to the right of the entrance. It’s not uncommon for visitors to leave offerings under the thatched roof alter in the front. Construction began in the Early Classic Period of 300-600 A.D.

Oval Temple, Xaibe meaning Crossroads Temple. This structure was used as a lookout tower.

Arches. You know how you can tell an artist’s work by a certain detail or style? For the Maya that feature was the arch. The photo below is one example of the many we saw throughout the day.

Maya games. Pok ta Pak was apparently a pretty popular game back in the day. There was some talk about it being related to worship and a lot of talk about the loser being sacrificed or beheaded. There were some stone skulls in the area of this court which made the topic valid.

Skull. See it?

Jaguar gods. The Mayas were known to have many jaguar gods which likely explains this decapitated jaguar engraving located on the ground near another Pok ta Pok court. You have to look closely to decipher the shape.

Bike ride. We chose from an assortment of rusty bikes that came in a variety of colors and styles. Riding along the tree covered path was my favorite part of the experience. We did this about half-way through the tour. Along the way we stopped at a various structures.

Bike rentals. The bikes do cost to rent (see below), but even if you don’t ride a bike you can walk or hire a pedicab.

Nohoch Mul. Here it is! Was I happy to see this view. Yes, this is the Yucutan’s tallest Maya structure. Isn’t it beautiful? This was our last stop on the bike ride before turning back. The temple stands at 126 feet tall, so the hike to the top means one step of 120 at a time. When you go, wear sturdy shoes. The steps are steep and uneven. My group declared this the original Stair Stepper.

Look for the rope. There is a rope running down the middle that does offer a bit of security to those afraid of heights.

The view. The view at the top is worth the trek. Don’t forget your camera, sunscreen and a bottle of water. Most of all enjoy!

Souvenirs. As with any attraction, there are several shops near the parking lot tourists can browse before or after exploring the historic property.

Thank you Viceroy for treating me to Cobá and making my dream of climbing the Yucatan’s tallest Maya structure come true!

2 Responses to “Cobá: Find the Yucatan’s Tallest Maya Structure”

  1. 1

    This is one of my must see Mexican spots. Hopefully, the world wont end before I can get there! Did you swim in any cenotes?

  2. 2

    I love Mayan structures, such an interesting contrast to old European buildings. I keep telling myself that I will explore the Yucatan someday, I need to get a fire under my butt, your write up makes me want to go even more

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