In the Yucatan peninsula, the presence of Mayan heritage can be felt everywhere. From food, traditions, clothing to, of course, ruins. Actually, there are so many archaeological sites in the area, that it’s even hard to choose which place to visit. After spending time at a few most popular locations, I would like to share our impressions of Coba. Thus, in this article, I’ll overview the main things such as how to get there, what to see, what’s the entry fee, and so on. Eventually, I’ll answer the question of whether Coba is the best Mayan ruin to visit in the Yucatan peninsula.
On our trip through the Yucatan cape, we have visited three main Mayan sites, namely Tulum ruins, Coba, and the famous Chichen Itza. Ek Balam was also on our list until we’ve read that the admission fee was nearly doubled (from 250 ((12.5$/10.5€)) to 413 ((20.6$/17€)) pesos) not too long ago. While paying a high fee for the wonder of the world makes sense, Ek Balam’s entry fee seems excessive (especially if you’re a budget traveller like myself). Hence, Coba being much less visited and talked about Mayan site charges a modest 80 pesos admission fee (4$/3.35€). Therefore, it attracted our attention.
The Mayan city of Coba is located between the coastal town of Tulum and the colonial city of Valladolid. The whole Mayan town is believed to have consisted of around 6500 structures. However, just a bunch of them are excavated. Surprisingly, that’s the case with most of such sites. The Mayan city of Coba was the main megapolis of the time with around 100 thousand people living there. It was the biggest and, arguably, one of the most important Mayan cities between 600-900 A.D. Despite its rather remote location in the jungle, there were dozens of roads leading to it from other towns. Clearly, people flocked to visit it at the time, so why shouldn’t you know?
How to get there
Car or taxi
There are three options for getting to Coba: car, taxi and public transport. Using your own mode of transportation is definitely the easiest since you can plan your own time and the road leading to the site is in very good condition. In addition, there is a guarded parking lot right by the entrance to the Mayan site. At the time of the visit (November 2020), it was 60 pesos (3$/2.5€) for the whole day. If you don’t have a rental car in Mexico, don’t worry, there are other options. One of them is hiring a taxi to get you there. An official rate from Tulum is 500 pesos one way (25$/21€), however, you can definitely get it down to 400 (20$/17€). Thus, if you split the fare between a few travellers it doesn’t sound bad at all. Even if you’re travelling solo you can look for other travellers who are willing to go that way and make the full car.
However, if you can’t find other people to share the cab with (which was the case for us), you can catch a bus or a collectivo. Due to the pandemic, the departures from Tulum were limited. There was only one bus going from ADO terminal in Tulum to Coba at 9:30 AM. The fare was 55 pesos (2.7$/2.3€), however, there is NO RETURN BUS at all. Whereas, collectivos (carpool vans) have also limited their departures and there is no schedule whatsoever. The current (November 2020) departure spot was at the bus stop on Highway 109, right after the Super Aki supermarket in Tulum. Just wait there until minivans pull up and look for people going to Coba. I know it might sound dodgy, but it’s an absolutely legit way of getting around. The fare should be around 130 pesos per person (6.5$/5.4€). Despite these difficulties of getting there, Coba might still be the best Mayan ruin to visit.
Important things to know before the visit
Like most of the archaeological sites, Coba is a big outdoor territory that will take you at least 2 hours to explore. Therefore, in order to enjoy it fully, I’d recommend arriving there right at the opening, which is at 9 AM. This way, not only you will have a peaceful time as not many other tourists will be there. But also will not have to suffer the midday heat.
The area is easily walkable
Even though the pyramids and other structures are scattered widely in this park, the area is definitely walkable. Many tourists are convinced by vendors that they need to hire a tricycle or rent bikes since the distances are long. Yet, we found the wide paths surrounded by flora very pleasant and easy to walk. In addition, you can take your time at each object to take pictures or just soak in the views.
Guide service is not necessary
While all Mayan ruins are full of history and a guide might enhance your experience, we found that at this particular location it’s not necessary. Firstly, there are information boards at each of the buildings explaining the history of a particular location in Spanish, Mayan and English. Secondly, being alone with certain monuments has something special. I believe it helps you immerse yourself in the moment and just appreciate how majestic these things are.
Pack your swimsuit
Just 5km away from Coba ruins, there are 3 cenotes (Choo-Ha, Tankach-Ha, Multum-Ha), which is a perfect way to refresh after a day of exploration. They are all close to each other, however, you need either a car or a bike to get there. We got a package deal for 140 pesos (7$/6€) which includes an entrance fee to Choo-Ha cenote and a bike for the day. You can buy it right by the entrance to the parking lot of Coba ruins.
What to pack for visiting Coba ruins
When you plan your visit to Coba there are a few things that you should bring along:
- Mosquito repellent;
- Comfortable shoes or sandals (avoid slippers);
- Plenty of water, since you can buy some only at the entrance;
- Swimsuit & towel.
Coba was one of the biggest and most important cities in Mayan history. The heritage that remains in this archaeological site is impressive, as you can see structures and pyramids of various sizes. Since Chichen Itza became so popular, Coba ruins were in a way slightly forgotten. Yet, for a traveller like myself, that’s perfect as for a small admission fee you get to see an amazing place without being smashed by groups of tourists. Therefore, taking all things into a consideration I believe that Coba is the best Mayan ruin to visit in the Yucatan peninsula.
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