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The enormity of a green, luscious jungle and the ruins of an ancient civilization are suddenly broken up by the imagination as you see a clear, open space and in the middle of it all a pyramid measuring 42 meters (138 feet) painted in bright red. Suddenly you are transported to a different time period centuries from now.
These temples in Coba in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula jungle were known to the ancient Mayans as “Houses of the Gods” where the deities would be called to Earth by the elite through rituals, hallucinogens, and self-inflicted pain.
The ancient Mayan community was attracted by the beauty of colors and decorated the buildings of the elite in a bright red that could be seen for miles away. The red represented blood. The jungles that are now toured by thousands of visitors were once clear spaces and open areas in the community.
Coba once spread over 80 square kilometers. Built between two lakes, the city is one of the most important archeological sites in the Yucatan Peninsula. The main pyramid—Nohoch Mul—stands 138 feet tall. On top it, a sea of green spreads over your vicinity as a certain peace spreads over you.
In the corners of its mysterious beauty, the jungle hides an estimated 6,000 structures that remain buried under centuries of thick jungle.
Right before climbing the amazing main pyramid in Coba, our tour guide from The Mayan Express summed up what archeologists have imagined Coba was when the ancient Mayans inhabited the land during the Classic Period (600-900 A.D.). This pre-education prepares us to enter the city with an open sense of understanding that enhances the experience of visiting Coba.
The ruins now stand as a testament of time, but the Mayan communities remain vibrant in the area. After descending the steep pyramid—a little exhausted and yet somehow rejuvenated—we head over to a Mayan ceramic shop to learn pottery making from Paco and Jorge. Paco and Jorge—two young children in this community—are learning techniques that have been lost for years and in that way preserve their culture. These works are then offered to visitors to help sustain these communities.
With this connection to the community, we are able to learn about the modern Mayan communities and their way of life, including the delicious traditional Mayan food.
The Mayas are surrounded by legends of mysticism. These legends and beliefs have made this culture a fascinating aspect to explore. One of the legends tells of the twin brothers that fought the gods of the underworld in a game and won. As part of our visit, we descend into a dark pit of a cenote to the symbolic underworld to watch a Mayan show performed by the local community. The vibrant show is also part of the community’s efforts to showcase their heritage.
This ancient civilization has left us with an enormous treasure in history and tradition. The Mayan Ruins stand waiting for visitors to uncover its beauty. Although the Peninsula is sprinkled with archeological sites, Coba is an impressive must while visiting the region.
View all the photos in our Coba Visit Gallery.
About the Author
Pamela Acosta is a Mexican travel photographer and writer for Yucatan Holidays. She is seeking to travel throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya & Cancun in an attempt to capture beauty and wonder in words & pixels. Follow Pamela on Twitter.