Central America, Mexico, Travel

Exploring Coba and Chichen Itza

From Tulum we drove in land to Vallodolid where we were staying for just one night to allow us to get up early to visit Chichen Itza. On the way we stopped at Coba, another Mayan archaeological site, famous for it’s huge pyramid, Ixmoja in the Nohoch Mul complex, one of the highest Maya pyramids found. Interestingly, Ixmoja is one of the few ruins which is still open to the public to climb, so we were excited to see that.

We also stopped briefly at another little Cenote, but like the others, it was a bit of a mossie fest an was also quite busy.

When we arrived at the Coba site, we hired a bike each and began exploring. One of my favourite bits was seeing the Maya ball courts. It’s said that the games could last up to 2 weeks(!) and that the losers of the game were often sacrificed!

Maya Ball Court

We then headed over to Ixmoja, which was very impressive. Unfortunately, almost as soon as we reached the top of the pyramid a lightning storm started and the heavens opened in a torrential downpour. We tried to shelter by putting our backs against the temple, but it was no use, we got absolutely soaked. We stayed at the top whilst some of the worst rains passed, we didn’t quite fancy the steep downward slippery steps in the heavy rain. In a small lull, we raced down as quickly as we could and sheltered under the trees instead.

View from the top of the big pyramid at the Coba Site
Climbing down in the rain was tricky

After sheltering for a while, the rain showed no indication that it would ease up, so we left the bikes and hitched a ride back to the main area of Coba before deciding to try and dry off in a coffee shop.

Soaked through!

The rain still wasn’t letting up and we didn’t fancy more wet walking, so we continued onward to Valladolid and checked into our accommodation for the night. From the little that we saw of Valladolid, it seemed like a really quaint town. A beautiful central square was surrounded by typically modern Mexican buildings, the people were friendly and the food was outrageous…

We ate that night at a little restaurant with the freshest guacamole – they made it at your table!

The following day we woke up bright and early, eager to get to Chichen Itza as it opened. I had read that the main tour buses and coaches that come from the Cancun and Playa del Carmen area usually rock up to the site at around 11am. So the plan was to be in and out before then.

We got to the gate at about 8:30am and just walked straight in. We headed straight to El Castillo, the main pyramid temple at Chichen Itza. It was so impressive, and not that busy, I was very happy! We even beat some of the souvenir vendors, as most of them were still setting up when we arrived!

Happy Libby!

We spent a good few hours exploring the site, it really is fascinating. I had done a bit of reading about the Maya civilisation before the trip too, so it was great to see some of the things I had been reading about. Like the Mayan script, which has only recently been deciphered, the observatory which influenced the Maya calendar, the great ball court – one of the biggest found, the skull platform, which was really creepy and on the road towards the Sacred cenote, where the human sacrifices were made and the Chac Mool, the figures who were said to hold the hearts of the human sacrifices.

The skull platform…
A Chac Mool
The Sacred Cenote
Mayan writing
The Great Ball Court

It was a fantastic day, and as we neared the end of our loop around the whole site, it was starting to fill up with huge tour groups of 100 or more. We were glad to have seen it at it’s best, uninterrupted!

With the rest of the day in hand, we stopped for some lunch at another cenote and then continued our drive to the very North of the Yucatan peninsula, where we were to take a ferry crossing over to Isla Holbox.

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