Deep in the jungles of the state of Quintana Roo lies a lesser-known Mayan city: Cobá. While this archaeological site doesn't have the renown of Chichen Itzá or Tulum, it's one of the largest ancient Mayan cities yet discovered and has the tallest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula. Cobá is located about 25 miles inland from the city of Tulum, and once covered over 30 square miles.

Coba Nohoch Mul pyramid sacbe 

The city's original name remains unknown, but archaeologist Eric Thompson discovered that the city's name was Kinchil Cobá as of the 1930s. Cobá has several possible translations, including "place of the rough water", "abundant water" and "water of the chachalaca bird". The city was built around two lagoons, Cobá and Macanxoc. Sacbes (white Mayan pathways) once led residents between the city's different plazas. The site has two ball courts along with several of the largest ancient Mayan pyramids, including Nohoch Mul, the tallest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula at 137 feet high.

Coba Nohoch Mul pyramid 

Coba Nohoch Mul pyramid 

The history of Cobá dates all the way back to 200 BC or possibly earlier, although little evidence remains of this era because buildings were constructed of wood and palm atop small stone platforms. Most of what remains of Cobá today was built from 500 to 900 AD and still remains in beautiful condition. For many centuries, this city had control over immense lands with extensive farming land and impressive trade routes with about 60,000 residents, and didn't lose power until the rise of Chichen Itzá around 1000 AD. By the time the Spanish conquistadors reached the Yucatan Peninsula in the 1500s, Cobá was already uninhabited.

Coba Mayan ball court 

Coba pyramid 

Today, Cobá has become a popular site for day trips out of Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Visitors love exploring the vast city on rented bikes, and the 120 steps of Nohoch Mul pyramid are open for climbing.

Coba sacbe