Mayan Culture, nature, history, food, agriculture, adventure.. all of this in one exciting full-day, brimming with exciting surprises.
What if you knew you could step back in time as you enter the ancient city of Coba in the Riviera Maya? Climb the pyramids, swim in the cenote and explore a Mayan village and top it off with canoeing in a lagoon.
Follow my story in this full day as I step back in time and visit the famous Coba Archeological site and enter a nearby Mayan village. This is one of the most impressive days that kept me on my toes all day.
Exploring Coba Memorial site
The name “Coba” means “waters stirred by wind” in the Yucatec Maya language. The archaeological site is situated between two lagoons in the village of Coba. This could indicate that the name was on behalf of the lagoon.
The Mayan city of Coba was first inhabited around 100 AD and at its peak, the population reached 50 000 people. Between the VIII and IX century AD the city was the most powerful in the region, controlling farmland, trading routes and important water sources. The kingdom of Coba was abandoned on the date of the “Mayan Classical Period” Xth and XII century, with the collapse of the Mayan civilization and the New Kingdom of Chichen Itza becoming prevalent in the region.
Unlike UNESCO’s Chichen Itza, you can climb the pyramids of Coba
Why visit Coba?
This has been one of my favourite archaeological sites in Mexico. Simply for the fact that it’s not as crowded as the other sites and that you can still climb the pyramids.
It’s quite magical, as you bike your way (or perhaps you feel like travelling in style in a ‘Mayan taxi’) through the ceremonial centre from pyramid to pyramid.
As we followed the guide through the site, I was mesmerised by my surroundings of the lush jungle, hearing the sounds of the birds chirping and the sight of the partially restored structures.
Only a small portion of Coba has been excavated which means that the rest of the city is still yet to be discovered.
You can still see the trees growing through the cracks of the rocks.
At each point, our guide continued to take us on this journey explaining all the intriguing facts that support the life of the Mayans back in time. I was captured and absorbed by his stories.
Travelling Coba site in style
Climbing the pyramid
That’s when… the most impressive Noboch Mul, one of the tallest Mayan pyramids, at 42 meters high, stood before me.
I was determined to climb those small, narrow but very steep steps.
I was in absolute ore once I reached the top and imagined that I was back in time standing with the mayan people.
The view of a beautiful, green carpet of jungle lay beneath my eyes. This is where I could say I was on top of the world or perhaps a little closer to heaven.
Going down was probably the hardest and made me ponder about how the people climbed these so easily. A great way to stay fit, that’s for sure.
As we made our way back out of this site, our guide stopped to offer us the “Mayan Red Bull” aka as an energy juice, packed with natural ingredients, such as, honey, pineapple, orange, bee pollen. It was delicious and gave me that little boost my body required after a lovely adventure through the site.
Off the beaten track to have a dip in the cenote
After a sweaty walk under the morning sun, I was excited to know that our next stop would be a dip in the refreshing cenote, only 25 minutes away from Coba.
As we made our way there, I knew we were away from all the tourists as we entered a small village, consisting of only a few gravel roads, stemming off from the main highway.
When I travel, finding these hidden gems immersed in the local communities is what I value and what makes this tour in particular unique.
Once there, we were greeted by lovely, smiley men, a few dogs and a beautiful garden which lead into this hidden gem of a cenote.
The magical cenote
Whether you want to sit back and take in the stunning garden, explore the magical underwater rock formations or let out your inner dare devil and jump from the 10 foot high cliff into the fresh, cool water, there is something for everyone here.
I feel very blessed to be able to enjoy these glittering, blue waters today, creating a unique underground experience. This cenote in particular had a spectacular emerald colour that especially glowed and twinkled as the sun shone through. There is always something so healing about cenotes.
Here I felt a sense of calmness and peace; in fact the entire place was a place of tranquillity.
Note: Just remember to have a shower first before entering the water, as not to pollute this precious water source for the local Mayan people.
What is a cenote
One of the most impressive phenomenons that exist here in the Yucatan Peninsula are the cenotes. These majestic bodies of freshwater are natural sinkholes formed when the ceiling of a cave collapses, which gives us a window to the amazing underground rivers.
Ancient civilizations considered them as sacred places and were used for rituals and initiations for Mayan Shamans.. so another thing to be mindful of, when we embrace them today.
One of my favourite cenotes
The Mayan village
Before heading to eat lunch prepared by Enrique’s family (great local entrepreneurs), we made our way to an organic farm in a remote village. It is touching to see how this community has been built up. The locals are being empowered to utilize their skills whether in cooking or farming etc.
For me, this was the highlight of the trip. Perhaps because it reminded me of my Italian grandfather’s fruit farm or because of the abundance of produce that surrounded us as we walked through.
Cactus or nopales is packed with so many nutrients
Organic Mayan Farm
We were happily greeted by a local man who shared his impressive knowledge about all the plants and their uses in natural healing.
Walking through the perfectly well kept mini farm, you are surrounded by beautiful colours, and strange, unique crops, some I have never seen before. Everything there, had a purpose and the wise man knew exactly what each one did.
The experience was an eye opener, to not only the vast amount of agriculture the Yucatan Peninsula employs but also the skills and knowledge of the Mayan people. The resources available have enabled the people over time to learn new skills and knowledge on how to best respect and utilise the area’s resources.
They are the perfect example of how to use the land in the most efficient ways. What is evident, is their knowledge around composting, the seasons and how it impacts agriculture.
We then had the pleasure of eating some of the produce that came from the farm. We had a lovely Mayan lunch in a home where the people welcomed us with open arms. They were also running the beautiful garden which helped them prepare this delicious meal. My favourite was the hand made tortillas and Sikil Pak, which is a Mayan Pumpkin seed dip- of course I asked for seconds.
Guacamole, salsas, pikil de gallo and sikil pak.. yummm
a place of healing
The Mayan ceremony
With full bellies, we made our way to the natural reserve, for the monkey sanctuary.
But of course, just when you think the day hadn’t had enough exciting surprises, we were invited to participate in a purification ceremony with the leader of the Mayan community of Punta Laguna. He thanks life for the blessings that the rainforest provides. Participating in this simple ceremony, allowed me to take a step back and really take in all the beauty that was presented before us.
I was present. I was mindful of all my senses, enjoying the wonderful gift of nature.
We thanked the leader and continued behind our guide through the rainforest who lead us to a beautiful, calm lagoon. It was just the perfect, magical way to end an afternoon.. canoeing.
I still think about the way that moment made me feel, sitting ever so quietly in the canoe with my loved one. It was like we were the only people in the world.
Slowly moving the ore to paddle and glide across the water. Not another soul in sight other than the birds that so gracefully swifted above the water almost to touch it. The sun was slowly beginning to set, covering the sky with light tones of oranges. At times, we would just stop and absorb the natural beauty of the jungle and savour the silence.
Do you ever get that feeling of rejuvenation and a wave of calmness throughout the body when you are immersed with nature? Away from pollution, noise, concrete. Just one with nature.
A moment imprinted on my heart.
The lagoon at sunset
As we made our way back and through the monkey sanctuary, we were all excited to come face to face with the cute creatures swinging above our heads in the high branches.
The monkeys playing in their own habitat, not at all fazed by our excitement. I have been to many monkey sanctuaries but this experience was special.
It was a moment of consciousness; that human activity and wildlife can all live in harmony in a balanced way.
I just loved watching their movements and how they go about doing their usual day to day business. Seeing them was like the cherry on the cake- it ended my day perfectly with a smile on my face.
Coba Archeological Rainforest Excursion
The whole day itself, was well organised and complete- with nature, history and culture. It is so carefully created, ensuring that there is something unique for everyone. I was also very impressed with the awareness of the company’s philosophy which is about consciousness and knowledge. The guide’s passion and his ability to ensure that everyone is well looked after, comfortable and relaxed the entire day, makes the experience even more inspiring.
Thank you to Adrian of Viajes Conciencia and his team for a memorable experience.
How to book
This awesome company based in Tulum/Playa Del Carmen who values sustainable tourism also includes our Mayan cooking experience near Chichen Itza.
I am not one to always travel with tours but I do recommend doing this trip if you are wanting to visit Coba. I love how not only it is a jam packed full day, you can ensure you are travelling with someone that promotes sustainable tourism.
This is a must do when you are after adventure, nature and culture, for the solo travellers, in a couple or as a family.