Mayan pyramid duel – Chichen Itza vs. Coba.

Ancient Mayan sites are scattered over rather a wide territory, covering parts of what are today Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. But if you want things narrowed down to just former cities with pyramids, the internet obliges – in competing ways; for example:

10 Most Beautiful Ancient Mayan Temples
13 Most Beautiful Ancient Mayan Temples

On our three-day car-based excursion around Yucatan, besides Coba, we also made a visit to the famous Chichen Itza, including its centerpiece, El Castillo, aka the Temple of Kukulcan. Have a read of what that link takes you to – especially about the steps and the platform (=365), and about the ‘snake’ that slithers down the pyramid on an equinox.

The Maya were masters of astronomy and light-and-shade-architectural effects, but there was no equinox while we were there, so no snake. Still, this was just as well since the serpent attracts huge crowds, which I can’t be doing with.

We were there early morning; accordingly – very quiet.

Frontal view:

From the other side:

Partly renovated bit:

Here’s a vid of the slithering serpent:


A close-up of the serpent’s head:

Here you can see some of the ‘entrails’ of the pyramid – smaller stones, glued together with some kind of cement-like substance.

Plus assorted other ruins:

Here’s the main stadium. ‘Wembley’ ).

Surely the referee would sit in that opening above the ‘goal’?

Clearly the VIP box:

Smiling turtles! To remember the winners… after they’d been sacrificed to the gods?!

More snakes…

Mysterious columns. I’d hazard a guess they weren’t placed where they are willy-nilly. Surely something to do with the sun and the shadows they’d make?

Another charming, perfectly symmetrical pyramid, only smaller:

The ‘Observatory’. Not a real one; it’s just called that because it looks like one.

A few more striking buildings:

But it’s getting on toward lunchtime; best get out of here – there’ll be crowds soon…

Now, I’d been to Chichen Itza before, but it was my first time to Coba (in yesterday’s post). And I got to thinking – which, out of the two, is ‘better’? The neatly trimmed former? Or the grander, more raw, brutal remains of the latter? Tough one; for they are two entirely different beasts.

At Coba, you wander around in a somewhat low-spirited, oppressed state – weighed down by some kind of mysterious force emanating from the ancient stones.

While at Chichen Itza there’s a relaxed, positive – rapturous – feeling. The aesthetic is cleaner, prettier, more angular and symmetrical.

I think I’ll have to say I prefer the more elegant forms of Chichen Itza!

Next – the ruins of the ancient city of Tulum. This wasn’t one of the main cities, and it was built toward the end of the Mayan civilization. For both reasons, apparently, there were no pyramids constructed; however, there is a temple that’s worth checking out with lots of smaller buildings around it of undetermined purpose:

When you construct a building upon a cenote, you name it appropriately! ->

More buildings of undetermined function. Remember: no history books. It’s all guesswork!…

Interesting info:

These days there are only tourists peering out to sea – too many tourists. Accordingly, come here early – for 8am ideally.

Oh well, if you can’t beat the tourists, join them! So we did – for a spot of bathing in that there emerald Caribbean Sea and some sunning on that there sandy beach!

And that’s all on the ruins theme. Next up – cenote theme!…

All the pics from Yucatan are here.

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    I went to both pyramid sites on my visit to Mexico. Coba seemed very real and enchanting as you view the ruins in the forest. Chichen Itza seemed fake and sterilized with a Disney World feel to it. I very much preferred Coba. You felt like you were one of the first people to view the ruins, many still hidden under dense vegetation yet to be excavated.

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