If exploring ancient ruins is your idea of a fantastic vacation, then you likely already know that your options are diminishing with each passing year. It’s not because the ruins are vanishing, but rather the sad fact that visitor traffic over thousands of years has caused the kind of wear and tear that is destroying the landmarks.
Take, for example, the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, located in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, which closed its climbing privileges in 2006. This was subsequent to a woman tumbling to her death after slipping on one of the steps that had been worn smooth from millions of visitor footsteps.
It seems ironic to discuss the destruction of something that is already considered to be a ‘ruin’. However, the preservation of these monuments is necessary lest they disappear, not to mention that the safety factor of tourists is paramount.
That being said, there is still one landmark that, for the time being, is continuing to allow visitor exploration. Cobá, the tallest Mayan temple in Mexico, dating back to a civilization of approximately 1500 years ago, remains open to tourists wishing to climb the 120 steps to the top. But time is limited because Coba is also incurring damage from thousands of annual visits, not only from people climbing up the stairs but more so from coming back down them in a reverse crawl. Given the steep incline of the stairs and their unevenness, as well as the 138-foot drop, it’s easy to understand why tourists are hesitant to trust the safety rope they relied on during their trek to the top. However, this toddler maneuver of easing of one’s body step by step towards the ground causes buttocks to slide over the edges of the stairs, slowly but surely smoothing them and wearing them away.
If you’re considering going, do it soon and you won’t be disappointed. If you make it to the top, undoubtedly you will be moved knowing that you are standing where Mayan priests appeased their gods by sacrificing animals as well as people (babies and children included). But if that thought is too disturbing, then simply focus on the phenomenal view which encompasses the Mexican jungle and nearby lakes.
Cobá is a 45-minute drive from the beach resorts of Tulum and then you face another 30-minute walk to get from the entrance to the temple. Given the amount of walking involved, tourists are well advised to dress according and come prepared with comfortable shoes and whatever you would normally use to protect yourself from the sun – a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen.
Be prepared for this excursion to entail almost the entire day, and it will be one that you will never forget.