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CENOTES                                                                                                                                                                                   Printer friendly version

 
 

When flying over the Peninsula of Yucatán you can see circular ground patterns caused by the hidden movement of underground rivers and lakes. The water level rises and falls with the cycle of rain and drought. The constant ebb and flow erodes the underground limestone and it collapses creating steep walled caverns and exposing the water below. Cenote or dzonot meaning "cavity of water" is a term used by the Maya for any subterranean chamber that contains permanent water. While some cenotes are vertical, water-filled shafts, others are caves that contain pools and underwater passageways in their interior. Around these water sources the Maya villages grew since the cenotes were the only source of water, and therefore essential to survival. They were used as sources of drinking water, sources of "virgin" water for religious rites, burial and/or sacrificial sites, art galleries, places of refuge, and mines for clay or minerals.

A cenote is a sinkhole in the limestone bed, accessing an underwater river. These cenotes were very important to the Mayans as their main source of water and had great religious significance. Here you will see a deep almost circular hole with steep sides and murky green water beneath.

Yucatán is famous for its underground crystalline rivers and sinkholes, perfect for swimming after a long hot day. Speleologists from around the world frequently visit Yucatán to study its underground caverns and cenotes. If you are the kind of person that is in search of new experiences and adventures you should visit some of Yucatán’s cenotes. The most famous cenotes in and close to Mérida are:

SACRED CENOTE AT CHICHÉN-ITZÁ:
This cenote is only 90 minutes away from Mérida, close to Chichén-Itzá. It is also known as “Cenote Sagrado” (Sacred Cenote) and is one of the most important sinkholes, not only for its natural beauty but also for its ancient Mayan history. Before you reach the Group of the Thousand Columns, you will see a pathway heading north, just by the Platform of Venus. This is actually the route of an ancient sacbé, and leads to the Sacred Cenote. This is one of the most important sinkholes, not only for its natural beauty but also for its ancient Mayan history. There are stories of sacrificial victims being thrown into the cenote, along with offerings of treasure. In 1901 an American, Edward Thompson, bought the land around the site and proceeded to dredge the cenote. He found jewelry, pottery, figurines and the bones of many humans, mostly children. An international dispute arose when he shipped the findings to the Peabody Museum at Harvard, where some still remain (the remainder have since been returned to the Mexicans.) The evidence, however, was inconclusive as it was feasible that children were most likely to fall into the cenote during play rather than as a deliberate act of sacrifice. A stroll to the cenote is a pleasant diversion from the ruins and makes an ideal refreshment stop. There is a small café/shop nearby and restrooms are available.

CHIUAN:
In the town of Holcá, on the way to
Chichén-Itzá, you can cool off in the fresh waters of this cenote, which is considered an oasis for all visitors. Once you are inside the cavern it is easy to forget the relentless heat outside.

CUZAMÁ:
Cuzamá village is well known for the large amount of cenotes which exist there. At the hacienda in Cuzamá, tourists can hire a guide with a buggy pulled by horses. The trip is seven Km. long through the surrounding countryside and shows numerous cenotes and stops at three of them.

IK-KIL:
One of the nicest cenotes in this area is Ik-Kil, located six Km. from
Chichén-Itzá on the old road to Valladolid.

KANKIRIXCHE (YELLOW FRUIT TREE):
Located ten Km. east of
The Hacienda Temozón Sur, this cenote has a 15 m drop to water level down a breakdown slope that can be negotiated with a hand line. Large tree roots penetrate down into the cave and hang in large clumps just below the water surface. The cavern area of this cave is one of the largest in México. Depths range from five to nearly 50 m and it is almost circular with a diameter of approximately 90 m. At the appropriate time of the day, a shaft of light from the entrance penetrates the crystal clear water of this giant submerged cavern and provides a spectacular sight. An abundance of submerged stalactites on the flat ceiling of the cavern provides an ideal excursion for swimmers and cavern divers.

NOC-AC:
After a walk on a rustic stone path to the cenote a mile away from town, the breeze and peaceful clear waters are the best excuse to swim and freshen up.

SAMBULÁ:
Located on the highway to Calcachén, this cenote is perfect for a cool dip after visiting the mysterious cavern that surrounds it.

SANHKAR:
Just outside the community of Homun is the Sanhkar sinkhole, one of the cenotes you must visit. To get to this extraordinary cenote you must follow a trail that leads to a cavern with incredible stalactite and stalagmite rock formations.

XACA’MUCUHI (CAVE OF THE PIGEONS):
Located 2 Km. east of the main building of
The Hacienda Temozón Sur, this open cenote located within the hotel grounds has a ten m drop to water level down a breakdown slope. Inside the cenote grow several trees which give a special touch to this place. Water depths range from two to nearly 35 m and it is almost circular with a diameter of approximately 20 m. An abundance of submerged stalactites on the flat ceiling of the cavern provides an ideal excursion for swimmers.

X'KEKEN:
Also known as “Dzitnup” in honor of the closest town near this sinkhole. This cenote enchants its visitors with the natural light that filters from the ground above it forming multicolor reflections on the cave’s walls. Located 4.3 miles southeast of
Valladolid, this cenote is underground with a hole in the ceiling. It is probably one of the most photographed cenotes in the Yucatán. Deep, refreshing, crystal clear waters await you and it is a great cenote for swimming. There is lighting and a guide rope to make it easier to enter. Don't forget to purchase a picture postcard from the kids at the entrance as taking a picture just never turns out right and you will want a picture of this to show the family.

XLACAH AT DZIBILCHALTÚN:
The perfect place for a refreshing swim. This cenote is open to the public until 4 PM. It tends to get a little busy on weekends. One end of the cenote is very shallow, while the other is over 140 feet deep and continues on into a tunnel. Xlacah cenote is the home of the veleta fish, and its lush natural vegetation is highlighted by the vestiges of the ancient civilizations. This sinkhole is inside the archeological site of
Dzibilchaltún, only 22 kilometers from Mérida.

XTOLOC:
Xtoloc is found in
Chichén-Itzá. Its original Mayan trails, which were once used by the ancient civilization to gather their fresh water supply, can be followed to reach the cenote. You must visit this archeological site and its amazing sinkhole. Just relax and enjoy the scenery.

ZACÍ:
Valladolid has one of the most important cenotes of the state. Its deep, serene waters are excellent for diving. Occasionally professional divers offer an exhibition for visitors to enjoy. There are trails surrounding the sinkhole, an open theater where plays and shows are presented and a small zoo. There are several restaurants nearby where typical regional dishes are served. This is a semi-open cenote that has a diameter of 150 feet and is 260 feet deep. It is popular for swimming in the refreshing turquoise waters. You will see a rare species of eyeless black fish known as "lub." A third of the cenote is covered with stalactites and stalagmites and there is a walkway around the entire cenote.

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Yucatan, Mukuyche, Cenote Kankirixche 2 - Photo by The Haciendas
The Cenote Kankirixche at Temozón
Yucatan, Chichen-Itza, Piste, Cenote Ik-Kil - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The Cenote Ik-Kil
Yucatan, Chichen-Itza, Archeological Zone, Sacred Cenote - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The Sacred Cenote at Chichén-Itzá
Yucatan, Mukuyche, Cenote Kankirixche 1 - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The Cenote Kankirixche at Temozón
Yucatan, Valladolid, Cenote Dzitnup - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria
Yucatan, Valladolid, Cenote Dzitnup