Merida Yucatan Mexico Information-Travel Guide

Without a doubt one of the most interesting phenomena of the Yucatan





Cenotes: Explained


A cenote (English pronunciation: /sɨˈnoʊtiː/ or /sɛˈnoʊteɪ/; Spanish: [seˈnote]; plural: cenotes; from Yucatec Maya dzonot or ts'onot, meaning "well" is a sinkhole with exposed rocky edges containing groundwater. It is typically found in the Yucatán Peninsula and some nearby Caribbean islands. The term is derived from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya to refer to any location where groundwater is accessible.



Cenotes are surface connections to subterranean water bodies. While the best-known cenotes are large open water pools measuring tens of meters (yards) in diameter, such as those at Chichén Itzá, the greatest number of cenotes are smaller sheltered sites and do not necessarily have any surface exposed water. The term cenote has also been used to describe similar karst features in other countries such as Cuba and Australia, in addition to the more generic term of sinkholes.

Cenote water is often very clear, as the water comes from rain water infiltrating slowly through the ground, and therefore contains very little suspended particulate matter. The groundwater flow rate within a cenote may be very slow at velocities ranging from 1 to 1,000 meters (3 to 3,000 ft) per year. In many cases, cenotes are areas where sections of cave roof have collapsed revealing an underlying cave system, and the water flow rates here may be much faster: up to 10 kilometers (6 mi) per day. Cenotes around the world attract cave divers who have documented extensive flooded cave systems through them, some of which have been explored for lengths of 100 km (60 mi) or more.

The Yucatan Peninsula has almost no rivers and only a few lakes, and those are often marshy. The widely distributed cenotes are the only perennial source of potable quality water and have long been the principal sources of water in much of the Yucatán Peninsula. Major Maya settlements required access to adequate water supplies, and therefore cities, including the famous Chichén Itzá, were built around these natural wells. Some cenotes like the Cenote of Sacrifice in Chichén Itzá played an important role in Maya rites. Believing that these pools were gateways to the afterlife, the Maya sometimes threw valuable items into them. The discovery of golden sacrificial artifacts in some cenotes led to the archaeological exploration of most cenotes in the first part of the 20th century. Edward Herbert Thompson, an American diplomat who had bought the Chichén Itzá site, began dredging the Sacred Cenote there in 1904. He discovered human skeletons and sacrificial objects confirming a local legend, the Cult of the Cenote, involving human sacrifice to the rain gods (Chaacs) by ritual casting of victims and objects into the cenote.







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Cenotes in the Yucatan 


Cenote San Ignacio

Just 20 minutes from Merida, on the highway to Campeche, in the village Chochola, is the cenote San Ignacio. For your enjoyment  you will find palapas, restaurant, bathrooms, showers and dressing rooms.

Cenote Zaci

Located the Valladolid, this semi-open cenote is ideal for swimming in the refreshing emerald green waters. There is also a great restaurant on the property.

Cenotes in Cuzama

The main cenotes are:  Chelentun, Chansinic'che and Bolonchoojol. The Chelentun cenote is located about 3 km from the Chunkanan hacienda, about 3 km south of Cuzama.  The water is incredibly blue and clear with excellent visibility.

Cenotes of X'keken and Samula

Located in Dzitnup 5 km southeast of Valladolid, these cenotes are underground with a hole in the ceiling. Deep, refreshing, crystal-clear waters await you.  The entrance has a cost of 52 pesos for foreigners, 27 pesos for mexicans and 17 pesos for children.  Hours: 8am to 5pm.

Cenote Dzul-ha

Its name means in Maya "Caballero del Agua" and it's located at the hacienda Sotuta de Peon. Monday to Sunday package includes: Tour in truck, visit to Casa Maya, life jacket and visor at cenote.  Restaurant on site. Adults: 200 pesos, Children: 125 pesos.


This village has a large number of cenotes located within the town and the outskirts.  Locals say there are more than 150 cenotes. You must ask a local to take you. The main ones are: Kaipech, Xayin, and Ucil.


Cenote Xlacah

Located at the Mayan site of Dzibilchaltun, this is the closest cenote to Merida. Meaning "old village", it is an open, ground-level cenote, great for swimming. It is unknown how deep it actually is.  It is a great place to jump into after a visit to the ruins.

Cenote Yokdzonot

Just 10 minutes from Chichen Itza, a swim in this cenote is a magical experience.  The water is cool and clean.

Cenote Yaxunah

It is located between Chichen Itza and Yaxchaba, there is also a Cultural Center and the Yaxunah archaeological site nearby.

Cenote Kankarixche

Here you will find a large, spectacular sub-aquatic cavern with crystal clear waters that allows fantastic visibility for snorkeling or scuba. Tour required to see this cenote.

Cenote Ik-kil

Located in the Eco-archaeological Park Ik-kil, just 3 km from Chichen Itza. It is well-type cenote with beautiful vegetation and waterfalls. Stairs lead down to the water. There is a buffet-style restaurant on the grounds and bungalows. Entry is 70 pesos.




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