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Exploring the Cenotes around Cancun

By Paige, Nicaragua, June 2012

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The Yucatan Peninsula, particularly the northern half, is very dry. There are no rivers on the surface, and marshlands are rare and transitory; it is said that the Mayan Empire was weakened (though not collapsed, despite what some history books still suggest) by drought. The empire remained well watered, however, thanks to limestone karst sinkholes accessing underwater rivers, which they called ts’onotes.

Cenotes, as we call them today, were both sacred and strategic, wells of extraordinarily clear, naturally filtered fresh water available to townspeople throughout the northern Yucatan. Most are connected by massive underground river systems that cave divers document to lengths of 235 kilometers (146 miles) in the case of Ox Bel Ha—and from the name (Mayan meaning “Three Paths of Water”), it’s clear that the Mayans were well aware of this hidden hydrogeology.

Editor’s Note: This recommendation was taken from our Cancun Things to Do blog. Visit the original post to continue reading the full post and to learn more about things to do in Cancun.

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