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The Cenotes of the Yucatan

By Viator, March 2014

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Visiting the Yucatan, you might here this word in passing: cenotes. It is actually an ancient Mayan word meaning “well,” but nowadays refers to the rocky sinkholes that pepper the Mayan Peninsula. Some of the cleanest and freshest water in the world is located in these cavernous underground rivers and sinkholes, and every local seems to have an opinion on which one of the roughly 7000 in the area is the best for diving, swimming and snorkeling.

Technically, the cenotes derived from eons of rainfall slowly eating away at the porous limestone base of the area, but that does little credit to the wonder and majesty they inspire. A blessed place for the indigenous people, the cenotes of the Yucatan were a primary source for fresh water and so revered as sacred. Any visit to the cenotes of the Yucatan will affirm that belief – their beauty and serene majesty is unrivaled.

Quintana Roo boasts the best cenotes for exploring, and luckily are located close to Cancun and Playa del Carmen. If you’re in the Yucatan, visiting a cenote is a must-do experience. Here are three of the best.

Ik-Kil is  one of the most popular cenotes being just 2 miles away from world-famous Chichen-Itza. Also known as the “Sacred Blue Cenote,” this is one of the most picturesque cenotes with hanging vines and waterfalls surrounding the main almost iridescent blue. The well itself is over 130 feet deep, so don’t worry about trying to touch bottom.

Los Ojos, located by Tulum, is world-famous for its diving. Over 500 meters of underwater caves are available for exploration. The area is interesting enough that IMAX thought to shoot some of its “Journey Into Amazing Caves” there.

Cuazma isn’t a cenote, but a town known for its large number of cenotes. Chelentun is the most beautiful in the area, though tours will likely take you to visit several. Look for incredibly blue waters and stalagmite and stalactite formations climbing the walls.

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