Among the distinguishing attractions of the State of Yucatan are the cenotes, derived from the Maya word dzonot, meaning “cavity of water”. Cenotes are unique formations in the world and represent the entrance to the spiritual underworld.
The Yucatan Peninsula lacks rivers and other surface waters, as the ground is limestone and very porous. Rainwater filters straight through penetrating cracks, forming caves and underground rivers, many of which are interconnected.
Nevertheless, the limestone surface often sinks, revealing natural, fresh-water deposits and allows us a glimpse of the spectacular landscape of the underground waters. Green, crystalline or turquoise, in configuration with stalactites and stalagmites they form veritable works of art, well worthy of admiration.
By tradition, cenotes are a distinctive insignia of the natural Yucatecan landscape. Sunlight filtering through the cracks in the rocks and projecting onto the transparent water is visual banquet for nature lovers. Cenotes vary in size and shape according to their location; they can be as irregular as the sunken ground which makes them possible.
Some are open in the form of a lake or pool; others are half hidden in the caverns. While others are completely enclosed and some are only accessible by trailing underground passages. Although no two forms are alike, it can be said that they share certain characteristics.
The water is cold since it emerges from underground deposits; it is clear and rich in flora and fauna, giving rise to an eco-system in almost perfect balance and spectacularly beautiful.
For many years the cenotes of Yucatan have been the object of speculation and legend, since they played a determining role in the development of the Maya civilization. Immense communities grew up around them, making them the hub of the city.
An abundant quantity of offerings and jewelry has been recovered from the floor of the cenotes, apparently thrown into the depths after human sacrifices. Ceramic remains and utensils used for religious ceremonies have also been found.
In addition to their exquisite natural beauty, cenotes have an important archaeological value and are perfect for ecotourism activities, such as cave diving. Submerging and penetrating the cavern depths, exploring subaquatic galleries and finding your way through the labyrinth of underwater tunnels is an unforgettable experience for any enthusiast.
Besides diving and getting to know the place, there’s also rappelling and swimming to enjoy while you take in the beauty and mystery which has taken nature millions of years to shape.
Without doubt, a visit to the clear waters of a Maya cenotes is an experience so different that you are suddenly spirited away into a magical world of unreal beauty. It is a gift from the Gods.