Cenotes are one of the biggest attractions and thousands of people from all over the world come to the Yucatan Península just to swim in those crystal clear waters. But what do we actually know about these natural beauties?
A cenote is a natural phenomenon, a natural pit or sinkhole resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. This creates a natural pool which is then filled by rain and underground rivers: a cenote is born.
The word cenote comes from the Mayan word dzonot, which means “sacred well”. The Yucatan peninsula was originally under the ocean and the region’s limestone foundation is fossilized coral beds and ocean floor. There are no above ground rivers in this area. All of the ground water sinks through the porous limestone and travels to the sea in underground rivers. Parts of the limestone weakened over time and collapsed, leaving sinkholes filled with water.
Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods. Some cenotes were used for water, both for drinking and irrigation and as mentioned before, used during religious ceremonies. Mayan cities were mostly built around cenotes or wells dug down to the ground water. Divers have explored the cenote at Chichen Itza and found offerings the ancient Maya made to their gods. Among those offerings are copper and gold necklaces, pottery, jade beads and skeletons of both sexes and all ages.
Cenote diving is a popular activity in the Riviera Maya. Mexicans, expats and tourists all love to visit the beautiful cenotes of the Mexican Caribbean. The water in cenotes tends to be very clear as it is rain water which has filtered through the ground and has few suspended particles. Some cenotes are vertical, water-filled shafts, while others are caves that contain pools and underwater passageways in their interior. Cenotes are prevalent in the Yucatan Peninsula, where there are over 4000<, and they are the area’s main source of water. Visitors may spend the day swimming, snorkeling, diving, sunbathing or simply relaxing. Some of the famous cenotes are: Ik kil, Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote and Cenote Manati.