Known to the Mayas as “dzonot,” cenotes are natural caverns filled with fresh water pools. These mysterious water sinkholes are common to Yucatan, Mexico, where permeable limestone bedrock allows rainwater to filter slowly through the ground, creating underground rivers and pools. Experts estimate that more than 7,000 cenotes have formed under the Yucatan Peninsula; the Mayans considered them to be sacred as, in the past, they were the only source for fresh water.

Cenote-Yucatan-Mexico-Israel-Reza

There are four different types of cenotes: those that are completely underground, those that are semi-underground, those at ground level, and those that are open wells. During a recent trip to Mexico, we visited two cenotes near the colonial city of Valladolid: Ik Kil, which is semi-underground, and Samulá, which fully is underground.

Cenote-Yucatan-Mexico-Israel-Reza

Both Ik Kil and Samulá are easily accessible, located halfway between the major cities of Mérida and Cancun. Ik Kil is near the ruins of Chichén Itzá, making it a practical place to visit before or after heading to the pyramids. Samulá is closest to the city of Valladolid; it’s just a 10 minute drive the historic center of the city. Both cenotes can be visited with a tour group or independently and are open daily. The entrance fee ranges from $60-70 pesos (roughly $6-7 USD) per person with a discounted rate for children.

Cenote-Yucatan-Mexico-Israel-Reza

Cenotes offer opportunities for swimming and snorkeling, although if you plan to do either, there are a few things to keep in mind. The water tends to be quite cool, so it’s best to visit during the warmer months (between April and October). The quietest time are early or late in the day, when tour groups have left and the crowds subsided. Lockers are often near the entrance of each denote facility and use them to store your valuables while you swim. Finally, most facilities also offer low-cost life jacket rentals should you need them.

Cenote-Yucatan-Mexico-Israel-Reza

Cenote-Yucatan-Mexico-Israel-Reza

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Israel Reza is a freelance Graphic Designer and Illustrator with a background in Fine Art living in Chicago. His artwork has appeared in galleries through Chicagoland, including The National Museum of Mexican Art and The Beverly Arts Center. Israel recently began learning about photography and continues to explore different mediums to share his creative vision. To see more of Israel’s work, visit his tumblr page at www.ireza.tumblr.com and Flickr on www.flickr.com/photos/israelreza. You can also follow him on Instagram @israel_r and Twitter @irezar. He can be reached directly at ireza14@yahoo.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. when I went on a tour with my family to Chichén Itzá last summer ( I’m a young teen) they told us that they had dumped bodies into the one we visited so we didn’t swim ? but others did and I kinda wish that I had that opportunity. But there were these awesome black tiny fish swimming around and we sat on these stairs around the water

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