Do you know what a cenote is? They can be defined as depressions in the limestone soil of the Yucatan peninsula, which, as a result of the region’s underground rivers, form caves and natural pools. But for those who enjoy the bounty of nature, the cenotes are much more.
The cenotes are witnesses of the past, constantly telling us stories: they tell us that the Yucatan peninsula was once under water, and that 65 million years ago, a meteorite caused the coral reefs to dry out and become what is today the most beautiful tourist area in southeastern Mexico. They also tell that they were key sites of Maya culture: in addition to being a source of fresh water, they were also the settings for rain, life, death, rebirth and fertility rituals. As they were deep and enigmatic, the Mayans believed that the cenotes were gateways to the world of the dead.
Visiting a cenote can be an enlightening experience, due to their natural surroundings: jungle vegetation, fresh water and mysterious silences. You can also swim in the cenotes which are near archaeological sites such as Tulum, Coba and Chichen Itza and go back to pre-Hispanic times full of mythology and deities. Due to their features, cenotes are classified into four categories: open air, semi-open air, in caverns or ancient cenotes. This classification is also determined by the cenote’s age (the older it is, the more spacious it is).
It is estimated that along the Yucatan peninsula and the Riviera Maya, there may be up to 6,000 cenotes. There is public access to several of them, over roads to jungles and mangrove forests. In the area of Puerto Morelos, between Cancun and the Riviera Maya, you will find several cenotes, among which, the most important ones are the Las Mojarras Cenote, the Siete Bocas Cenote, the Chilam Balam or the Verde Lucero. There also are several companies organizing one-day trips during which they take you to see the four different types of cenotes. The Xcaret group will begin such tours as of July 1st, 2013.