The Cenotes Wonder
Escaping for the day to the underworld of Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Mayans communicated with the gods and performed offerings and spiritual rituals, is an adventure for locals and visitors alike.
Cenotes are deep natural wells, caverns, or sinkholes.
At these hidden locations, (most require a small fee to enter) you can swim in crisp, mineral-rich waters in magical caves or under a jungle-framed sky.
These natural swimming holes form when rainwater absorbs carbon dioxide, creating a weak acid that trickles through the porous limestone.
That action eventually collapses the stone, producing fissures that in due time reveal a secret subterranean world of groundwater pools and caves.
Another theory for the origin of Cenotes is that a deadly asteroid slammed into the seafloor off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago, obliterating the dinosaurs, creating over 6000 freshwater sinkholes.
In 2018 underwater archeologists announced the discovery of the largest subterranean cavern, spanning 216 miles. The sunken labyrinth of tunnels is thought to contain a plethora of hidden secrets from the ancient Maya civilization.
Most Cenotes contain freshwater that has been meticulously filtered by the earth, making them so clear and pristine that you feel as if you are peering through a magnifying glass to watch small fish frolicking among the rocks and exotic plant life.
The water temperatures hover between 78-80F and are comfortable for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Open-air Cenotes also have translucent water, and both unground and open-air Cenotes are home to vitamin-and mineral-rich algae known for nourishing the skin.
Over 350 submerged Cenotes and underwater caverns containing stunning formations of stalagmites and stalactites are the main swimming and diving attraction in the Yucatan Peninsula.
I recently spent the day exploring and swimming in three Cenotes (Cenote San Antonio, Punta de Partida, and Cenote Tza-Ujun-Kat) near the small town of Homun, about an hour bus ride from Merida.
Entering the dark hole through the ground’s surface by steep wooden stairs was a bit unnerving until I glimpsed the clear, still, and gently lit underground waters of Cenote Tza-Ujun-Kat.
My favorite swimming Cenote, Cenote Azul, is near the southern Mexican town of Bacalar.
An open-air, large circular Cenote allowed for a refreshing open water swim to the other side and back. A rope extends the entire distance to guide swimmers across the quarter-mile.
For more personalized and up-scale visitations, guests of Hacienda Temozon can experience local shamans performing ancient rituals and a traditional Maya purification ceremony in the underground Sacamucuy Cenote.
You can spend days along la Ruta Anillo de Los Cenotes savoring and dipping in these delightful swimming holes of the Yucatan, an adventure that you would not want to miss.
Are there unique and mysterious sights and sites where you live? Please share them with us!
by: Gwen Hyatt