Exploring cenotes in the Yucatan

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Unmissable cenotes and how to get there

Have you ever come across articles called “Places to see before you die” or “Ten surreal places you must visit”, where you see pictures of these perfect underground pools, with vines coming down from the top and crystal clear water?

Cenotes are natural sinkholes, typical of the Yucatan peninsula, formed from the collapse of the limestone bedrock, which used to be sacred places for ancient Mayans. While open-air cenotes are hit by sunlight that creates stunning blue and green shades in the water, underground cenotes are magical and surreal places that will make you feel like in a dream.

Here is a list of the ones I visited, in order.

1. Cenote Ik Kil

Ik Kil is probably the most famous and photographed cenote in the Yucatan. While this is, indeed, a beautiful place, with vines coming down from the top and trampoline that is perfect for diving, it has all the downsides of very touristic places. If you arrive after 9am, besides the vines and the clear water, you will also see hundreds of people in orange life jackets holding selfie sticks.

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Cenote Ik Kil

Cost: 70 pesos

How to get there: Unless you visit it with an organised tour to Chichen Itza – or have your own car –it’s impossible to get to it.

2. Cenote Dzitnup

Cenotes Dzitnup is a complex of underground cenotes only 40 minutes away from Valladolid. One of the two cenotes you will find here, Xexhen, is a huge underground cave with some natural light coming through. The second cenote, Sumala, is smaller but it has three shades of colours in the water, from light crystal blue, to green to very dark blue.

Cost: 100 pesos for one cenote and of 180 pesos for both.

How to get there : Get a collectivo from Valladolid in calle 44, between 41 and 43, OR if it’s more than two people, it is worth getting a taxi which will bring you straight to the place for less than 2USD each.

3. Cenote Zaci

Right in the middle of Valladolid, this cenote is the perfect place to relax, swim and do some cliff jumping. It is also the easiest and cheaper to visit in the Yucatan. Make sure you look at it from all the different angles and just cool off in its pool during the very hot days in Valladolid.

Cenote Zaci

Cenote Zaci

Cost: 30 pesos

How to get there: If you are in Valladolid, this cenote is located just 15 minutes away from the main square.

4. Cuzama Cenotes

Definitely my favourite of all the ones I visited, this site is situated very close to Merida and it includes three stunning cenotes, and the way you visit them makes this experience a must-do.

Once you arrive in Cuzama, you get on a small truck pulled by horse on a rail through a forest, all the way to the first cenote, Chelentun. This cenote looks more like a cave and it’s the only one with parts where water isn’t deep. In here, you can see some stalactites and stalagmites while you walk in the water through a tunnel all the way to the very end. I suggest you bring a torch, because some parts can become very dark (and that’s why we don’t have any pictures of this cenote).

The second cenote, Chacsinicche, has deep blue water and a very easy access to it. You can use the stairs to reach the water level and a platform to jump in.

Finally, you arrive to Bolonchojol Cenote, the last and less accessible one.  To go in, you have to climb down an unstable vertical stairs made of wood and ropes coming down through a small hole in the ground. Even though this could seem a little scary, it is so worth to look at this stunning cenote – my favourite of all – that is hit only by small rays of sunlight that come through some holes, making the water change colour constantly.

You are allowed to spend approximately 30 minutes in each cenote.

Cost: 300 pesos, which includes the truck for four people and entrance to the three cenotes

How to get there: From Merida, you can take either a bus or a colectivo in calle 67, for around 28 or 20 pesos, that will take about one hour and a half to get to Cuzama. Here you can get a mototaxi, for 25 pesos per person, that will bring you to the place where the trucks leave in only 15 minutes.

5. Xlacah Cenote

Xlacah Cenote is an open-air cenote situated within the Dzibilchaltun archaeological site, considered one of the oldest Mayan ruin, with some of the buildings dating back to 500 BC. The most important building is the Temple of the Seven Dolls. This cenote is the perfect place for a day trip from Merida.

Xlacah Cenote

Xlacah Cenote

Cost: 120 pesos for non-nationals and it includes entrance to the cenote and to a museum.

How to get there: From calle 62 in Merida, you can get a bus for 14 pesos that will bring you there in 40 minutes.

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