Millenary formations in Riviera Maya

Things you should know about cenotes

Often mistaken for Underground Rivers or lakes, cenotes are crystalline water formations that have become very popular in the destination thanks to its natural beauty and mystical essence. Keep reading to find out more about them and what makes them so fascinating. These are 6 things you should know about cenotes.


1.- How are they formed?

Their creation goes back to the last Ice Age when the Yucatan Peninsula used to be under the sea, which stopped to descend leaving the coral barrier exposed, giving rise to a limestone floor.

The limestone was gradually filtering rainwater into caves and tunnels, which turned into Underground Rivers, and then collapsed forming cenotes. 


2.- There are different types

You can know how old they are just by looking at them, the older they are, the more open they tend to be. If you see a cenote with its dome intact, it means its really young.  You can find open, semi-open and underground cenotes.


3.- The origin of its name

The word cenote comes from the Maya “dzonot,” which means -cavern with water-. In fact, you can find the word “dzonot” and “dzon” as names of different communities of the region like Dzoncauich, San Francisco Dzon, Chikindzonot, Kancabdzonot, Yokdzonot and Dzonot Carretero.


4.- What it means for the Maya

Since past times cenotes have been places of great significance for the Mayan culture. They represent portals to the underworld, better known as Xibalbá, a mystic place where gods, ancestors, and supernatural beings resided. They were also used for rituals and ceremonies where they presented tributes to the gods. Until this day, expeditionary had found 21 ceramic pieces corresponding to the Early Postclassic period (800-1200 AD) inside a cenote located in Chichén Itzá.


5.- Where to find them

In Southeast Mexico, you can visit all the types of cenotes, in the Yucatan Peninsula or in the Riviera Maya. These natural wonders are a little tricky to find since they are deep in the jungle and you need an all-terrain vehicle to get there. The best option is to take a guided tour, where the transportation and activities are already included.


6.- Activities in the cenotes

Swimming in a cenote is already a fantastic experience, but there are more activities you can enjoy, like kayak, zip-line, rappel or night scuba diving. It has also become a great location for a Mayan wedding ceremony and a unique spot for a trash the dress photo shooting.

Photo by: Diego Muñoz Photography

Trust us, a visit to the cenotes will exceed your expectation. Its beauty is almost impossible to describe in words, and you will want to return to continue exploring more of them. Now that you’ve learned all these things you should know about cenotes, it’s time to pack your swimsuit and go on an adventure!

Going to a cenote for the first time? read: Everything you need to visit a cenote