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In the heart of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula lies a natural wonder that has captivated visitors for centuries: the cenotes. These amazing formations are natural sinkholes or caves filled with crystal clear groundwater, formed by the collapse of limestone rock. They hold immense historical and cultural significance, as they were once the primary water source for the ancient Mayas. In fact, the word "cenote" itself originates from the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Yucatan Peninsula boasts thousands of cenotes, each unique in size, depth, and natural splendor. Even today, new cenotes continue to be discovered, adding to the mystique of this remarkable region. During my recent trip to Yucatan, I stumbled upon an incredible story—a local family had unknowingly uncovered a large cenote while tidying up their back yard. The authorities swiftly cordoned it off to conduct research and ensure its safety, a testament to the ongoing exploration and preservation of these hidden gems.

Many of these extraordinary cenotes are open for visitors, providing a remarkable opportunity to experience their beauty firsthand. While entry fees vary for each cenote, the experience is well worth it. After spending hours under the scorching Mexican sun, exploring ancient ruins and immersing yourself in history, there's nothing more refreshing than taking a dip in the cool waters of a cenote, surrounded by nature's awe-inspiring creations.

If you're planning a trip to Yucatan, here are some of the best cenotes to add to your itinerary:

1. Xcanche

Entry: $170 MXN

Located near the archaeological site of Ek Balam, Xcanche provides the perfect opportunity to cool off and replenish your energy after exploring the ruins in the heat. It's also conveniently just a 35-minute drive from the charming city of Valladolid, making it an excellent pitstop on your journey around the peninsula.

Unlike some of the more popular cenotes, Xcanche offers a tranquil atmosphere away from the crowds. You can even enjoy a thrilling zipline adventure for an additional fee or have a fun splash using the free rope swing. After your swim, head over to the nearby local restaurant within the site for a taste of affordable, authentic Mayan cuisine.

2. Santa Barbara Entry: $370 MXN

Situated approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Chichen Itzá, Santa Barbara is a must-visit cenote that conveniently falls on the route to Mérida, with a slight detour. It serves as a perfect escape after immersing yourself in the wonders of Chichen Itzá under the scorching sun. To make your journey more comfortable, the site provides horse-drawn railed carts, playfully referred to as the "Mayan Uber," that will transport you to the cenotes.

Cenote 1 offers a peaceful and intimate setting, while Cenote 2 is the largest but requires navigating a slightly challenging descent due to the roots of an ancient tree. Lastly, Cenote 3, the smallest of the three, is conveniently located near a straw shelter where a minivan will pick you up to return to the entrance with changing rooms.

At the entrance is, also, a restaurant serving hot set meals for $ *** and a large jug of home made lemonade is ***

3. Miguel Colorado Entry fee: $450 MXN

Although Miguel Colorado may be a bit out of the way, it's worth a visit if you happen to be passing through the area. Keep in mind that there might be ongoing construction due to the Mayan Train infrastructure project, and it is advisable not to stay after dark due to safety concerns reported by locals.

However, once inside the cenote, you'll be rewarded with tranquility and serenity. The towering walls of the cenote surround you as you enjoy the peacefulness of the water. Keep an eye out in the trees for spider monkeys!

If you're feeling adventurous, take advantage of the thrilling zipline that offers breathtaking views. Keep in mind that there are no nearby restaurants, so plan accordingly if you plan to spend the day exploring this hidden gem.

4. Gran Cenote

Entry fee: $500 MXN

Situated within reach of Tulum on the East coast, Gran Cenote offers a unique opportunity to swim alongside magnificent turtles. Before entering the cenote, a mandatory shower ensures that no traces of sunscreen, perfume, or cosmetics harm the turtles' habitat. Life jackets are also mandatory for safety, as is the case in most cenotes.

Once you've marveled at the turtles, you can swim through a tunnel to reach a second cenote, adding to the sense of adventure. While there is a large grassy area for relaxation, it's important to note that there is limited shade available since sunbeds and parasols were removed after the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, Gran Cenote promises an unforgettable experience amidst its natural wonders.

Other cenotes to visit:

Cenote Casa Tortuga

$400 MXN with guided tour

Recently opened to the public, therefore little known. There is a guide for 1 hour that accompanies the group in 4 different cenotes, 3 indoors and 1 outdoors.

Cenote Calavera

Small, quiet cenote with a swing in the middle. Not crowded and very impressive!

Cenote Dos Ojos

This cenote, translated to Two Eyes, is part of a park-system of underground cenotes. You can also go dive in these cenotes.

Cenote Taak Bi Ha

Managed by a local community, this cenote is one of the most beautiful in the area. It's located completely underground but is well-lit.

Cenote Zacil Ha

A small cenote that is only $50 MXN to enter.

Embark on an extraordinary journey through the captivating cenotes of Yucatan, where ancient history and natural beauty combine to create an unforgettable adventure. Take a refreshing dip, explore hidden passages, and immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes of these remarkable geological formations.

Have you been to any cenotes worth sharing?


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