The underground world of cenotes
It’s like stepping into a forgotten world, where hidden depths reveal visual treasures only those that dare venture ever get to see. Rocky caves dripping with stalactites poised above your head lead to a secluded underground pool emanating ethereal mystique. Secluded nooks and crannies, underwater rocky shelves and walls that seem to whisper secrets of the ancient Maya. Where is this hidden gem we speak about?
We’re heading out of Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan, along the path through lush green jungle to the Chaak Tun cenote. Cenote refers to a natural underground reservoir of water where the limestone has sunk away (also known as a sinkhole). There are thousands of cenotes in Yucatan, Mexico but some are more spectacular than others and Chaak Tun cenote has to be up there with the best of them.
Once revered by the ancient Mayans as sacred wells, cenotes were believed to be the “passageway to the gods.” Some (not all) cenotes were also believed to be the sites for some pretty hair-raising human sacrifice rituals, such as that at Chichen Itza. Usually these sacrifices were conducted when the Mayan people were experiencing long droughts. It’s hard to believe that such barbaric rituals could happen in such beautiful places but it sure adds to the eerie sense of intrigue!
Other cenotes are open air pools, surrounded by cliff like walls, covered in jungle vines and lit by rays of sunlight shining down. At Chaak Tun cenote, local guides will tell you the history and beliefs surrounding the cenotes and, because it’s not as well-known as that of Chichen Itza, there’s usually a lot less people there.
So, how do you get there? From a cruising perspective, a cruise to the Yucatan will usually include a visit to Chichen Itza but if you’re wanting to see a less populated cenote, a cruise like Ponant’s “Maya Treasure of the Yucatan” will stop at Chaak Tun. This is a fantastic cruise that will give you an insight into the Mayan culture and visit the preserved temples and palaces. You’ll see some incredibly beautiful landscapes, explore ancient ruins, visit picturesque fishing villages with their colourful roofs and boats lining the beaches and learn the secrets of the world’s most mysterious civilisation.