The Yucatan Peninsula has an unusual geological feature. There are no surface rivers or streams, but an extensive system of underground rivers, streams and lakes. The ancient Mayans relied on the underground lakes or cenotes for their water source. Sacred cenote water is still used today in Mayan ceremonies.
The Yucatan Peninsula has an abundance of cenotes, some very well known, like the cenotes of Chichen Itza, Vallodolid, Tulum. Others are less well known, and hundreds are a well-kept secret only known to the locals.
The three cenotes of Chunkanán, also known as the cenotes of Cuzamá, are among the most beautiful in the Yucatan. An added attraction is that they can only be reached by taking a horse-drawn mini-rail truck. The starting point of the tour which lasts around three hours is the centre of the village of Chunkanán. The journey takes you about seven kilometres deep into the mayan jungle. Take your swim suit, and bathe in waters held sacred by the ancient mayans.
Each cenote is very different, the first, Chelentun being the most accessible. You enter down a concrete staircase into the partially open cave. It has been said that the waters have healing powers, and people come from far and wide for cures. This cenote and three other smaller ones are accessible from the starting point in the village of Chunkanán.
The second and third cenotes are accessible from the Parador between the villages of Cuzamá and Chunkanán.
The second cenote, Chansinic´che is accessed down a wooden staircase (mind your head as you go down) and is a large cave with one side of the roof partially open to the sky.
The third cenote, Bolonchoojol is the most difficult to enter, but the most beautiful. You have to squeeze through a small hole in the ground and climb down a vertical ladder made of a railway sleeper. Through the darkness of the solid rock, and then emerge into the marvellous light which shines through a hole in the centre of the roof. The sun sends its rays down through the roof, and lights up the sparkling turquoise water.
One big advantage of staying at Sac Nicté is that you can go to the cenotes early or late, and enjoy the awesome splendour of the cenotes in peace and tranquility.
The caretaker at Sac Nicté can also take you at night. Take a led flashlight, and when you enter the cenotes, stalactites are reflected in the water, and appear to be rising up from the depths. They look more fantastic than a science-ficion film, and are just one more reason why you should stay a few days at Sac Nicté, Chunkanán, Yucatán, Mexico.
In Homún, a village a few kilometres east of Cuzamá there is a new cenote tour. Ask in the restaurant at the entrance of Homún, and a guide will come with you in your own transport to show you twelve cenotes which are now open to the public.
Sabacché, a village some 20 minutes drive to the south of Chunkanán has two cenotes open to the public. One has an easy access, walking from the car park. To reach the other, you rent bicycles from the centre of the village, and cycle to the magnificent cenote which has a spiral staircase taking you down in to the cenote. The light inside this cenote is truly amazing, and last time I went there, I experienced a magical golden light reflected from thousands of tiny flowers that were floating in the water.
All the cenotes of Chunkanán, Cuzamá, Homún and Sabacché are open the the public, and you can swim in each one. There is a local saying "once you have swum in a mayan cenote, you will have to return."