What Is A Cenote?

Learn About Cenotes

Have you ever heard of a cenote? You may not have because the word “cenote” is most often used in Mexico and other Spanish countries. In fact, Mexico is one of the most popular places tourists go to see cenotes. They are pretty, natural wonders made from rock and water. Here are some questions and answers to help you learn more about cenotes.

  1. What Are Cenotes?

The word “Cenote” is a Spanish word that was made up from a Mayan word meaning “a source of groundwater.” Cenotes are special types of sinkholes in the ground. They are also sometimes called natural wells. That is because every cenote has some amount of water at the bottom. Some have a lot of deep water, and some have much less. Most cenotes also have very clear water because it is filtered through the stone around it. Cenotes are popular tourist attractions all over Mexico and in some other parts of the world. They are also very important to people who study history.

  1. Why Are Cenotes Important in Mexico?

Cenotes are important to the Mexican people and to historians around the world because the Mayan people used them for rituals. The Mayan people lived for about 1200 years in Central America. While there, they built many temples. Today, a lot of those temple ruins are still explored by archaeologists and other scientists. They can teach the Mexican people and visitors a lot about the history of the area, and so can the many cenotes around them. Cenotes provided important water sources for the Mayan people. Without cenotes, the Mayans could not have survived for as long as they did.

  1. How Do Cenotes Form?

The Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico mostly have limestone walls. Limestone changes as water flows through or under it. When the limestone shifts, it makes holes in the ground. From the tops of those holes, people can sometimes look down and see the cenotes below. Sometimes, if the cenotes are deep, people have to climb down into the holes to see the water.

  1. What Are Some Types of Cenotes?

Not every cenote is the same. Many have limestone walls, at least in Mexico. Water is also part of every cenote, but other features are different. Every cenote has different walls, water colors, and other features, like rock formations. Here are some types of cenotes:

  • Cylinder cenotes have walls that go almost straight down and surround the opening of the water totally.
  • Pit cenotes are small holes that lead to wider areas of water below. They are caverns without straight walls.
  • Basin cenotes are like cylinder and pit cenotes, except they contain shallow water. Many cenotes are much deeper.
  • Cave cenotes are cenotes visitors can walk to through cave entrances instead of climbing down shafts from the top.
  1. Who Visits Cenotes?

Many cave cenotes are places you can enjoy visiting with your family. In fact, there are lists of family-friendly cave cenotes across Mexico that are popular with tourists. The top-access-only cenotes are often too dangerous for kids. Adult climbing experts explore them because they have to use ropes or other ways to drop down to and climb up from the water. Many trained scuba divers also enjoy exploring the deeper cenotes in Mexico. Sometimes, they even find items used by the ancient Mayans deep in the waters of the cenotes they explore.


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