The Mayan Route cenotes: an underground journey

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cenotes mayan route

What is a cenote, anyway?

Dzonoot is a Mayan word that means “hole with water”. This is the origin for the word cenote, which is perfect because they are, quite literally, flooded holes. They were formed during the Pleistocene, when the sea level dropped drastically and the underground freshwater networks expanded.

There are different kinds of cenotes: open, semi-closed and subterranean. Each one is unique and tells, through its rock formations, its own story through time. Besides being a tourist attraction, cenotes are the main source of freshwater in the region, which doesn’t have a lot of rivers or lakes.

These are some of the Mayan Route cenotes that you have to visit.


Really, three cenotes: Chelentun, Chansinic’che and Bolom Chojol. Because they are so close to each other, the are often visited at the same time, which explains the peculiar transportation setup that takes you from one to the next –horses pulling wagons through rail tracks. You’ll find them 28 miles from Merida.


This cenote is almost entirely closed, except for a hole on the roof that lets in a beam of light, which falls gracefully on the blue, crystal clear water. There’s a unique, kind of mystic vibe in this cenote, surrounded by vines and stalactites. It’s located 105 miles from Merida.

cenote mayan route


Only 9 miles outside of Merida, this open cenote is right next to the Dzibilchaltun archaeological site. It is one of the most popular, so be prepared for some attendance. It’s perfect for an outdoors experience!

Ik Kil

This jug-shaped cenote has a very wide “throat” that goes all the way down to the surface of the water and further. Embellished by vines and tiny waterfalls, it is one of the essential cenotes of the Mayan Route. It is a 75 miles ride from Merida.

Dos Ojos

This stunning cenote, 13 miles north of Tulum, is a true natural spectacle. Over 40 miles of underground routes have been discovered in the area, which makes it a great place for diving!


Do your own custom tour through the Mayan Route cenotes and remember to look us up at City Express Merida and City Express Playa del Carmen, located at the perfect spots.

The Mayan Route cenotes: an underground journey