The limestone landscape of the Yucatan peninsula is famous for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sinkholes and natural pits that dot the region. Known locally as “cenotes,” these formations pop up (or should I say down?) across the region. They are so common that they are deeply interwoven into Mayan ritual and legend. Some cenotes still contain ancient pottery, skeletons or other remnants of the past. Many cenotes interconnect to form large, very enticing underground cave systems. It’s the ultimate playground for those who like to crawl or swim their way into their own Jules Verne adventure.
Our first (but surely not last) encounter with these natural wonders was just outside Valladolid at Cenote Dzitnup. Actually, the site boasts two spectacular underground pools known as Xkeken and Samula. Decorated with stalactites and stalagmites and illuminated by natural skylights, both Xkeken and Samula are perfect for hiding from the midday heat and even taking a cool dip. If you do decide to swim, don’t be surprised if you feel little fish nibbling at your toes. Luckily, we’ve have a lot of experience with that.
Visiting Xkeken and Samula
Although locals often refer to the site as Cenote Dzitnup and Xkeken and Samula are right next to each other, the two are treated as separate cenotes with separate 59 peso entry fees. You can get to Dzitnup by colectivo or taxi from Valladolid. If you are on a tight budget and you have to choose, the more decoratated Xkeken will probably appeal to more people, although the cavernous Samula is also an impressive site.