One of the biggest draws to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico is without doubt cenotes. Cenotes, (in case you’re thinking what they are) are natural freshwater sinkholes found only in this area of Central America. Some are located almost entirely underground, with only a single hole at the top to let light in, while others are completely open. Not only is swimming in these natural pools refreshing after a long day of exploring, but cenotes are also a stunning testament to nature. Many of the open ones will have tree roots, branches and leaves, dangling over the sides of the sinkhole and falling into the abyss below, creating a sort of waterfall of foliage. Add the calming sound of dripping water and the stillness of these amazing formations if you manage to catch them without the crowds, you have an unforgettable experience unlikely to be relived anywhere else in the world.
While cenotes are located all over Yucatan and Quintana Roo, some of the most beautiful are just outside of the gorgeous colonial town of Valladolid. They’re so close in fact that many can be visited by bicycle, an easy 20-minute ride from the centre of Valladolid. With so many to choose from you could stay here for days, visiting just cenotes, however, after visiting many myself I’d chosen which I think are the most unique and stunning ones in the area, saving you the time and hassle. Let’s jump in and discover these incredible cenotes near Valladolid.
HOW TO GET THERE
Bicycle – Most of the cenotes mentioned in this post are easily reached from Valladolid by bicycle with the exception of Cenote Ik-Kil and Suytun. Cenote Ik-Kil is simply too far (next to Chichen Itza) and I guess it is possible to cycle the 16km round trip to Suytun if you are feeling adventurous. Bicycles can be rented from many hostels and stores in the centre of Valladolid. I recommend Go Yucatan tours, located just behind the main cathedral, who have a variety of different kinds of bikes available to rent by the hour or day.
Scooter/Motorbike – If you prefer to save your legs, another option is scooter rental. Scooter Rent Valladolid on Calle 41 rent cute, Vespa-like scooters for the day and by the hour. It does involve some riding on the highway but around Valladolid, they aren’t too busy.
Unfortunately at the time of writing, there was no car hire in Valladolid. The nearest place to hire a car would be Tulum, Cancun or Merida.
Basing yourself in Valladolid or just passing through? Find the Ultimate Valladolid Travel Guide here.
BEST CENOTES NEAR VALLADOLID
This dreamy cenote was probably my favourite of all the cenotes near Valladolid. Located on an old ranch, which has now been converted into a relaxing picnic area and restaurant, this cenote is one of the largest open cenotes around. What makes this one truly unique though is the amount of vines and tree roots hanging down into the water. With the deep blue colour of the water, speckled with harmless black catfish and the sounds of the birds and bats above, its a jaw-droppingly beautiful place. This cenote also has a platform and a rope swing which you can swing off into the water for some extra fun. For a truly magical experience, arrive for when it opens at 8 am. I had it all to myself and the eery silence, echoes and peace made it magical.
CENOTE X’KEKEN & SAMULA
Cenotes Xke’Ken and Samula are both located in the same complex, right next to each other. You can buy tickets for one or the other but I would definitely recommend both. They are both cave cenotes and each one has a large hole at the top allowing for light to stream through. Cenote Samula is much bigger with crystal clear water which turns a darker and deeper blue the deeper the water gets. While X’keKen is smaller, it’s very much about the cave itself rather than the water. Notice all the amazing stalactites and columns of limestone formed over millions of years. A swim in both is a must, even just to cool off and enjoy the freshwater.
So, you’ve probably seen this cenote on Instagram a hundred times already and but it’s exactly what it’s cracked up to be and more- in fact, the photos on Instagram probably don’t do it justice. This is the cenote with the stone platform jutting out into the water and at a certain time of day it gets illuminated by a shaft of light coming in from the opening above. It’s an incredibly photogenic cenote but also one where you can feel the hundreds of years of history that it has. Swim in the cool, placid blue waters, relax and take it all in. If you want to catch the cenote when the light beam hits the platform make sure to come at around midday on a sunny, clear day. This is the busiest time however and if you want to get some great shots on the platform without having to wait, it’s best to visit first thing in the morning, when it opens at 9am.
Located right in the middle of Valladolid and therefore walkable from almost any hotel, this cenote is perfect for a cool dip at the end of a day of exploring. While it’s not the most picturesque or the cleanest, being right in the middle of the town, you’ll find lots of locals here as well as tourists making it a great spot to people watch. It’s actually a really big, open cenotes with hanging vines and streams of water tumbling down like a scene out of The Jungle Book. Open from 9am-5pm.
Ik-Kil is the furthest out of all the cenotes near Valladolid but it’s well worth the trip. This is one of the most popular cenotes in the area, not only due to the fact that it’s absolutely, jaw-droppingly beautiful but also due to its proximity to Chichen Itza. Many Chichen Itza tours stop here on the way out so it gets very busy- try to get there as early as you can in the morning. Compared to other cenotes this sinkhole is larger and deeper and the water is a clear, dark blue. Streams of water cascade down the sides, vines and roots hang down barely touching the glassy surface of the water and atmospheric Mayan music plays in the background. There’s nothing else to do but go for a dip or simply float taking it all in. Open from 9am-5pm
TIPS FOR VISITING CENOTES
↠ If you’re interested in taking good photos bring a tripod, especially to the cave cenotes. Due to the lack of light, you’ll have to slow down your shutter speed and to avoid blurry images definitely use a tripod.
↠ Facilities vary, however, all cenotes have bathrooms and changing rooms, others have picnic facilities and even restaurants. It may sound obvious but don’t forget your towel, swimwear and spare clothes.
↠ As a general rule, the earlier you visit the fewer people there will be. For a more peaceful and potentially more authentic experience, I’d recommend getting to each cenote as early as you can or even better, for when they open.
Please leave all your questions and comments below about these amazing cenotes near Valladolid. I’d love to hear from you.
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