The cenotes near Valladolid are magical underground water worlds and exploring them quickly became a highlight of my time in Mexico. The translucent water, the streaks of natural light and the rocky enclosures make for some of the most surreal swimming holes you’ll ever see — no wonder the Mayans once believed them to be portals to the underworld. We visited five cenotes near Valladolid – here are some tips if you’re thinking of doing the same.
Cenote Ik Kil
After a hot day exploring Chichen Itza you’ll probably feel like cooling off in a swimming pool. Don’t head straight back to your hotel though, instead travel the short distance to Cenote Ik Kil. The name sounds a bit sinister, but in reality this is an amazing (and very crowded ) little swimming spot. Tree roots and vines cascade down to the clear, deep water from the ground level hole. It’s a great place to swim, but if you’re not confident in the water it’s advised to wear a life jacket. It does get pretty busy but if you’re lucky enough to visit between tour groups it should be fairly quiet. Cenote Ik Kil is on the road between Chichen Itza and Valladolid — you can catch a bus or a taxi (we paid 60 pesos for a taxi) and then catch the bus back into town when you’re finished.
Cenote X’Keken (Cenote Dzitnup)
Surely one of the most unique natural wonders in Mexico, Cenote X’Keken is like something out of fantasy movie. This cenote is almost entirely hidden, but head underground and a magical world of stalactites and crystal clear water unfolds. Light pours into Cenote X’Keken from a small hole at the top, and there is also a bit of artificial light to give it an even more surreal look. The water is really clear and great for swimming, again though, be careful if you’re not a strong swimmer.
This cenote near Valladolid is in the same complex as Cenote X’keken, meaning you can see two incredible natural swimming holes on the same outing. Cenote Samula is similar to its neighbour, only a little roomier. The hole at the top features tree roots falling a short distance into a massive cavern. It’s another stunningly surreal place — I was surprised there were so many great cenotes to explore around Valladolid (and we didn’t even see them all!).
Cenote X’Keken and Cenote Samula are located a short distance from downtown Valladolid. You can cycle, walk (it’s quite far though and this region is very hot), take a taxi or grab a seat in a collectivo. We went for the collectivo (we caught it on calle 44, near the main plaza, but you might want to ask a local as the pick-up points might change) for around 20 pesos each and did the same on the way back to Valladolid.
This cenote is located in Valladolid itself, making it the easiest one in the area to visit. It’s not as “underground” as the other nearby cenotes but is still a really unique place. It was very quiet when we visited, and while the water wasn’t quite as enticing as the other cenotes we visited, it’s still worth a visit. Cenote Zaci is located a few blocks from the main plaza in Valladolid and it’s easy to walk there. Search it on Google Maps or ask one of the locals to point you in the right direction.
The Sacred Cenote
Valladolid is perhaps best known as the closest town to Chichen Itza. It’s the best place to stay if you’re thinking of visiting Chichen Itza as it allows you to get there right at opening time, meaning you avoid the big crowds. There’s a cenote inside the Chichen Itza complex, but you wouldn’t want to swim there. It’s a sacred site and apparently they used to sacrifice people there. To get to Chichen Itza from Valladolid it’s best to catch a bus — it’s cheap and it’ll get you there early.
FURTHER READING: The Wonders of the World: Chichen Itza
Entry tickets for the cenotes near Valladolid
- Cenote Zaci: 20 pesos
- Cenote X’Keken and Cenote Samula: 80 pesos each
- Cenote Ik Kil: 80 pesos
- Sacred Cenote: Included in the ticket for Chichen Itza
We visited some awesome cenotes near Valladolid but I’m sure there’s more around. There are thousands of cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula — we’ll be back one day to explore more of them.
Have you been to any cenotes in Mexico? Let me know in the comments below.
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