Cenote Definition and Meaning

Cenote is a term that has its origin in the Mayan word tz’onot and which means well or abyss. A cenote is a reservoir of spring water with a certain depth.

The cenotes arose in caverns after the roof collapses of one or more caves. With the accumulation of groundwater, ponds were formed that can be more or less deep. Cenotes can be underground, semi-open or open, characteristics that are related to the age of the structure (the youngest maintain their dome, while the oldest are already open).

For the Mayans, cenotes were sacred places. There they used to perform sacrifices and rituals that were part of their cosmology. It is not yet known with precision, however, how the ceremonies were developed in the cenotes.

The Sacred Cenote of Chichén Itzá, with about 60 meters in diameter and vertical walls of about 15 meters, is one of the most famous cenotes. It is located north of the Kukulcán pyramid and has become a great tourist attraction.

It is possible to find many other cenotes in the Yucatan peninsula (Mexico). Experts have succeeded in verifying that many of the cenotes are interconnected and have access to the sea, which allows us to affirm that there is an important underground system.

In some cases, the cenotes have a wide diversity of flora and fauna, even harboring endangered species. Other cenotes, on the other hand, are almost lifeless due to the high level of pollution.

The most amazing cenotes in the world

Pit Neversink (Alabama, United States)

This sink stone limestone is among the most star pictures all over the planet, given the beauty of its cornices of ferns and streams. Regarding its proportions, the hole has a width of 12 meters in the highest part, and it increases until it reaches 30 meters when it reaches the deepest part, 50 meters from the ground. Some of the living beings that inhabit this impressive cenote are bats and various rare species of ferns that are in danger of extinction.

Big Hole (Kimberley, South Africa)

The literal translation of the name of this 17-hectare cenote (463 meters wide by 1.1 kilometer deep) is “great hole” and, given its dimensions, it is not difficult to understand the choice of the title. It originated when a diamond mine collapsed and it is the largest hand-dug well on the planet. Today it is filled with water and looks like a lake. Since the farm was closed in 1914, it is visited by crowds of people from various countries every year.

Zacatón (Aldana, Mexico)

Belonging to the Zacatón system, a group in the municipality of Aldama with karst characteristics, this cenote is full of thermal water and is 339 meters deep. It is worth mentioning that, among the five cenotes found in Rancho La Azufrosa, Zacatón is the only one in which a flow of water cannot be seen. Regarding its name, it derives from the floating formations of grass (grass or grass) that move on the surface thanks to the wind.

Red Lake (Imotski, Croatia)

The cenote Red Lake is located in the city of Imotski and, as its name implies, it is a lake (“red”). Some of its main characteristics are its high cliffs, which can exceed 241 meters above sea level and continue in the depths, and its many caves. It has been determined that its volume is no less than 30 million cubic meters, which makes it the third largest chasm on the planet. A series of underground rivers help to drain the water outside the cave.


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