A Cenote is a natural phenomenon, which is a sinkhole in the Earth’s surface. The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico has an around 7,000 of them because it is primarily made up of very porous limestone. For millions of years, rainfall has slowly eaten away at the limestone and has created a huge system of underground caves and caverns. Many of them are filled with water from rain & the underground water table. When the roof of a water filled cave collapses, a cenote is created. The water found in a cenote could be fresh water, salt water, or even both both. Structurally it may be completely open, like a lake or almost completely closed with just a small opening at the top, or somewhere in between.
The word cenote comes from the Mayan word “dzonot” or “ts’onot” which means sacred well. Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods. The Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza was used to perform human sacrifices. Some of these beautiful natural sinkholes are open to the public and are visited by many year round just to see the simple beauty of something that is formed by mother nature herself.