The state of Yucatán is close to Cancún and Playa del Carmen, all of which are located on the Yucatán Peninsula. A visit here is bound to be focussed on the area’s fascinating Mayan histories and stunning natural cave and cenote structures, all of which are nestled in a lush tropical jungle. Mérida is the state capital, and it’s positively brimming with Mexican culture and heritage. Admire Spanish architecture, take a stroll through the plaza and delve into Mayan history at the museum or one of the many archaeological sites in the area. If you’re one to visit lesser-known destinations, then Valladolid is also worth a night or two, especially as it’s located between the coast and Mérida.
Visit Yucatán’s famous cenotes from either Mérida or one of the tourist towns on the coast, such as Cancún and Playa del Carmen.
A tropical climate with an average year-round temperature of 26°C, and highs up to 32°C in the wet season.
Wet season: May to October
Dry season: November to April
Diving here is focussed on visiting the cenotes, of which there are around 6000 on the Yucatán Peninsula. But what is a cenote?
Cenotes are created by an underground river system and are freshwater sinkholes formed when the roof of a cavern collapses due to erosion. Millions of years ago, the Yucatan Peninsula was covered by the ocean. Some 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, the sea level descended approximately 75 metres. For thousands of years, the porous land surface, formed by fossilised coral and limestone, has filtered rainwater which dissolved parts of the subsoil. The depth of each cenote depends on the amount of natural debris that has accumulated through erosion in addition to the remains of the roof that collapsed. The stalactites and stalagmites that form inside the cenotes are true natural works of art, and the water that gathers in these caverns is an amazing crystal clear, turquoise colour. Holes in the ceiling can allow sunlight to filter into the cenotes, adding to the magical scene.
The Maya considered these sinkholes to be sacred and believed the cenotes were the entrance to the underworld. Quantities of ancient offerings and jewellery have been found in some cenotes. Additionally, the cenotes were an essential source of freshwater for the Maya and are still relied upon by contemporary Maya people.
There are four different types of cenotes: 1. those that are entirely underground 2. those that are semi-underground 3. those that are at level with the land, like a lake or pond, and 4. those that are open wells. Some cenotes are accessible for swimming and cave diving, some are not accessible at all, and some are actually dry cave systems that can be explored. An estimated six thousand cenotes have been found in the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo.
Read on for a few of our favourites to visit.
25ºC, 3mm to 5mm wetsuit + hood depending on intended depth and duration.
Year-round but better conditions from May to September
Casa Cenote (8m)
Regarded as one of the easiest cenotes to dive, perfect for a first dive here. The light effects here are stunning, as the light cascades to highlight the green growth in water that is stunningly clear. Interesting entry through mangroves.
Dos Ojos (9m)
Two separate dives are available here, both offering spectacular tunnels to explore. Often said to be one of the best caves to dive in the world. Expect stunning light columns and interesting structures. Requires good buoyancy skills!
Dreams Gate (7m)
An easy dive - if you have perfect buoyancy! Stunning stalagmites and stalactites, on a backdrop of crystal blue water.
For those experienced with cave diving. Very dark and deep, but rewards you with some magnificent structures!
Do not miss experiencing some of the many Maya ruins, archaeological sites or museums. Once you have dived the cenotes, you will get an even bigger appreciation of why they were so important to ancient Mayans.
Get a taste of Mexico and visit one of the many markets, churches, food stalls or bars away from the tourist traps.
Diving the area's cenotes will likely give you your fill of being immersed in nature. But if you are still keen for more, then a visit to one of the area's pink lagoons - Laguna Rosada, Las Coloradas or Las Coloradas Pink Lake - is a must! There are interesting nature walks, and nature reserves that are worth a visit too, such as Parque Natural Ría Lagartos or The Ecological Reserve Corchito.
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