Guests staying at the Yucatan Mayan Retreat have a great variety of activities and excursions available to them. There is something for everyone... the thrill-seeker, the anthropology buff, the beach bum, the shopaholic, the spiritually-inclined.
Most of the cenotes are above ground pools - some shallow some deep. The Dzitnup Cenote one was by far the coolest (visually and literally) that we saw. Picture a communal swimming pool that looks like Luray Cavens, but with deeper, and clearer water, that has been used by local residents for at least hundreds of years. You access it via a tiny well-worn stair case that takes you maybe 70 feet below ground level. The main cavern is, well, of cavernous dimensions and at an amazingly pleasant temperature. When we where there it was probably about 100 degrees F outside and maybe 80 inside the cenote.
Cenotes are formed by dissolution of rock which creates a subsurface void, which may or may not be linked to an active cave system, and the subsequent structural collapse of the rock ceiling above the void. The rock that falls into the water below will then be slowly removed by further dissolution, creating space for more collapse blocks. The rate of collapse increases during periods when the water table is below the ceiling of the void, since the rock ceiling is no longer buoyantly supported by the water in the void. Cenotes may be fully collapsed creating an open water pool, or partially collapsed with some portion of a rock overhang above the water. The stereotypical cenotes often resemble small circular ponds, measuring some tens of meters in diameter with sheer drops at the edges. Most cenotes however require some degree of stooping if not crawling to access the water.
In 1936, a simple morphometry based classification system for cenotes was presented . Cenotes-c?ntaro are those with a surface connection narrower than the diameter of the water body; Cenotes-cil?ndricos (Cylinder cenotes) are those with strictly vertical walls; Cenotes-aguadas (Basin cenotes) are those with shallow water basins; and grutas (Cave cenotes) are those having a horizontal entrance with dry sections. The classification scheme was based on morphometric observations above the water table, and therefore incompletely reflects the processes by which the cenotes formed and the inherent hydrogeochemical relationship with the underlying flooded cave networks, which were only discovered in the 1980s and onwards with the initiation of cave diving exploration.
Ek'Balam is an ancient Mayan city located 190 km (119 miles) east of Merida and 160 km (100 miles) west of Cancun. It is unfortunate that so few travelers know of it, because Ek'Balam may contain one of the finest Mayan sculptures in the Yucatan. It also holds the record as one of the longest continuously inhabited communities in the area. The Mayans first settled it in 100 B.C. and remained so until the Spaniards arrived. Ek?Balam means ?Black Jaguar? in Mayan. According to some Spanish writings from the 16th century, the city was part of a great empire called Talol. The Mayan king Ek?Balam, who was also known as Coch Cal Balam, founded it. Most of the buildings at Ek?Balam were built around 800 A.D. or later. Around that time, the city was ruled by a powerful man named Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok, whose tomb, called Acropolis, It is located on the site. Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok's name has been deduced from a glyph in the tomb. The Acropolis has remarkable sculptures and is considered among the tallest buildings in the Yucatan. The view from the top is quite spectacular, and worth the effort, although they can seem quite daunting on the way up and down. In order to view the sculptures there, you must climb about 2/3rds of the way up. The buildings at Ek?Balam suggest that it was rich and powerful at one time. The city lost much of its power around 1000 A.D., however, but remained inhabited long after. The first excavations were carried out by Desire Charnay in 1886, but it was not until 1987 when most of the serious work began. A couple of buildings remain buried, waiting for their secrets to be revealed.
Located a few blocks east of the center of Valladolid is the beautiful cenote Zaci. You can climb down the stairs and visit this cenote which is open to the air one on side with the other side covered by stalactites with stalagmites below. A beautiful restaurant with a thatch roof is located at the site and it is open daily.
The Ball Court and the Temple of the Jaguars, This is the largest ball court in Mesoamerica. It is formed by long wall on each side, with embedded rings or hoops carved with scenes of the sacrifice of ball players. At each end of the U-shaped court there are low walls supporting buildings richly decorated with relief's and paintings. To the east, the Temple of Jaguars and Shields presents processions of dignitaries and battle scenes that offer a vivid image of the history of Chichen Itza. The size of the court and the court and the height of the rings indicate that, in this case, it is not likely that the ball was hit through the ring by the hip alone, although such game rules were generally applicable at the time of the conquest.
Chich?n Itz?, Yucat?n,.-In celebration of its first anniversary as a Wonder of the World and its twenty years of being named a UNESCO World Heritage, the Mayan city of Chich?n Itz? was the scenario where the tenor Placido Domingo performed on October 4th, 2008.
The pyramid known as known as "El Castillo" is surely the place where the ceremony of the descent of Kukulkan was held. The pyramid has special astronomical layout so that a game of light and shadow is formed. On March 21st the body of the serpent metaphorically descends from the temple on top of the pyramid and arrives at the heads at the foot of the staircase. Excavations in the interior show that there is a smaller "Castillo" in its interior.
The name Chichen - Itza is derived from the Mayan language: "Chi" - mouth, "Chen" - well and "Itza" - the tribe that inhabited the area. Between 600 and 1250 A.D. this ancient city whose name means "at the mouth of the Itza well," was the center of political, economic, religious, and military power, not only in Yucatan but also in the entire southeaster part of Mesoamerica. The Itza domain included pert of Tabasco and Campeche, the northern Gulf Coast, and a large part of the southern lowlands. Its sphere of control was based on regional and long distance mercantile activities, which generated one of the most important commercial circuits in all Mesoamerica. Chichen Itza rule brought about drastic changes in the internal structure of Yucatecan communities. At the same time, the introduction of an Innovative view of the world marked the establishment of an order characterized by changing commercial values, production and distribution systems, and residential and religious architecture of the groups in the power. It is calculated that during the age of grandeur approximately 50,000 inhabitants such distant groups as those of Balamkanch?, Iki, Cumtun, Poxil and Halakai, among others. All of them were connected to the ceremonial center by means of roads known as sacbeob. Chichen - Itza is the most visited archaeological site in the peninsula of Yucatan, due to its extraordinary architecture beauty and its geographical location. It was founded in the year 514 of our era by the priest LAKIN CHAN who was also called Itzamna. This is why their people were called since the foundation, chanes or itzaes. When the Spaniards arrived to Chichen - Itza, it had been abandoned as a consequence of the civil war fought with Mayapan. In between 1196 and 1441 the final collapse of this culture took place in the north of the peninsula. The conquerors found the buildings partially in ruins and their names and real use were unknown; this is why the present names are suppositions.