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.
Cenotes are naturalmade wells and there are four different types. The first are the underground cenotes which are completely underground, like small lakes inside a cave. The other are underground cenotes which have a whole in their roof, where sunlight can come inside. Third there are the ones that doesn't have a roof at all. And the last are completely open, almost as lakes.
You can find cenotes all over the Yucatán peninsula, and they were very important to the Mayas. There were not so many rivers so they used the cenotes as their watersource. They also had sacred cenotes where they did their sacrifices.
Cenotes are naturalmade wells and there are four different types. The first are the underground cenotes which are completely underground, like small lakes inside a cave. The other are underground cenotes which have a whole in their roof, where sunlight can come inside. Third there are the ones that doesn't have a roof at all. And the last are completely open, almost as lakes. You can find cenotes all over the Yucatán peninsula, and they were very important to the Mayas. There were not so many rivers so they used the cenotes as their watersource. They also had sacred cenotes where they did their sacrifices.
Along with being used for subsistance purposes, the cenotes and caves of the Yucatan held significant spiritual meaning in Mayan culture. They were thought of as entrances to the underworld, called Xibalba, where the Mayan gods and ancestors could be contacted by the living. Many sacred rituals and ceremonies were therefore held within these underground chambers because they were considered to be closer to divine and supernatural powers. It is for this same reason that many archaeologists speculate that cenotes were used as a site for human sacrifice and burial. Though numerous skeletal remains of ancient Mayans have been found within these structures, the notion of their use for such purposes is questionable. For one thing, the decomposition of bodies within centotes would have certainly contaminated the Mayan's only water source. In addition, many of the Mayan civilizations built around cenotes had been inhabited for hundreds of years, meaning that far more bodies would have been discovered had sacrifice and burial been a common practice within cenotes.
Solution Caves are able to form because certain conditions allow it. Limestone, which comprises much of the bedrock of the Yucatan Peninsula is an essential ingredient. Rain water, as it falls from the sky, mixes with carbon dioxide to form a weak solution called carbonic acid. As this concoction seeks the water table below the surface, it dissolves the limestone. Over the course of many thousands of years the caves are formed. The same beautiful decorations that one might encounter in a dry cave such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns and halactites are all present here in the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Yucat?n Peninsula is composed of a large and intricate system of beautiful underwater caves and cenotes. These caves have formed formed from a combination of varying geologic phenomenon such as glaciation, dissolution and the impact of a large asteroid.
Near, Chichen Itza archaeological zone are a network of sacred caves known as Balankanche (Spanish: Gruta de Balankanche), Balamka'anche' in Modern Maya). In the caves, a large selection of ancient pottery and idols may be seen still in the positions where they were left in pre-Columbian times. The location of the cave has been well known in modern times. Edward Thompson and Alfred Tozzer visited it in 1905. A.S. Pearse and a team of biologists explored the cave in 1932 and 1936. E. Wyllys Andrews IV also explored the cave in the 1930s. Edwin Shook and R.E. Smith explored the cave on behalf of the Carnegie Institution in 1954, and dug several trenches to recover potsherds and other artifacts. Shook determined that the cave had been inhabited over a long period, at least from the Preclassic to the post-conquest era.
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.
When the city was just a Maya settlement it was called Zac?, which means "white hawk". But after the spanish conquered the city they called it Valladolid. One of the cenotes in the city is called Cenote Zac?. It is located at the intersection of calles 39 and 36, in a small park in the middle of town. You enter through a path that has been made in the roof and wall.
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.
Balankanche Cave should be visited for the beauty of its natural stone formations and for its archaeological importance as a ceremonial site for the Maya. A light and sound show that relates its history can be seen into the cave. The first man of modern times to see the treasure of Balankanche was a tour guide from Chichen Itza. In 1959, while exploring the cave, Gomez discovered a passageway leading deep into the caverns. It took him two hours to follow out the path that eventually brought him face to face with the treasures left by the ancient Maya 800 years ago. Dr. E. Wyllys Andrews, leader of the National Geographic Society Expedition working nearby, was immediately summoned to inspect the discovery. Arriving into the cave, he was astonished when he saw with the beam of his headlamp hundreds of glittering stalactites surrounding a huge stalagmite (resembling a ceiba tree) which stretched from floor to ceiling in the center of the enormous vault. Carefully placed around the base of this unusual geological formation, said to be the "sacred tree inside the earth", were a great variety of ceremonial objects, offering to the rain god Tlaloc and left undisturbed through centuries of darkness.
Nearly anyone who visits Yucatan soon learns of a rather unique feature of the landscape called a cenote (say-NO-tay) in Spanish or dzonot in Mayan. The Yucatan Peninsula is a flat, thick shelf of limestone with thousands of miles of underground, water-filled caves interconnected by rivers. When the roof of one of these caves collapses, it produces a sinkhole or natural well, filled with fresh water. The most famous cenote is the sacred cenote at Chichen Itza, but hundreds of cenotes large and small dot the Yucatan. Some cenotes are hidden deep in the jungle and others are inside larger caves. Some have been reliable sources of drinking water for centuries, which is why many Maya villages and ancient cities are located nearby.
The Sacred Cave of Balankanche, which lies some kilometers from Chich?n Itz?, contains chambers which were once filled with hundreds of ceramic incense burners and miniature metates (grinding stones) laid out on the cave floors, as offerings to the rain god. Caves were seen by the Maya and most other Mesoamerican cultures as sacred places and as entrances to the underworld. The one is still used by local shamans (priests) who continue to regard it as sacred.
Ik Kil offers a dizzying array of scenry in addition to the gorgeous watering hole. Emerald green vines and plants decorate the area as well as picturesque waterfalls to explore. The stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over the past million years are breath taking and great care should be taken during your visit.