Only 15 minutes drive outside of Mérida, on the way to the beach, you will find Dzibilchaltún, an impressive archeological site which offers a whole array of fun; Mayan ruins, a great museum and a wonderful cenote.
The impressive ‘Templo de las siete muñecas’ (temple of the seven dolls) was discovered by archaeologists in the 1950s under the ruins of a larger pyramid which was constructed on top of The Temple of the Dolls. Building temples on top of temples was a common practice with the Maya. The temple and its doorways are constructed in a specific and deliberate direction that confirms the Maya understanding of the solar system, something that is really quite astonishing. During the Spring and Autumn equinox, the sun’s rays pass directly through the doorways of the temples. Since corn was a major part of the Maya diet (and continues to fuel modern Mexico) this event was very significant as it represented the beginning and end of harvest season honoring Yum Kax, the Maya god of corn.
There are many other buildings too, most of which you are still allowed to climb up and explore.
So discovering the secrets and history of this Maya town is obviously amazing but for me personally, the best thing about Dzibichaltún is that when you are struck down with a severe case of ‘museumitis’ (legs weak, brain saturated…) or indeed simply struck down by the severe Yucatecan heat, you can cool off in beautiful Cenote Xlakah.
Set in a dip right next to the ruins of a Mayan temple, the cenote really makes you wonder why we humans try to out-do nature – I have never in my life found a man-made swimming pool that is more perfect, more beautiful and more functional than this natural wonder.
Around the edges of the cenote are natural rocky steps leading you down into the cool water. The surrounding trees provide shade for families to relax, there are mini rock platforms from which to dive into the water and plenty of places where the ledge of the rock forms a wonderful perch for those of us just wanting to sit and paddle our legs.
Take a snorkel with you and you’ll see many different fish, which will also do you the favour of nibbling at your feet (don’t pay for this service at a shopping mall, come to Dzibichaltun!)
A whole afternoon can be spent here, swimming, dozing under a tree, escaping the heat of Mérida in summer. It is a real oasis for the people here and thankfully its free for residents on Sundays.