Its become something of a cliche that every time I visit a new cenote I smile from ear to ear and tell everyone around me – ‘This is the best yet! This is my favourite cenote everrrrrrrrr!” Well, I said it again when I visited cenote Yokdzonot with my brother and his fiancé during Semana Santa but I have a sneaky feeling that this time it might remain my favourite for a long, long time…
…I mean, just look at it! Have you ever seen anywhere so inviting?
This cenote is simply beautiful! It is huge and round and open and ancient roots dangle down into the crystal clear water. Dragonflies flit over the surface and swallows and toh birds play in the trees overhead. It reminds me a lot of the cenote Oxman in Valladolid but this one is bigger and bluer.
The area around the cenote has been maintained in a very natural way. There is no concrete in sight, thank god, and the only buildings are small palapa roofed bathrooms and a small restaurant serving up delicious local Yucatecan food.
Life jackets are available free of charge and you can rent snorkels or pay to zip line over the cenote or rappel into it! There is also provision for camping as well as picnic tables and space to hang up your hammock and take a siesta.
The cenote takes its name from the village where it is located, Yokdzonot, which means ‘on top of the cenote’ in Mayan. This small village is about 11 miles West of Chichén Itzá, on the libre road direction Mérida. If you want to visit it after exploring Chichén and you don’t have a car, we found a taxi to take us for 150 pesos (and I’m sure you could get a better price) but you can also flag down the second class buses heading to Mérida or find a colectivo to take you from Piste. When you arrive in the village, you’ll see a big ‘cenote sign’ and the cenote is about 300m down that side road.
The story behind this cenote is really inspirational. Looking for other sources of income, a group of Mayan women saw how other cenotes in the area had been exploited for tourism, to great success. They set about forming a cooperative who’s aim was to convert the village’s abandoned and uncared-for cenote into a sustainable and ecological tourism attraction which would provide an extra income for many households in the village.
For two years the women carried out the arduous work of cleaning up and making the cenote accessible to the public. It wasn’t an easy task, especially when balanced alongside all of the usual work and chores that these women had to do everyday. From the original 50 members, today the coop is formed of 12 women and 5 men.
Unlike other cenotes popular with tourists near to Chichén Itzá, this is a grass roots project, propelled by entrepreneurial local women. The money you spend here will stay in the village and contribute to the lives of those who gave up two years to make their sustainable vision a reality.
Cenote Yokdzonot is open every day from 9am to 5pm.
Go there, have a magical swim, eat some delicious food and support this amazing project!
Have you visited Yokdzonot? How was your experience? Let me know!