Cenote X’keken and Cenote Samulá, Dzitnup, Mexico 2


X’keken and Samulá are cenotes of the dark and cavernous kind. Their ceilings are almost entirely enclosed, keeping them gloomy and quiet throughout the day. Until…

Cenote X’keken

Cenote X'keken, Mexico

Cenote X’keken at midday. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

At midday, when the sun is directly overhead, a beam of harsh white light enters the cenote through a narrow slot in the ceiling.

The beam of light is so bright, so pure, it seems to cut through the gloom like a knife.

Cenote X'keken, Mexico

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

It lasts for an hour or so, then the sun sails too far past the cenote’s eyehole, and the cavern returns to gloom – or it would, if the cavern weren’t lit by floodlights.

Cenote X'keken, Mexico

Photo credit: Benjamin White

If you want to witness this spectacle for yourself then I highly recommend arriving ahead of time. Your window is short; you don’t want to miss out.

Cenote X'keken, Mexico

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Swimming is allowed, and highly recommended.

The water in X’keken and Samulá is clear and cool and filled with friendly catfish. It is also free of the offensive reek of guano which afflicts so many of Mexico’s cenotes.

Cenote Samulá

Cenote Samulá, Mexico

Cenote Samulá at midday. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

The slit in the ceiling of Cenote Samulá is a little larger than that of X’keken.

There used to be a set of magnificent tree roots that entered through the hole in the ceiling of Cenote Samulá and extended all the way down to the island of rocks below, but they have since retreated.

Cenote Samulá, Mexico

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

There is also a second opening in the ceiling of Cenote Samulá; a tiny pinhole which lets in the slimmest needle of light. The pinhole is very narrow, it lets in light for just thirty minutes or so.

Cenote Samulá, Mexico

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The pool at Cenote Samulá is very deep, and the water is very clear. Those who get vertigo swimming in deep water be warned, your eye – even without goggles – can penetrate the water to unnerving depths.


Practical information:

Cenote X’keken and Cenote Samulá are located in the town of Dzitnup, approximately seven kilometres from the historical centre of Valladolid. It is possible to hire bicycles in Valladolid and cycle to the cenotes if you’re getting around by public transport.

Both cenotes are contained within the one complex, known as X’keken Jungle Park


More on Mexico:

Chichen Itza – posterchild of the Mayan Empire

Uxmal – home of the Pyramid of the Magician

Campeche – site of the largest pirate attack in history

Valladolid – plenty of colonial charm, but you can’t ignore its violent past

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