Cenote ik kil: a welcome dip

Filed under: Things to Do - by Louise Hennessy

Cenote Ik kil. It should NEVER be said that when you’ve seen one cenote, you’ve seen them all….

We do not cease to be amazed by the natural beauty of each cenote  (natural water sink hole, found commonly throughout the Yucatan Peninsula), as well as the overpowering silence you can find there, even when you are surrounded by other swimmers; it’s addictive.

On a previous occasion when we had made the trip to Chichen Itza, we opted to stop off, just outside Valladolid,  at Cenote Xke’ken (pronounced senOUtey shkeKEN), the famous image of which tends to be printed on a number of postcards, depicting how the underground cavern and pristine water is completely illuminated at midday, via a small hole in its stone ceiling.

It was the first time, however , that we had heard of Cenote Ik Kil, just short of Chichen Itza, and as such, we were tempted to be somewhat skeptical of being led into a tourist trap, where you are herded in and out of somewhere that does not live up to the fame of some less commercialized places. We decided to  give our driver the benefit of the doubt, considering that this particular cenote is a handy 10-minute drive from the entrance to the archaelogical site, and that after our guided tour we were hot, sweaty and famished. The prospect of a decent buffet followed by a refreshing dip was enough to propel us hurriedly towards the exit of the ruins.

Cenote ik kil

At the ticket booth our driver confirmed for us that if we paid for the buffet, then the entrance fee to the cenote Ik Kil and use of the changing facilities and so on, would be included, which we saw as quite a good deal. The only extras would be drinks, which was fair enough, and as it turned out, were not overpriced. We would definitely consider checking out this option on arrival, as to get past the ticket booth you ll have to pay one way or another, unless you are staying at the hotel or chalets, which are set back from the natural rock pool.

Perhaps the healthiest way round  would be to hit the cenote first and then have lunch, but by the time we got there we were rapidly turning into the ‘Hulk’, from our lack of food and excess of hunger, so it was straight to the restaurant and no messing around. The only hindrance at this point was that the bathroom was a bit of a trek, meaning that we had to go out of the restaurant, down the path, then up the ramp, followed by a manoeuver around eager swimsuit-clad groups… and then try to suss out which were changing cubicles and which were toilets, by opening each and every door…. It’s a humorous anecdote, but with a rumbling stomach and 6 hour´s sleep (we had had an early start that morning) the smiles were through gritted teeth.

Cenote ik kil

That said, the buffet was really tasty, especially the roast pork in plum sauce, mmm mmm! There were a few different options including a fish , chicken, pasta, and beef dish, along with your typical salad, bread rolls,  potato salad,  fresh fruit and and a kind of crême caramel for pudding, so all in all it was well worth it, and we were rather pleased with ourselves for giving in to our original skepticism!

What next? Well, what do you think… the cenote ik kil of course! The abundance of changing cubicles (apparently more abundant than toilets) means you don´t need to wear your bikini under your clothes all day, but there is a rule whereby everyone is required to take a quick shower in their swimsuits before making their way down to the water. Unfortunately, the water in the shower would appear to be colder than that of the sinkhole itself, so be prepared for a rude awakening! Not a bad thing though,  aiming to keep the cenote as clean as possible with all the bodies  it receives on a daily basis.  After the shower from hell we were off, down a set of spiralling stone steps, where we recommend taking care, as there is a constant stream of wet feet coming up and down, which can make them a bit slippery. A third of the way down, a long ledge gave us a full view of what was to come, and it was absolutely stunning. A gaping natural pool, sunk deep underground and showered with a thin curtain of vines, which hung down to the very surface of the water.  The best thing about this kind of cenote is the delighted echo which bounces off the stone walls as the next person dives in…

Cenote ik kil

We decided to brave it, headed down the remaining steps to the rocky platform below and eventually hurled ourselves into the pool, which was surprisingly not as cold as it looked! There’s something extremely relaxing about swimming in a cenote, even though you are constantly treading water (they are generally known for being very deep), perhaps its the knowledge that you can’t get water much more natural than this, or the fact that you are quite literally immersed in nature. At cenote Ik Kil we were struck by the beauty of the greenery surrounding the water and the humid  moss-covered rocks around the edge, with gentle streams of water running down them, like tiny waterfalls;  and if you look up, it feels like you are hidden away from the world, as the surface and entrance seem a long way away. The silence is overwhelming, only broken up by the odd voice, which is lost in a dull echo….

There are a number of cenotes to visit in the region and this is just the tip of the iceberg, but why not cool off after your cultural visit to Chichen…?

Your concierge can help you find out the best way to get there, so don’t hesitate to ask!

Our ecological suggestion: try to rinse off all your sunblock before diving in. There’s no danger of getting burnt down there!

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