Cenote is derived from the ancient Mayan word “dzonot” which roughly translated means “sacred Well”
The Yucatán Peninsula has almost no rivers and only a few lakes, and those are often marshy. The widely distributed cenotes are the only perennial source of potable water and have long been the principal sources of water in much of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Major Mayan settlements required access to adequate water supplies, and therefore cities, including the famous Chichen Izta were built around these natural wells.
Believing that these pools were gateways to the afterlife, the ancient Mayan tribes often threw human sacrifices along with valuable items into them.
Cenotes were formed millions of years ago when the oceans receded and a limestone shelf emerged that now covers the Yucatán Peninsula.
A porous land, rain waters filtered down into the substructure and created underground rivers.
Then after the last Ice Age, the oceans rose to their current levels and flooded the caves left by the lacy limestone shelves, collapsing some, which then created sink holes known as cenotes.
It has been estimated that there are approximately 30,000 cenotes in The Yucatan Peninsula, Over 4000 have been mapped to date.