Cenote Sagrado

Cenote de los Sacrificios - Sacred Cenote - The Well of Sacrifice

Useful Information

Location: Chichén Itzá. 350 m north of the Kukulcán pyramid. 119 km east of Mérida, 42 km west of Valladolid and 200 km west of Cancún.
Classification: KarstCenote TopicGateway to Hell
Light: n/a
Dimension: D=56 m, VR=56 m.
Guided tours:  
Address: Sacred Cenote.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1904 start of exploration by the consul and hobby archaeologist Eduard H. Thompsen.
1907 end of exploration.
1962 excavated by the National Geographical Society.


This is probably the most famous cenote of all: the giant sacred well at Chichén Itzá. Chichén Itzá is one of the ancient Maja cities, located in the center of the Yucatán peninsula. This cenote was used only for ritual purposes, perhaps as a channel to the Underworld. It is often described as a place of human sacrifice, however, modern archaeology doubts this. But it was never used as a source for drinking water, which came from the Xtoloc Cenote near the Caracol.

The cenote was explored by the U.S. Consul and hobby archaeologist Eduard H. Thompsen. Actually he was more an collector and interested in the collected items, not in the scientific research. He bought the land around the ancient city for USD 75 and started to dig. Then he used his position to send the item secretly to the U.S.A., a completely unacceptable behaviour. Obviously the other people found it also unacceptable, and after it became known he had to leave the country immediately.

Thompsen lifted jade, gold, pottery and some 50 skeletons from the cenote. More recent explorations by the Mexican diving team CEDAM revealed many more important discovery. This wealth of finding emphasized the importance of this place as a sacred place.

This is one of the few cenotes, which is not used for swimming. Actually it is forbidden to enter the cenote, it may only be visited from the rim. The water looks green, which is caused by the enormous amount of algae in the water. So we guess it would not be nice to swim in such a water.

Aka The Well of Sacrifice, famous for its human sacrifices. The cenote was first dredged by Edward H Thompson, the US Consul in Mérida, between 1904 and 1907. He accumulated a vast quantity of objects in pottery, jade, copper, and gold. In 1962 the National Geographical Society found a further 4,000 artefacts. Another cenote the Xtoloc Well was probably used as a water supply.

Text by Tony Oldham (2004). With kind permission.