Yucatan: Underground Rivers and Cenotes

The underground rivers and cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula are part of a network that stretches for miles and miles below the surface of the Earth. Learn how this secret world was formed, beginning with the meteorite that wiped out dinosaurs.

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Impact of the Meteor in the Yucatan Peninsula

66 million years ago, long before your parents and the parents of your parents were born; when humans did not even exist yet, dinosaurs inhabited the planet. They reigned for 177 million years without ever suspecting that their good and prosperous times were about to end.

It happened in what nowadays is the Yucatan Peninsula, in the population known as Chicxulub: a 15 kilometers wide catastrophic meteorite hit the Earth (around 9 miles) hit the Earth with the power of 10 billion atomic bombs like the one of Hiroshima.

The remains of the meteorite were fired into the atmosphere and became incandescent rain that fell on all beings; warming the atmosphere and setting everything on fire. The waves of fire left a world of ashes, where only smaller beings capable of finding underground shelter could survive.

After the impact, magnitude 11 earthquakes on the Richter scale hit the continent, followed by megatsunamis that devastated the coasts.

To make matters worse, the cloud that came after the collision created a winter night that would last more than a decade, plunging the world into a cold and sterile darkness.

How cenotes where created in the Yucatan Peninsula

The meteorite left a crater with a diameter around of 111 miles, in the area known as Chicxulub, around which a belt of cenotes that covers 27 municipalities between the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, was discovered.

Cenotes are usually formed by means of a chemical process known as karst, in which rain filters through the limestone bedrock, dissolving it and forming cavities in the subsoil. These cavities grow wider with the passage of time and the continuity of the karst process. Eventually, the roof of these cavities can collapse, opening the entrance to the cenote.

Cenotes are usually part of complex interconnected underground river networks that cover entire kilometers.

Underground Rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula

Underground rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula appear as the same way as cenotes, due to the filtrations of fresh water in the limestone ground in the region.

The three longest underground rivers in the world are located in Quintana Roo; the longest being around 96 miles long and located around 236 feet under the ground.

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites and stalagmites are also part of the karst process.

Stalactites are pointed formations that can be observed on the roofs of underground cavities. Water filtration is responsible for their formation; being constant, the minerals contained in water are deposited layer after layer, causing the stalactite to increase in thickness and length.

Stalagmites are the counterpart of the stalactites; they form on the floor of the cavities after the decanting process that forms their sisters. For the stalagmites to be formed, it is necessary for the cavity to be empty, unlike the cenotes.

Many times, stalactites and stalagmites come together, creating entire columns.


At Xplor Park you can enjoy underground rivers and their stunning rock formations. Swim in its refreshing waters with the help of a life jacket, or go through impressive caverns on a raft.

Xplor is a gateway to the underground world of the Yucatan Peninsula, come see it whether during the day or at night.