It was getting late in the afternoon and I feared the X’Canche Cenote would be closed when we arrived. The day had been hot. Sweat had dried to form a crusty layer of salt on my body. The cooling water of the Cenote would have been a perfect way to cool down.
Just north of the town of Valladolid on the Yucatan Peninsula are the little visited ruins of Ek Balam, which means Black Panther in Mayan. If that wasn’t enough there is the deep blue waters of X’Canche Cenote, however, the best part for a budget traveler like myself was the campground next to X’Canche Cenote which allowed after hours access to the Cenote. A private cenote, only accessible to guests, perfect.
It was getting close to the 5pm closing time when a couple of hot, sweaty bicycle tourists arrived at the entry to Ek Balam Ruins and X’Canche Cenote. A quick converstion pointed us in the direction of the Ticket Office for X’Canche Cenote. Sonja and I were relieved of 50 pesos each ($3US) which allowed us access to the Cenote for a swim, a shower and restroom. We paid another 100 pesos each to camp. More about camping later.
It was a flat 1.5km bicycle ride along a rough and rocky path to X’Canche Cenote. On route we passed several bicycle taxis ferrying tourists back to their waiting taxis. The biggest bonus about camping at the site was the after hours access to the cenote.
After a quick shower to wash off the sweat we climbed down the very steep staircase to the un naturally blue water. The light was fading as we jumped in the water with the hundreds of fish that called this place home. Hundreds of tree roots hung down from below seeking water which added to the beauty of the place. Up above I spotted a lone Iguana climbing along the edge of the cliff. I wonder if it took the time to take in the views.
For around 30 minutes we swam and enjoyed the place until it was starting to get dark. This place was a special kind of paradise, a private paradise, only for us. If anyone is reading this and considering a visit then also consider camping here. It is not to be missed. During the day, with hundreds of other people I feel it just wouldn’t be the same.
I enjoyed the Cenote so much I started to dream up a plan to Scuba Dive a Cenote somewhere in Mexico, something I have dreamed of doing for a very long time.
This is not the first Cenote I have visited. Last year I visited some of the Cenotes near Cozuma.
Camping at Ek Balam Ruins and X’Canche Cenote
Next to Ek Balam Ruins and X’Canche Cenote is a small walk in, or cycle in campground. It is primitive but has several flat sites, a shower and toilet, a fire pit, water and best of all it allows after hours access to the Cenote. All for the price of 100 pesos per person (US$6.50).
We were joined by a French couple at the campsite, it was hard not to be social. As the campfire was lit the 24 hour security guard came over to join us. This place was certainly very safe and after a peaceful nights rest we woke early to explore Ek Balam ruins.
Ek Balam Ruins
The ruins opened at 8am. I hate crowds and always make some sort of an attempt to stay away from them by waking early. Sonja and I paid the 202 pesos entry fee and strolled around the site alone. The ruins were shrouded in low cloud which added a kind of mystery to the area that would be lost if it was a bright sunny day.
Ek Balam is not as well known as the nearby superstar site of Chichen Itza, and this is the appeal of the place. Unlike Chichen Itza, it is possible to climb the pyramids at Ek Balam and swim in the nearby X’Canche Cenote.
For around 2 hours we strolled around the site and climbed in, over and around all the ruins. Then the tour groups started to arrive which was our signal to leave. Another surprise was the cheap food at the entrance to the site. Tacos and other Mexican staples were all sold at local prices instead of the usual inflated gringo price.
With full bellies it was time to get back on the bicycle and continue cycling. Subscribe and follow the adventure.
Maybe you might like to read about other ruins in Mexico: