Over the weekend, we went on the Layla Guesthouse Mayan Experience Cenote Tour.

Robin, who’s one of the owners of Layla, was our guide for the day, and was so knowledgeable and charming. It’s a full day event. We left around 8:30 in the morning, and returned around 5:30.

It’s a fantastic tour!

Woodworkers Compound

First stop was a woodworkers compound on the Ruta de Cenotes. We learned about the history of Chicle (the sap used in making chewing gum), and the Chicleros, who were the workers who extracted the sap from  the trees. Quite a mean bunch!

We learned about some of the different trees used by the woodworkers. Some of those trees are incredibly dense and heavy. And the two-tone woods are beautiful!

Jungle Walk

We then drove for about an hour to the village of Xcan, in Yucatan state. We met the Mayan men who run the place, and learned a few helpful Mayan phrases. (I think Mix ba is the only one I remember).

We took a walk through the jungle, and Robin pointed out all sorts of plants and trees, and explained their various uses. Many of the plants are used as medicines (like healing skin rashes and even curing kidney stones!), some are not so good for you, some are used for building, etc. Robin is a wealth of knowledge about the plants and trees, as well as Mayan culture and history.

Jungle Plant

Dry Cave – Indiana Jones style

After a short walk, we ended up at a dry cave, full of stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. When stalactites – the ceiling formations – grow long enough to connect with stalagmites on the floor, they form a column.

The cave has no light – natural or artificial, so we all navigated by flashlight. At one point we all sat down, turned off all the flashlights and camera lights, and just embraced the silence and coolness of a million years of nature.

When we got towards the end, there were two ways out. We all chose the more adventurous option of shimming ourselves up an opening to return towards the surface. Very fun!

 

Cenote

After exploring the dry cave, it was time to head towards the cenote. A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. There are no rivers or streams in the Yucatan Peninsula, so cenotes are where people got their drinking water from.

Elizabeth and I have been to a bunch of cenotes around the Yucatan peninsula, but this was by far the best one we’ve ever visited.

Us in a cenote at Xcan

It was like something you would see in Disney, or on an Indiana Jones movie set. But it’s the real deal. Formed by nature of countless years. The water is perfectly clear, and like the dry cave, it was full of stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.

It’s hard to capture it all in a picture (especially with the strung up lights), but I’ve done my best.

Lunch

After we dried off, we took a short drive to the home of a lovely Mayan family.

The abuela (grandmother) was sitting next to an open fire, making tortillas. We all joined her around the small table, and got to try our hand at forming tortillas. No tortilla press, no machines. Just a piece of plastic wrap and your hands.

Making tortillas by hand. She’s been making them this way for 60 years!

She told us she learned to make tortillas when she was 10 years old, and she’s now 70. She’s been making tortillas by hand for 60 years! Needless to say, she had the forming process perfect. Ours, well, not always so much. But she was gracious in smiling, doing a quick fix to the ones we made, and then throwing them on the comal (a smooth flat griddle). A minute on each side, and they’re done. She sprinkled a bit of salt on them, rolled them up, and handed to us to eat.

Making tortillas

OMG! Seriously – one of the best tortillas I’ve ever had. Slightly puffy, and doughy. Like flour tortillas as opposed to corn. So simple, and so delicious!

Homemade Tortillas – yum!

We then moved to the big table, where we ate tortillas with some type of pumpkin seed spread, tamales with chaya, an empanada, and an amazing soup with pork and chickpeas. It was all so good. At that point, I was pretty hungry, so I was more focused on eating than taking pictures.

Empanada and Tamale

Summary

This was simply one of those wonderful days that embraced everything we love about Mexico.

We learned so much about history and culture, we experienced amazing craftsman respecting the teachings from their forefathers, incredible nature exploration, and of course, simple, humble, delicious food. Plus, a lot of smiles and laughs along the way.

As I said before, we’ve been to a bunch of cenotes around the Yucatan peninsula, but this was by far the best one we’ve ever visited.

Do It!

I would highly recommend this tour. If you find your way anywhere near Puerto Morelos, connect with Robin at Layla Guesthouse. Robin was a wonderful guide, sharing knowledge, anecdotes, and stories throughout the day.

And if you need a place to stay while you’re here, I also recommend staying at Layla Guesthouse. We recently stayed there for a night. But that’s a review for another day…