Story 4: Grutas Calcehtok & Cenote San Ignacio

(This is the original Facebook post. This is really a picture story, so we tell it in Flickr; read what’s here and then click a link below!)

Grutas Calcehtok

On our way to visit Cenote San Ignacio, we decided to first stop at some caves about 30-minutes further south near a village called Calcehtok. Called Grutas Calcehtok, this is another of those amazing places that we had no idea existed so close to home! We found them on Facebook, and confirmed they were open via WhatsApp the day before. (We often encourage expats who never use WhatsApp up north to sign up for free; this country runs on it.)

When we arrived around 11:30, we were greeted by our guide Rogelio. We had read on their Facebook page that they had three levels of cave tours – family, adventure, and extreme. After hearing the differences between the three tour levels, we opted for the family tour – no ropes, crawling through narrow dark tunnels, ladders, or rappelling for us! We added in a guided 3-km round-trip walk to two lookouts and the whole package was going to cost us $400MX for both of us.

There are a total of 14 caves in the area, of which four are open for guided visits. The caves are owned by the community, and members of Rogelio’s family have been guiding tours here for generations. His tours are only in Spanish so bring a bilingual friend with you to have the best experience possible.

For folks like us who know quite a bit of Mayan history and can speak and understand Spanish pretty well, it was a great experience! Click the Flickr link below to get the rest of this story.

You can find Grutas Calcehtok right here on Google maps – be aware that there some pretty big potholes on the roads heading to the caves. There is minimal infrastructure here – just a bathroom and that’s it. No drinking water, no electricity. Camping is permitted, but you’ll have to bring everything in yourself, including water, food and flashlights. But here’s a bonus: you can arrange meals to be brought in from the nearby village! Dogs are allowed.

One last note: every night at exactly 7 pm, millions of bats fly out of one of the caves here. Many people book a visit to the Grutas just to watch this phenomena! During the summer months you would get back to your car before dark, but in winter, it would be dark while you watch the bats. The guides will have lights, and if it is dark, you will also see fireflies and the billions of stars that in the sky above you.

To organize your visit to the Grutas Calcehotok just contact Rogelio in Spanish via WhatsApp at 999-902-0181. This will ensure that there will be a guide available for you when you arrive. Now click the link below to view photos on the Yucatan Back Roads Flickr page!

Cenote San Ignacio

This cenote is not one of your isolated, rural ecotourism experiences. It is located near the center of the town of Chochola, on the Merida-Campeche highway. There’s a hotel, restaurant, bar, swimming pool and all the amenities for a nice family day out.

The cenote is small, with water access via steep stone steps with a handrail.

For us, the highlight of this location was the restaurant. We only shared an appetizer plate, but were so impressed with the food that we’ve vowed to come back some day to have a full meal.

Compared to many cenotes in the area, we found San Ignacio a bit pricey but you’re paying for all that infrastructure so it could be a worth it if you can take the full day. Entry to the cenote alone (which also includes access to a nearby swimming pool), is $190 MX each ($170 for Yucatan residents – which we are, but they didn’t charge us the locals price). They have a package that includes entry to the cenote and lunch for $490. Given the prices for the main courses on the menu, this is probably a good value if you want to stay for lunch.

There is a hotel on-site, and they advertise that they are the only cenote in the Yucatan that offers night swimming. So if you are traveling through the Puuc region and you want a nice place for lunch and to cool off, or you’re taking a two-day overnight trip, Cenote San Ignacio could be a good option. Check the Flickr page for captioned photos.

(By the way, if the rates sound expensive, compare with the ChablĂ© Yucatan resort, located just a few minutes west. A quick rate check was MX$26,475 pesos–but it does include breakfast! In 2017 they were named “The best hotel in the world for architecture and design.”)