Photo by Ron Watts / age fotostock
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave
Often called ATM Cave, Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Maiden) is one of the most popular adventure excursions in Belize. Visitors hike dense jungle trails for an hour and a half to reach the mouth of the cave, then enter and wade through dry and wet caverns, spelunking past pottery shards and human sacrificial remains. The adventure ends with a steep ladder climb into a narrow passageway to reach the chamber where a full female skeleton rests. It’s spooky, surreal, and magnificent.
By Lebawit Lily Girma, AFAR Local Expert
Entrance to Actun Tunichil Muknal
There I was, chest-deep in the Maya underworld, the sounds of slapping water echoing through the cave. My headlamp washed through the crystal-clear underground river, revealing tiny fish trying to nibble at my knees...
By Joshua Berman, AFAR Local Expert
Indiana Jones Cave Exploring in Belize
Hike through the jungle, cross 3 rivers and swim into the hourglass-shaped entrance of this sacred cave. Swimming with clothes on! View skeletal remains from ancient sacrificial ceremonies! I didn't know what I was in for, it wasn't too difficult, however the reward is life changing. Now I know what Indiana feels like!
Channel Your Inner Indiana Jones in Enigmatic Caves
The Mayans believed caves were portals to the underworld. Belize is teeming with such mysterious underground caverns full of stalactite and stalagmite formations, pottery shards, ancient yet intact pottery, underground waterfalls, and even human remains. At the 800-foot-long Che Chem Ha (Cave of Poisonwood Water), 16 miles from San Ignacio, a former Maya food storage location and ritual grotto shelters a string of tunnels peppered with ceremonial pottery—one of the largest collections of Maya pottery ever discovered. Even more intriguing is Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (Cave of the Stone Sepulchre), a three-mile-long cave buried in the northern foothills of the Maya Mountains that preserves the calcite-encrusted remains of the woman for whom the cave is named.
Sponsored by Belize Tourism Board
A Must-do Adventure!
Hike through the jungle, wade across the river three times and then swim into the entrance of the cave: and that's just the start of the adventure! Follow your guide as he leads you deeper and deeper into the dark cave, sometimes walking along the rocky edge, sometimes wading and sometimes swimming through narrow rock formations. Along the way, you'll see pottery remnants from ancient Mayan days, bones and at the end of the cave, after a climb up to a recessed ledge, the skeleton of a young female. It's an exhilarating (and exhausting!) afternoon, and something not to be missed!
By Alison Drain