When you step across the entrance to the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave, you’re beginning a journey into the mysterious underworld of the Maya. The ATM Cave, sometimes called the “Cave of the Stone Sepulchre”, will leave explorers amazed, enlightened, and uplifted.
Rated as the #1 Sacred Cave in the World by National Geographic, the ATM Cave is one of the most important historical sights in the world. Only accessible with a licensed guide, the ATM Cave is an incredibly beautiful underground world filled with glittering stalactites and stalagmites.
But it is its position as a Maya artifact that draws in tourists around the world. Deep in its underground labyrinth lie the remains of the Crystal Maiden, a young adult who was sacrificed to the Maya gods more than 1,000 years ago. Near her bones, which have taken on a sparkling shine after having fused with the minerals in the cave, lie the remains of more than a dozen other victims, including very young children.
Untame Belize Tours is one of the few companies in Belize to offer authorized guided tours of this cave. Located a short drive from our office in southern Belize, the tour begins with a drive to the ranger post in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. From there, participants must proceed on foot, hiking through the jungle for approximately 45 minutes, crossing three jungle streams along the way.
Once at the mouth of the cave, participants must swim across a spring-fed pool, using a rope for guidance. And then the adventure truly begins, wading through the knee-high water until a network of vast tunnels, chambers, and passageways is reached. Only after climbing up and into a remote ledge deep in the rear of the cave will participants reach the sacred chamber once used by Maya priests.
The ceremonial chamber still contains pottery, obsidian objects, bowls that once contained food offerings, and the famous skeleton of the Crystal Maiden. It takes approximately three hours to explore everything in this cave.
Strict rules in place by the Department of Archeology forbid any cameras inside ATM Cave, but participants will experience a truly remarkable journey into the lost world of the Maya. After exiting the cave, there will be a return hike through the jungle followed by a delicious picnic lunch.
USD $225 per person
Private guide, transportation to and from your accommodation, park fees, lunch, bottled water
Sunscreen, insect repellant, water bottle
Sturdy shoes for hiking, swimsuit
I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’d never been in a cave before in my life. My goodness, what an adventure ATM Cave was! And seeing those bones there hidden so far from daylight made me cry. This is truly a special place to visit in Belize.
Hope P, USA
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