The unique geology of Belize means that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of caves across the country. Indeed, Belize has the highest concentration of caves in all of Central America. Many of these caves were used by the ancient Maya to conduct some of their most important religious ceremonies as the Maya believed that caves were a gateway to the world of the gods.
Here are five of the most interesting caves to explore in Belize:
ATM or Actun Tunich Muknal Cave is probably the famous cave in Belize. Rated as the number one sacred cave in the world by the Discovery Channel, ATM Cave was extensively used by Maya priests during the heyday of their ancient civilization but then was abandoned and laid undisturbed for more than 1,000 years. The most popular attraction in ATM Cave is the Crystal Maiden, a young adult who was ritually killed as a human sacrifice. This cave is a living ancient museum of the Maya, providing us with a small glimpse into the rituals and daily routines of the people who lived in the valley surrounding this hidden treasure trove.
Barton Creek Cave
Located deep in the heart of the Maya Mountains, Barton Creek Cave is unusual in that it has a river running approximately 4.5 miles underground through its length. Much like ATM, Barton Creek Cave was also used for religious ceremonies by the ancient Maya. More than 28 humans have been found buried in this cave along with food offerings, cooking pots, tools, and even hearths. Canoe through the darkness, guided only by your headlamp and a guide as you glide past ceremonial centers, pottery and burial spots within the cave.
The Caves Branch Caves are a unique series of underground passages created by the flow of the Caves Branch River. Ian Anderson, creating the exciting and now incredibly popular adventure known as Caves Tubing- introducing the sport to Belize in the mid 1990’s. Visitors can float on Central America’s longest cave tubing adventure- “River of Caves” in an amazing 7 whole miles of fun-filled river, through these caves that once served as a gateway to the underground world of the gods- also called “Xibalba” by the ancient Maya. The most famous destination inside the cave is the crystal room, a large naturally-formed section of minerals that glitter and sparkle when a headlamp plays across it.
Actun Loch Tunich
Not to be confused with Actun Tunich Muknal (also referred to as ATM), Actun Loch Tunich is an enormous cave known by its common name as the “Black Hole Drop”. Adventurers can gear up and rappel down into the hole, passing through the treetops on their way to the bottom of the “black hole.” After repelling the 300 feet to the bottom of the dark, jungle filled sinkhole, visitors stand enthralled at the entrance of the mysterious and unbelievably large cave entrance. Imagine standing here yourself- wondering silently- just how the ancient Maya even got to the bottom without repel lines or how they ever survived the dark passages of these underground centers as they did. This is truly an amazing experience!
St. Herman’s Cave
No one quite knows who St. Herman was but “his” cave is located inside the St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park in western Belize. Beyond its natural beauty, the cave is interesting for the number of pottery vessels left behind by the ancient Maya that were placed there to collect sacred “virgin” water dripping from the stalactites. The park & cave are protected by the Department of Archaeology of Belize and St Herman’s has become a playground for caving and tubing enthusiasts who want a bit of fun just outside of the nation’s capital of Belmopan.
Other interesting caves to visit in Belize include the Rio Frio Cave in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve with its immense 70-foot arches and Che Chem Ha Cave near San Ignacio, famous for its extensive collection of ancient Maya jars that once held food and other offerings for the gods.
Intrepid travelers who want to experience the best caving adventures in Belize should book their vacations with Caves Branch Lodge.
Caves Branch also offers Belize Jungle and Reef Vacations for travelers who want to experience the best of both worlds.
It is impossible to visit Belize and leave without a life changing experience. Caves Branch wants to be a part of that experience.
Call or email us today for more information on how to book an unforgettable caving vacation in Belize!