Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Stone Sepulchre) in the Cayo district of Belize is a popular excursion destination, just outside of San Ignacio. Visitors experience an Indiana Jones-type adventure where they wade through the cave’s tunnels and passageways lined with stalactites and stalagmites.
Reaching the remote parts of the cave requires hiking through a rain forest, crossing three rivers on foot, swimming through parts of the cave, and even going up a narrow ladder to get to its deeper, darker chambers. Efforts are rewarded with the sight of the “Crystal Maiden”: the skeleton of a young female, fully preserved, from thousands of years ago.
Along the hike, there are also ancient ceramics to see and the chance to immerse yourself in Maya culture. Actun Tunichil Muknal is protected by the government and is only accessible through a guided tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Cameras are not allowed inside the cave.
- You will be in the cave for about three hours, navigating some very constricted, confined areas; because of this, it’s not recommended for people who suffer from claustrophobia.
- Bring water shoes, socks (you will need to remove your shoes at one point on the tour), and an extra set of dry clothes, socks, and shoes.
How to Get There
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) is a 45-minute drive from San Ignacio. Most tours offer round-trip transportation from there. There is no public transportation that travels directly to the cave. You can hop a bus from Belmopan to the village of Teakettle, which is 7 miles (11 kilometers) from ATM, and arrange to meet your guide there.
When to Get There
During Belize's wet season, (late June to August), the cave may be flooded and inaccessible to travelers. April is one of the country’s driest months, which makes it a good time for exploring natural attractions such as Actun Tunichil Muknal, but you can also expect larger crowds when the weather is nice.
A 2.5-hour drive from ATM, near the Guatemalan border, Caracol is an ancient Maya city. It’s the largest archeological site in Belize, covering about 65 square miles (168 square kilometers), and including more than 35,000 structures and five plazas. The site is only accessible with a military escort due to its proximity to Guatemala.