The Yucatan’s Balankanche Caves (Grutas de Balancanché), not far from Chichen Itza, are some of the most famous Maya cave sites in Mexico. This vast underground network of grottoes was originally used as a water source by the Maya, who believed it to be the gateway to the underworld and a sacred place to worship the god of rain, Chaac.
Balankanche has long been the site of Maya ritual and ceremony, with special significance due to a formation that resembles the holy ceiba tree. Visitors can explore a series of caverns and tunnels filled with stalagmites and stalactites. Tours of the caves require a local guide (included in the price of admission) and take about 30 minutes. To see more of the Yucatan, choose a combo tour from Merida that also visits Chichen Itza and includes access to the Mayaland Resort.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Balankanche is ideal for cave buffs and anyone interested in Mayan history and culture.
- Expect to spend about half an hour exploring the caves.
- Tours of the caves are led by local guides who are well-versed in Maya culture.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces, and bring a flashlight and plenty of water.
- Set aside time to visit the nearby World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza.
How to Get There
The Balankanche Caves are located 3 miles (4.5 kilometers) east of Chichen Itza on Highway 180. Buses typically do not stop here.
When to Get There
You can visit the caves year-round, and there isn’t really a bad time to go. Despite its proximity to Chichen Itza, Balankanche is rarely crowded and you might even have it all to yourself.
Combine a trip to the Balankanche Caves with a visit to Chichen Itza, Mexico’s most-visited archaeological site. The UNESCO World Heritage–listed Maya ruins are considered some of the most beautiful in Riviera Maya and the Yucatan. Highlights include the 79-foot (24-meter) step pyramid of El Castillo, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Great Ball Court.