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Tekax Caves: Discover the Maya Underworld

04 september 2023
5 min. de lectura

If you are claustrophobic or suffer from cleithrophobia (look it up) you might want to skip this article. As my dear wife will remark, when I return from yet another adventure underground covered in mud, or a trek through the underbrush carrying a chigger or two on my person: “And you call this FUN?” Well yes, there is a certain element of challenge and let’s call it fun, in dragging oneself along muddy cave floors, wriggling through impossibly narrow crevices and walking stooped over in this alien underground world, getting good and dirty and feeling muscles working that you normally don’t even know you have and then being rewarded by the most amazing calcium rock waterfalls, real Maya artifacts tucked away in crevices and sharing tiny spaces with long, spindly-legged spiders.  


That said, this is not something I look forward to doing every weekend. Here’s an overview of what to expect.   There are literally hundreds of caves in the hills around Tekax; in fact, the lush green hillsides are like Swiss cheese, full of holes, featuring rock formations and crystal deposits that are truly awe-inspiring.  



Where to go

There are two main cave experiences currently being promoted in Tekax: Los Chocantes and Las Sartenejas. The former, in addition to the usual cave explorations, also features a 150 meter zip line, an experience which is probably the polar opposite of being in a dark cave. The latter features a 25 meter descent via rappel into one of the caves.  


A third, less strenuous option that doesn’t necessarily require strapping into a harness or being suspended from a rope, is a smaller cave tour you can visit is Parque Kaalmankal.   


How to get there

All three of these attractions are on the same road from Tekax, up into the hills, and there are signs clearly marking them all. You can drive to the entrance of each place yourself or arrange for pickup in Tekax. Tourism is in its infancy here and so you won’t find a reception desk or welcoming committee. It’s best to arrange any visit ahead of time so that you will have someone waiting for you at these locations to take you in.  




Your cave experience will involve some hiking on uneven terrain, so you will want to wear sturdy shoes with good ankle support. You will be climbing a little to get to the tops of places and descending some to get to the bottom of others. Long pants and long sleeved shirts are the best to avoid scrapes, scratches and potential insects.


For the caves, the folks running these attractions have been taught first aid and are aware of the need to keep guests safe; you will be issued a hard hat complete with a head-lamp on it. Stay with your guide at all times, and listen to his or her instructions. There are unmarked drop offs into crevices that you do not want to fall into and where there is water, the ground can be slippery. If the guide says hold on to the rope, hold on to the rope!  


After descending either by ladder, stairs, or sheer rocks with the occasional rope, you will eventually find yourself in a vast underground chamber, with rock formations of every kind around you and above you. Your helmet has a lamp on it so look up, look around, and look down, and be amazed at what there is to see. Yes, those are pottery shards, bits of ceramic instantly recognizable as pieces of bowls, plates, and urns. Some are even painted. Please leave them where they are, so they are there for the next group and the one after that. Savor the evidence that the Maya were right here, in the very same place you are now standing, perhaps performing a ceremony or celebrating an important event.  



Enjoy the darkness

At some point you will take a moment to sit, and turn off your lamps and feel the purest and blackest of darknesses. Wave your hand in front of your face to see if you can see anything. Hear the sound of your breathing. The heavy silence like a black blanket weighing down on you. Listen to the guide tell you the stories of the "aluxes," those mythical creatures that live in the forests, the cenotes, and the caves of Yucatán, always up to one mischievous trick or another.   Then, the trek back out. When you emerge once again into the sunlight, blinking and covered in red earth, you may feel like you are literally being reborn after spending time within the womb of Mother Earth. A unique experience indeed.



What to expect in each park:

Las Sartenejas II

  • Gruta Trincheras - beginner level
  • Gruta Murciélago - beginner levels
  • Gruta Platanal - intermediate and extreme levels
  • Gruta Ix'mait - extreme levels
  • Camping
  • Lunch (available by pre-order only)

Grutas Chocantes

  • Gruta Chocantes - intermediate and extreme levels
  • Gruta El Toro - family / beginner levels
  • Lookout
  • 150 m. long zip line (the longest in Yucatán)
  • Camping
  • Hiking

Kaalmankal Ecotourism Park

  • Variety of caves - beginner level
  • Climbing
  • Rappel
  • Zip line
  • Pendulum
  • Camping
  • Lunch (available by pre-order only)


Chocantes Caves

FB: Grutas Chocantes

Cel: 997 117 2756


Parque Kaalmankal

FB: Parque Ecoturístico Kaalmankal Tekax

Cel: 9992518895 and 9971342326


Las Sartenejas II

FB: Gruta las Sartenejas II

Cel: 997 122 0054, 999 442 6205 



Photography by Oscar Góngora and Arturo Sánchez for use in Yucatán Today

Ralf Hollmann

Author: Ralf Hollmann

A Yucatecan born in Germany and raised in Canada, with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Ralf has experience in leisure tourism, journalism, research, editing, writing, and creative writing. He’s also a musician.

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