The Yucatán Peninsula is a porous limestone shelf with no above-ground rivers or lakes. Instead there are underground rivers, lakes, sinkholes and caves. The caves of the Yucatán were sacred places for the Mayas and are impressive places to visit. When visiting the caves it is important to ALWAYS enter with a guide.
Also known as Actun Spukil, these are also very large caves, the second largest after Loltún. The name is derived from the Mayan words CAL (neck), CEH (deer), and TOK (stone). These caves have a complicated series of tunnels making it obligatory to use a guide. Within the caves there is a great amount of pre-Hispanic findings like intact plates, quartz hammers, arrow tips, stone sculptures, obsidian knives, human burials sites and holtuns (stone cisterns for water collection). Within the chambers you will see natural formations that resemble different objects such as waterfalls, elephants, faces, animals, etc. Around the Calcehtok area there are about 30 caves and it is suspected that they connect.
Located 25 miles south of Mérida in the village of Tecoh (Tee-ko’). The name Tzabnah (ZOB-na) is Mayan and means “The King’s Palace”. There are stalactites, stalagmites, columns, deep crevices and thirteen cenotes within the caves. On the route within the caves, there is a huge chamber known as the “Cathedral Cupula” that oddly enough resembles the Cathedral of Mérida. Legend has it that a Mayan prince and the princess that had been kidnapped escaped to these caves and were lost. Stalactites meet stalagmites to form natural columns. To find a guide to take you through the caves call or visit the municipal palace in Tecoh, tel. (988) 952 0045.
Cenote San Ignacio
Just 20 minutes from Mérida, on the highway to the neighboring state of Campeche in the village of Chochola, is the cenote San Ignacio. This cenote is a safe place and ideal for swimming in its transparent, turquoise waters. Found inside a cavern, there is artificial lighting and even music! The domed type roof is about 24 feet tall, from which hang incredible stalactites. For your enjoyment and comfort, you will find palapas, bathrooms, showers, dressing rooms, a children’s play area, wading pools, stables, restaurant, and spa. Open 365 days a year.
Balankanché Caves (closed)
Located 6 kilometers from Chichén Itzá, these caves remain a significant reminder of the religious ceremonial spaces of the Maya. They believe the sacredness of life is especially concentrated at unique geographic points, such as caves and mountains. The humidity within the caves is a palpable force contributing to the continuing formation of stalagmites and stalactites. The most impressive of these is located 200 meters from the cave’s entrance, at the side of the Balam Throne, a religious altar. The stalagmite there is said to resemble the ceiba tree, referred to as the “sacred tree inside the earth.” In keeping with the religious context of these caves, ceremonial objects are seen throughout the walk, reproductions of the original artifacts discovered there. A succinct and pictorial history of that discovery is on display at the entrance. And a reminder for the adventursome visitor; good walking shoes are a must as the guides suggest.
Loltún Caves (closed)
This name is derived from two Mayan words, LOL (flower) and TUN (stone). Located in the hilly Puuc region, 66 miles from Mérida, these are the largest caves on the peninsula. They are also the ones that are the most studied. Evidence has been found here of human contact going back 7,000 years. Mammoth bones have been found in the caves, along with fresco paintings on the walls, “hands in negative”, faces, animals, grecos and decorative figures.
The caves will amaze and delight even the most jaded traveler, and are a special treat for children. A special feature in these caves is the columns that can be “played” like musical instruments. When struck with the flat side of one’s fist, they strike two deep and beautiful bell-like tones. The caves seem to go on forever, and have not been fully and completely explored, even to this day. Your two-hour tour will take you from cathedral-like underground spaces, to dry riverbeds, beautiful glittering stalagmites that look like frozen fountains, and much more. The guided tours are at various times from 9 am to 4 pm. Entry is $146 pesos for non-Mexican visitors, $109 pesos for Mexican nationals. The bilingual guides do not charge for their services, we recommend you tip them, as this is their income. Note: For your own safety, you cannot enter the caves without a guide.
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Read more about:
- Caves and Mistery in Yucatán
- Day Trip: Oxkintok and the Calcehtok Caves
- Camping at the Caves and Archeological Sites
- Experience Darkness in Las Grutas de Calcehtok
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