About The Cave of the Crystal Maiden.
Exploring the cavernous Actun Tunichil Muknal, also known as the “Cave of the Stone Sepulcher” can be quite the life-changing experience. Descend into the Maya underworld and leave your concerns of the surface world at the entrance for several hours as your professional guide leads you through all that there is to see within. The “ATM” Cave recently received the accolade of “#1 Sacred Cave” by National Geographic, not only for its natural beauty but for the many crystalline growths that developed in the bowels of the earth and also its role as a sacred burial site to the Maya. Contained within the ATM Cave lays the “Crystal Maiden,” a Mayan sacrifice, as well as 13 other men, women and children.
Reaching the Site.
ATM Cave is located roughly an hour’s drive from San Ignacio. Reaching the site involves travelling through the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve by vehicle, then traveling on foot through the lush wilderness for 45 minutes. This transitory path brings tourists over three different streams before reaching the cave entrance by swimming over a small pool by way of a rope, followed by wading through knee-deep waters and entering the cave proper. Once inside, the tour leads people through the many twists, turns and corridors of the cave until reaching the ceremonial chamber laden with stone, ceramic and the Crystal Maiden’s crystallize remains.
What to Bring.
Participants should bring hiking gear, socks, extra clothes, extra footgear, a small backpack, a reusable water vessel containing 1 liter of water, insect repellent, snacks and short swim wear. Cameras and any other electronics are forbidden by decree of the Belizean government.
As this excursion takes moderate amount of exertion, the touring of ATM Cave is ill-advised for anyone with back problems, heart issues, dire medical concerns, pregnant with child or unable to walk for moderate lengths of time. The frequency of uneven walking surfaces means such a trip is not ideal for anyone requiring a wheelchair or who otherwise has a disability that affects the feet or legs.
When considering going on a trip to visit Belize’s ATM Cave, please considering hiring “Unchartered Jewels.” Not only is it a tour company that happens to be local to the area, it is also overseen by Ian Avilez, a licensed tour guide who has many years of experience working in the tourism industry of Belize.