Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Caves)

Category
Attraction
Type of Attraction
Archaeological Site, Cave
District/Region
Cayo
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Description
Highlights
  • Cave
  • Maya History
  • Skeletons - Maya Sacrifice
  • Ceramics & Stoneware
Podcast
Virtual Audio Experience
Elias Cambranes, expert ATM cave guide from K'atun Ahau Tours, takes us on the first of its kind virtual audio experience of the ATM cave.
About Location
The Actun Tunichil Muknal, also known as the ATM cave, is an ancient Maya archaeological site that is one of the most popular Mayan burial sites in Western Belize. The ATM cave is nestled in Belize's lush rainforest in the Cayo District. Visit the ATM cave and learn the history of this magnificent cave and the mysteries of the Mayan underworld.

You can't afford to miss this Indiana Jones style adventure. Tours usually leave early in the morning, before 8am. The hike from the starting point to the cave entrance is intense, with three stream crossings and passes through the Tapir Mountain Nature reserve. The hike through the lower part of the caves lasts about 45 minutes. Take note that in the upper chambers of the cave, visitors are required to take off their shoes to prevent damage to the artifacts, plus you’ll need to swim through deep water to enter the cave and wade through more water both in side and outside of the cave. You’ll get to see the crystal maiden skeleton, pottery, and other ancient artifacts. No photography is allowed by order of the Department of Archaeology, but the mental movies will be incredibly worth it.

 
Whats Nearby
Recommended Hotels
 (3)
Private Riverside Villas
Aliana's is a vacation rental property located near San Ignacio, Cayo. Aliana's sits on a 50-acre farm and includes three private riverfront villas. ... more

Gold Standard Transportation is provided via Belize Ground Shuttle.
Relax on the banks of the Mopan river just outside your doorstep and enjoy bird watching or take a refreshing swim to cool off at your pleasure. We have canoes and floating tubes available. A popular guest activity is to float down the Mopan river from the village of Bullet Tree Falls. The float takes about two hours. You can spot monkeys and a variety of bird species along the river. We also have an outdoor grill and brick oven available for use by all guests.

Each unit includes air-conditioned bedrooms for your comfort. The property is filled with many tropical fruit trees that you can enjoy when in season, such as mangoes, breadfruit, plums, star fruit, and others. The property may be booked for private events subject to availability.
Gold Certified:
Yes
Area:
San Ignacio
Region:
Western Belize
 (2)
Conveniently located a short walk from downtown San Ignacio, Rolson Hotel offers comfortable accommodations and free WiFi access.... more

The hotel is a 15-minute drive from the western border, a 10-minute drive from the Xunantunich Maya Site and a 10-minute walk from the Cahal Pech Archaeology Site. The Princess Casino and the Green Iguana Conservation Project are a few minutes' walk away.

The rooms offer a mini-fridge, cable TV, alarm clock and a safety deposit box. They also include coffee and a coffee maker, 2 water bottles and ironing facilities. The private bathroom has a shower and hairdryer.

The on-site Mexican restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a variety of local dishes. It also has a fully equipped bar with top shelf liquor, cocktails and beers.

Staff at Rolson Hotel's front desk can assist with massage services, laundry and tours. Transfers from and to the airports are available for an additional charge. There is free parking.
Phone Number:
+501 824-2730
Gold Certified:
Yes
Area:
San Ignacio
Region:
Western Belize
Learn More
Most Popular Tours
$
265
/ Person
Departs From:
San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)
 (2)
Provider:
The ATM Cave is a "must do" tour experience- and it's easily accessible!! The tour starts with a 45 min hike through the jungle in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. It is a great ... moreway to soak in the majesty of the surrounding jungle. You will cross three rivers as you wind your way through the jungle to the mouth of the cave. Tour duration is approximately 3 hours. Bring along a change of clothes as you will be completely wet by the time the tour is over. Understanding why this cave was of such sacred importance to the Mayas requires an understanding of their spirituality. In the Maya religion, the gods of agriculture, rain, and fertility were believed to reside in the underworld. It would only seem natural that the ATM Cave, with its seemingly endless pits, would be seen as a potential gateway to the underworld. By making human sacrifices within the cave, they could appeal to these important gods practically at their front door.

Guests should dress as if preparing for a hike, bringing comfortable clothes and sturdy closed-toe shoes. Also, socks are mandatory for walking inside the cave. Bring along a towel and change of clothes (required) for a dry trip on your return transfer. Bear in mind that no cameras are allowed within the cave. The prohibition of cameras prevents damage to remaining skeletons and artifacts and preserves ATM for future generations.
$
125
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
 (29)
Provider:
Discovered in 1989, this cave is a full five kilometers deep. Taking a journey into the Mayan underworld at Actun Tunichil Muknal, or the “Cave of the Stone Sepulchre”, will be one ... moreof the most enlightening, and unique experiences of your life. You will venture into the heart of the Cave with a licensed, experienced tour guide. This cave is not only geologically beautiful with its crystalline stalactites and stalagmites but also historically as it is a natural museum of ancient Mayan artifacts and a sacred offering place for the “Crystal Maiden”. Time spent inside the cave is 2 ½ to 3 hrs. Get an in-depth look at Belize’s Mayan culture.

Inside the dry zone where the artifacts and bones are located, all persons need to remove all shoes and walk-in socks to reduce damage. To see the Crystal Maiden you need to ascend a 13 ft ladder to reach the area known as the sepulcher.
Tours & Shuttles
$
185
-
$
395
/ Person
Departs From:
Caye Caulker
 (1)
Take a Day Trip from Caye Caulker, and experience the best Cave Tour in Belize.  About the Tour All-inclusive ATM tour from Caye Caulker. It includes all transportation, entrance ... morefees, equipment, and lunch (meal preferences can be arranged). 

Choose your option for a flight or water taxi transfer to Belize City. We will take care of all the transportation logistics.

By Boat - Departure Time from the island is 6:30 AM

By Plane - Departure Time from the island is 7:10 AM

Your pick-up in Belize City is scheduled for 8 AM sharp - so it is critical that you board the flight or ferry on time! 

Your tour will be with a certified gold-standard tour operator, with an ATM-licensed guide. 

Groups are limited to 8, and there is a daily cap of 125 visitors per day.

The tour is refundable (minus a small service fee) up to 24 hours before departure. Any cancellations made within 24 hours of departure will not be refunded. However, if we are contacted at least 24 hours in advance, we can help you to reschedule the tour for a later date.

The ATM Cave has been declared the world's most sacred cave by National Geographic. Journey back in time to explore this sacred cave, previously untouched for thousands of years!
About the ATM Cave The Belize ATM Cave is a wet cave, where you swim into the entrance and then trek through ankle to chest-high water before climbing to a dry chamber that leads to the cathedral or main hall. This towering chamber is 350 meters in length and 50 meters wide and is filled with artifacts and the skeletal remains of 14 bodies, about half of them children. All of the skeletal remains are male except one completely intact female skeleton covered in sparkling mineral deposits, the Crystal Maiden. Other artifacts include large pots and jars, flute-like instruments, and ground stones used for grinding corn and grains, suggesting agricultural rituals.

ATM Cave is considered the best Belize cave to explore and is declared the world's most sacred cave by National Geographic. It is an extraordinary and rare opportunity to see ancient Maya ceremonial sites and altars as they were thousands of years ago, virtually untouched.
$
174
/ Person
Departs From:
Belize City
Actun Tunichil Muknal (the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre), also known locally as ATM, is a cave near San Ignacio, Cayo District, notable as a Maya archaeological site that includes ... moreskeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. There are several areas with skeletal remains in the main chamber.

Many of the Maya artifacts and remains are completely calcified to the cave floor. The ceramics at the site are significant partly because they are marked with “kill holes”, which indicate that they were used for ceremonial purposes. One artifact, named the “Monkey Pot”, is one of just four of its type found in Central America. The Maya also modified cave formations here, in some instances to create altars for the offerings, in others to create silhouettes of faces and animals or to project a shadow image into the cave. The cave is extensively decorated with cave formations in the upper passages.

Actun Tunichil Muknal cave was first entered by the Mayas in AD 300-600. It was not until the late AD 700-900 that the Mayas went deeper into the cave to perform their ceremonies. The cave was officially opened to the public in 1998.

The cave houses various types of artifacts from ceramics and stoneware to the remains of skeletons. The Mayas consider Actun Tunichil Muknal a highly sacred location, enclosing the famous “Crystal Maiden,” who was thought to be a sacrifice victim. After decades of weathering and natural processes, the surface of the skeleton appears to be covered with a geological sanded finish, which gives the maiden a somewhat magical fairy-dust appearance.
$
210
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Experience more than a cave! Imagine a world alive and imbued with sacred power divided into three domains: the starry arch of heaven; the stony middle world of the earth made to flower ... moreand bear fruits; and, the dark waters of the underworld below, Xibalba.

A short swim through the crystal blue waters will lead you into this amazing realm. Then working your way through a breakdown leads you into the main water passage, where you get to view amazing geological formations like sparkling stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones. This hidden chamber promises to reveal ancient secrets and geological processes that have helped to shape the Mayan Underworld known as Xibalba. Xibalba was the fearful world beneath the face of the earth, the parallel unseen world into which kings and shamans could enter an ecstatic trance and please their gods for their benefit.
$
385
/ Person
Departs From:
Placencia
ATM Cave is about 7 miles south of the village of Teakettle in the beautiful Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve in the Cayo district. Hike 2 miles through the pristine jungle crossing Roaring ... moreCreek three times to reach the cave entrance with your specially licensed guide. Put on your helmet and headlamp and get ready to swim and clamber into the ancient Maya ritual world.

The first part of the adventure is swimming and wading through the awesome array of stalagmites and stalactites and other limestone feature before reaching the Stella Chamber and the Main Chamber. The Main Chamber is about one kilometer from the cave entrance. To enter these chambers, you need to remove your shoes but wear socks. Your guide will show you and explain the amazing number of valuable artifacts used in Mayan rites. These artifacts include the Skeletal Remains of 14 individuals, 150 ceramic pots, stingray spines and obsidian blades used for bloodletting, grinding stones, whistles and dried remains of corn and other plant remains. These remain in place just as they were when they were discovered about 25 years ago. At the far end of the Main Chamber, you will find the Chrystal Maiden, a young girl who was sacrificed as part of agricultural fertility rites.
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Absolute must do!
Guide was very knowledgeable and super nice and friendly and made trip extra fun! The cave itself is an absolute must, once in a lifetime thing to do. It gets narrow at times and there's some climbing to do but as an overweight person with no experience in climbing and actually scared of heights, managed to do the whole tour and absolutely loved it. You just need to have an open mind!
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Amazing
Beyond every expectation Not for the faint of heart. Need to be brave but I had full confidence in the guide. I still think of those poor children recently trapped in a cave and their rescue. Stone formations spectacular. Children must be at least 40” tall. Must be able to swim. Very tight spaces. (I’m surprised they don’t have you sign a liability waiver. Thank god a few countries don’t have such ... more shark lawyers as in USA). I would think in the USA they would never allow this. must be able to rock climb one segment. Adventuresome. Fully worth it.
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Amazing guide!
We were so blessed to have Basilio as our guide. He was unbelievably knowledgeable, thoughtful, and thorough. The experience was incredible. It is physically taxing and I noticed some people in other groups have a pretty rough time. So know you may have to push your limits a bit but it’s worth it to experience the history and nature!
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An incredible experience
Our visit to ATM was one of our trip highlights. The tour was quite an adventure, crossing rivers, swimming into the cave and climbing through narrow passageways. But what made the trip was our tour guide, Basilio, who was topnotch. Love a guide who not only knows a great deal of the subject matter, but clearly has a passion for what they are doing. Highly recommend.
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