Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Caves)

Category
Attraction
Type of Attraction
Archaeological Site
District/Region
Cayo
Description
Highlights
  • Cave
  • Maya History
  • Skeletons - Maya Sacrifice
  • Ceramics & Stoneware
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.

 
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Available Listings
$
235
/ 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.
$
196
88
/ Person
Departs From:
Belize City
Hike, Crawl and swim through a massive cave system while your guide projects knowledge and facts about the past Mayan families, rituals, and sacrifices that once took place in the ... morecave. Skeletons, Stoneware, and ceramics still lay untouched as proof of existents and sacred activities. This all-day adventure will leave you amazed and yearning for more Mayan history.
$
98
-
$
110
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Getting There:  Your adventure begins at 8:00 AM with a 45 minutes’ drive on the George Price Highway with another 30 minutes’ off-road to the parking lot. ... more

From the parking lot, we have a 45 minutes’ jungle hike toward the cave entrance, crossing a knee-deep river 3 times along the way- enjoy the scenery.

At the cave entrance: 
Upon reaching the mouth of the ATM cave, your guide briefs you on the cave’s historical facts while you gear up with helmets and headlamps. The hike inside the cave entails a very short swim of about 30 feet across at the very entrance of the cave. For non-swimmers, there is a by-pass around the corner of the cave’s entrance through which you are assisted by the guide. For the rest of the cave length, it’s mostly wading through the water no deeper than chest-height (at average height) at most. Admire the myriad cave formations along the way until reaching the hidden dry chamber where amazement awaits you.

In the main chamber: 
To get to the main chamber, you'll climb over some rocks providing a staircase to the chamber. Once in the chamber, you’ll be asked by your guide to take off your shoes and walk with only your socks on your feet. Here your guide explains the Maya rituals while you awe at the magnificence of this ancient tomb and its grandeur.

You’ll be amazed by all the Mayan artifacts and remains freely scattered throughout the cave as your guide explains how they got there and what lead to this shocking massacre in such a remote location. Walking farther into the cave, we’ll reach a higher but smaller chamber accessible only through the use of a man-made ladder. This is where the prized, intact, crystalized skeletal remains of the Crystal Maiden lay. Take your time, to sink in the reality of what lies before you.

Departure: 
After being saturated to capacity with astonishment, we make our way back out of the chambers and the cave. (the way back out always seems so much shorter than the way in). We then hike back onto the parking lot, where the guide will provide you with your lunch as you discuss the reality of what you’ve just witnessed inside. You may choose to change into your dry clothes before or after lunch (your choice). After lunch, we board our vehicle and head back to San Ignacio arriving around 3:30- 4:00 PM.
$
121
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Provider:
Actun Tunichil Muknal or simple ATM is one of the most popular Mayan burial sites in Belize. The cave contains four skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware left by the Maya. The most famous ... moreskeleton is that of a young girl, the bones of which have been completely covered by the natural processes of the cave, leaving them with a sparkling appearance. The cave itself is several kilometers long with several chambers. Once inside the cave, you will spend several hours swimming, climbing, and be exploring. 

The hike from the starting point to the cave entrance includes three stream crossings and passes through the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve. The hike through the lower portion of the cave is approximately 45 minutes in duration. Once through the inner chambers, you will ascend to the upper chambers, and to do this you will be required to take off your shoes and explore in only your socks to prevent damage to the artifacts. This adventure is challenging and a good level of physical fitness is required. The ability to swim is a plus as you will need to cross deep water to enter the cave and will be wading through water several times both inside and outside the caves. 

At the furthest end of the upper chambers, you will encounter the “crystal maiden”. Cameras are not allowed in the cave for conservation purposes.
$
100
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Like most caves in Belize, this cave took thousands of years to form. Offering the very best in cave geology and the sacred cultural remains that are still within the cave. As the ... morenatives of this jewel once revered these caves as the most sacred place for their religious pilgrimages.

The tour begins with a hike across the roaring river before arriving at the caves hourglass shaped entrance. This adventure will allow you to be up close to Mayan artifacts that were left hundreds of years ago by Mayan elites who ventured into this sacred place to conduct rituals on behalf of their community. Come to learn of the history of the cave, re-trace the steps of kings and priests.

Adventure and education, come experience this ancient culture through the eyes of the natives. Like most caves in Belize, this cave took thousands of years to form. Offering the very best in cave geology and the sacred cultural remains that are still within the cave. As the natives of this jewel once revered these caves as the most sacred place for their religious pilgrimages.

The tour begins with a hike across the roaring river before arriving at the caves hourglass shaped entrance. This adventure will allow you to be up close to Mayan artifacts that were left hundreds of years ago by Mayan elites who ventured into this sacred place to conduct rituals on behalf of their community. Come to learn of the history of the cave, re-trace the steps of kings and priests.

Adventure and education, come experience this ancient culture through the eyes of the natives.
$
265
-
$
295
/ Person
Departs From:
San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)
Provider:
Take a Day Trip from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye and experience the best Cave Tour in Belize. Journey back in time exploring sacred caves untouched for thousands of years. Follow the ... morefootsteps of the ancient Maya who once used these caves to perform offerings to their Gods. 
$
225
-
$
265
/ Person
Departs From:
San Pedro (Ambergris Caye)
Provider:
Take a Day Trip off the island of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye for a horseback Riding expedition through hidden trails in the jungle. Then paddle underground through sacred caves exploring ... morefreely as your lights reveal crystal formations.
$
135
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
Welcome to the gateway of the Mayan Underworld. Actun Tunichil Muknal (cave of the stone sepulchre) is commonly referred to as ATM Cave. Located near San Ignacio, Cayo District, it ... moreis one of the most impressive Maya ceremonial caves containing rare bloodletting altars used in sacrifices by Maya royalty, and where calcified skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware have been found. The best known as “The Crystal Maiden”, the intact skeleton of a teenage girl, whose bones have been calcified over the years to a sparkling crystallized appearance

The hike to the cave entrance through the lush Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve requires visitors to swim to the mouth of the cave and then wade through ankle to chest high water and once inside the magnificent cave, the exploration begins. The tour requires climbing and swimming as well as crawling through small spaces. The cave is extensively decorated with cave formations in the upper passages, a labyrinth of dry chambers which lead to the cathedral-like main hall, a towering chamber 350 meters in length and 50 meters wide and filled with artifacts and sacrificial remains. Visitors remove shoes and explore the cave in socks only, to protect the artifacts on the cave floor. After this, another climb takes you to the stone sepulchre (after which the cave is named) where the Crystal Maiden lies. Photography is now disallowed inside the cave unless special permits are obtained.

This is an extraordinary Belize adventure and a rare opportunity to see ancient Maya ceremonial sites and altars as they were and virtually untouched for centuries. A visit to this site is truly profound and unforgettable. After this memorable adventure, we hike back to our vehicles and sit to enjoy a local lunch before heading back to San Ignacio.
$
95
/ Person
Departs From:
San Ignacio Town
 (2)
Travel to one the most popular Mayan ceremonial caves in the Maya world. Discovered in 1986 in western Belize, mapped and studied by archaeologist from 1993. The cave has a full length ... moreof 5 km but the ceremonial area used by the Mayan priest & shamans is 1 km from the entrance. Fourteen human remains have been found inside and 1100 ceramic objects. All bones and most ceramics have been completely covered by calcite from the drip water which has left them with a sparkling appearance especially the full extended skeleton called the ‘Crystal Maiden’. Drive 1 hour from San Ignacio then hike is 35 mins on a jungle trail. Swim once across a river then walk across shallows twice. 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. Time spent inside the cave is 2 ½ to 3 hrs. Get a in-depth look at Belize’s Mayan culture.
$
1,489
/ Person
Day 1: BELIZE CITY /CRYSTAL PARADISE You will be met at the airport by your Belizean bird guide and transferred to your jungle lodge accommodations. Optional stop to visit the Belize ... moreZoo (entrance fee to Zoo not included). We check into our accommodations at Crystal Paradise after a short orientation. O/N Crystal Paradise Resort. /D

Day 2: TIKAL OVERNIGHT
Breakfast at Crystal Paradise. Travel 1 ½ hr drive into neighboring Guatemala to visit a very important Maya site. Located in the Peten lowland of Guatemala, this huge Classic Period Maya site, rich in jungle flora and fauna, is considered one of the world’s premier Archaeological Reserves. The park consists of 225+ square kilometers Guided tour of Tikal Maya site itself. Lunch at Tikal. Dinner and Overnight at Tikal Inn. Departure fee and park fee not included, US$20.00 + US$22/pp
O/N Tikal Inn. B/L/D

Day 3: TIKAL/RETURN CRYSTAL PARADISE/AFTERNOON LEISURE/
After breakfast at Tikal Inn, you will be transferred to Crystal Paradise Resort. You will spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring the grounds at Crystal Paradise for the rest of the day. 
O/N Crystal Paradise Resort, B/L/D

Day 4: ACTUN TUNICHIL MUKNAL (ATM)
This is one of the most impressive and mystical trips imaginable. A gallery like one has never seen before! Over 200 ceramic vessels adorn the chambers of Actun Tunichil Muknal. The culture, history and geological formations create an unrivaled natural museum. Travel back in time as we explore this large cave, untouched since the Maya last visited centuries ago.

Located in the heart of the Tapir Mountain Nature reserve, 6,700 acres managed by the Belize Audubon Society, a huge entrance in a limestone hill welcomes you at the end of your 45-minute walk through lush, undisturbed jungle vegetation.

O/N Crystal Paradise Resort, B/L/D

Day 5: CHECHEM HA CAVE
You will take a short hike through the jungle to this complex cave system was discovered in 1989 by the Morales. Exploring the caves will allow you to view large stalactite formations, intact ancient artifacts such as large storage vessels, plates, burial grounds and mysterious stelae. These Caves have been abandoned since the Pre-Classic 600 B.C – 800 A.D.

After the cave, you will be treated to a home-cooked lunch, served at the home of the Morales. After lunch, you may decide to hike down for a refreshing swim or simply sit back atop a hill and take in the view of the valleys.

O/N Crystal Paradise Resort, B/L/D

Day 6: CAVE TUBING
Cave tubing is one of most popular and fun tour to do in Belize. Caves Branch (Nooch Chen) consists of a series of caves found on the caves branch river located about 1 ½ hrs drive from the lodge. Once we get there you can change into your swimwear grab an inner tube, life jacket, and headlamp and off we go on an easy 45-minute walk on a jungle trail as your guide explains the plants and wildlife you may encounter and see along the way. Swim in one of Belize crystal clear river or getting started on the fun part is sitting on the inner tube to float through the caves. If you wish to combine this tour with Ziplining then, there is an extra fee of US$45/pp for the zip lining adventure; this can be paid at the site. Lunch not included on this day

O/N Crystal Paradise Resort, B//D

Day 7: MOUNTAIN PINE RIDGE/RIO ON POOLS/RIO FRIO CAVE
The Cayo District’s principal town of San Ignacio is the gateway to some of Belize’s most precious ecological gems. After breakfast at the hotel, we will experience the wonders of Mountain Pine Ridge. Bring along your walking shoes, swimwear and adventurous mind for a full day of activity. The reserve is teaming with hills and valleys, rivers and falls, swimming holes and caves, all surrounded by the majestic beauty of Pine Forests. Our main stops will be at the Rio Frio Caves, Rio on Pools and weather and road conditions permitting, you’ll get a chance to see the 1000 ft. Hidden Valley Waterfalls. Bring along your binoculars, as there is much to see in the line of exotic flora and fauna, endemic only to this extremely rugged, but beautiful part of the county.

O/N Crystal Paradise Resort, B/D

Day 8: FREE DAY
This day is for you to relax after all the active adventure; you can enjoy a massage, or add an extra tour to your package. 

O/N Crystal Paradise Resort, B/L/D

Day 9: DEPARTURE
Breakfasts and transfer to Belize International Airport. B/

***itinerary is subject to change once here due to weather conditions or unforeseen events***
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