Actun Tunichil Muknal, also known as the ATM Cave or the Cave of the Stone Sepulchre, is one of the most prominent anthropological sites in Central America, rated as the number one sacred cave in the world by National Geographic. A visit to the cave should be on any adventurer's bucket list since there is a fair amount of challenge, mystery, and ancient history. ATM Cave can be explored year-round. However, avoid visiting the cave during the rainy summer period. During this time, river waters can rise, and the cave may be flooded. In this case, your tour might be canceled. Luckily, this doesn't happen very often, just once in a few years.
Actun Tunichil Muknal, located near the town of San Ignacio, can be reached by a 45-minute hike through the tropical forest in Tapir Mountain Reserve. On your way, you can see plenty of wildlife until you get to an hourglass-shaped entrance to the sacred Maya cave. All visitors will have to swim about 30 ft (10 m) to get to the first level. Further, visitors will be walking in water until reaching the sacred part of the cave filled with Maya artifacts. Over 1400 archeological finds have been made in the ATM cave, including pottery, tools, weapons, and vessels. One of the main highlights of the cave is the “Crystal Maiden” skeleton of a young Maya princess.
The tour to ATM cave lasts for the whole day and requires a reasonably good fitness level. Also, make sure to wear closed-toed shoes with a good grip and socks. Bring a towel, sunblock, and a water bottle. Some tour packages also include cave tubing on the underground river.
When is the best time to visit the ATM Cave in Belize?
The ideal season for visiting the ATM Cave is from October through May, during the dry weather. Visiting during the rainy season (June-September) is not advisable because the cave can flood and tour cancellations are common. Nevertheless, visitors can tour the cave all year round. Show more
Where is the ATM Cave located, and how do tourists get there?
Situated in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, Western Belize, the ATM Cave can be accessed via a 45-minute hike through the tropical forest. The journey through the jungle is scenic, and tourists can view several wildlife species. The cave entrance is shaped like an hourglass, and the first level can be reached by swimming around 30 ft (10 m). Show more
What artifacts were discovered in the ATM Cave?
Archeologists recovered over 1,400 cultural findings from the ATM Cave, including pottery, tools, weapons, and vessels, whose primary use is believed to have been in ceremonial functions or religious offerings. Among the discoveries are sepulchers, skeletons of animals and humans, and stoneware. Show more
What is the 'Crystal Maiden' skeleton, and why is it significant?
The 'Crystal Maiden' refers to a young Maya princess' complete skeleton found at the back of the ATM Cave. Over time, the bones have formed as crystals, causing it to sparkle. It is believed to be an essential piece in understanding the Maya civilization's religious practices and sacrificial customs. The 'Crystal Maiden' is a national treasure of Belize. Show more
Are there any physical requirements to visit the ATM Cave, and what should tourists bring on the tour?
Visitors ought to have a moderate level of fitness to undertake a tour of the cave, and those under 12 years are not allowed. Wear appropriate shoes with soles suitable for walking through water and a water-resistant pair of socks. Tourists should carry additional clothes, sunscreen, a towel, and water bottles. Some tour packages incorporate cave tubing on the underground river. Show more