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Actun Tunichil Muknal

Crystal maiden Belize

Much of Belize’s topography is composed of a ‘karst’ landscape, which consists of deeply eroded limestone hills. Karst lands are typically honeycombed with caves, and Belize is no exception. The country is famous among international cave explorers, who have discovered and mapped innumerable Belize caves. Belize contains the second largest underground chamber in the world, over 1/4 mile long!

Mayan society and culture was based on their religious beliefs, and many of their most important deities resided in the underworld, for which caves were the portal. As such, the Mayans held all caves sacred, and performed religious ceremonies in nearly every cave they found. Belize’s caves contain incredible treasures from these ancient ceremonies, and the country’s caves are famous among archaeologists all over the world. The thick rainforest cloaking the karst hills of Belize makes it difficult to find caves, and new discoveries are being made every year.

Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave has become internationally famous as the showcase of Belize’s caves, having been featured in numerous magazine articles and on TV shows. Limited tours are permitted through the cave, which is located deep in the jungle and accessed by swimming into the creek that flows from the cave’s entrance. Inside the cave an amazing collection of ceramic offerings, ceremonial sites, and skeletons of sacrificial victims can be viewed. The main feature, however, is a complete skeleton of a young woman which has been encrusted with calcite crystals, know as the Crystal maiden.

Tours to the cave can be booked from any lodge in the Cayo area. To see our list of recommended Cayo lodges, visit our Things to Do in Belize page.

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