Mayan caves game is nice to learn about, but we are interested in actual caves.

The Mayans tend to view their caves as sacred locations. Perhaps they played some ballgames in caves but the Popol Vuh suggests that the demons, devils, and deities of Xibalba were upset that humans were trying to play Mayan ball games.

I am writing this particular page while in Shanghai, and so far none of the Mayan caves game websites will download completely.

So I will write about the actual caves, especially of the Q’eqchi’ Mayan people, not the Mayan caves game for computers.

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Mucbilha Cave, Chisec Alta Verapaz, Taken with a Canon EOS 6D, June 2014

List of major Maya caves in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

We are gradually making lists of major caves in every departamento of Guatemala, and in five states of Mexico: Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo; and in Maya areas of El Salvador and Honduras. Here is our first installment: a list of major Maya caves in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

Many of these caves are well known locally; about five of the caves we have visited on weekends. Other caves are from the list of 15th International Congress of Speleology, pp. 178-179.

 

Bombil Pec caves

Candelaria Camposanto, caves, open to public
Cúpula de Murciélagos was only a few minutes long; in the other caves we were there for hours.

Mucbilhá cave, open to public

Cuevas de Candelaria, cave, open to public

Cuevas de Catalina, Municipio of La Tinta

Chitul, Santa Cruz Verapaz

Dolores (rio), San Pedro Carcha

Faisan, Coban area

Hul ik, Chisec area

Hun Nal Ye, San Pedro Carcha, origin of Rio Dolores

K'an Ba

Lanquin, deep cave, open to public, lots of tourists

Cuevas de los Nacimientos, Cueva Blanca

Rey Marcos caves: I enjoyed these but not sure I would return, since the caves of Candelaria and Mucbilha are so much bigger. In Rey Marcos you have to hike through water, so be sure to have the correct shoes.

Ma’xiwan, Chicujal, municipio San Juan Chamelco

Q’ana Itzam, not in other lists (or if so, under different spelling). We found on the web site www.deguate.com

Samac, municipio Coban

Seamay Cave, Finca Seamay, just outside Senahu

Secanante Caves (plural), also spelled Secante (cante means madre de cacao). This is the largest cave missing from almost all lists of caves of Guatemala.

Sepalau, lagunas, Chisec

Sepacuite cave, Finca Sepacuite. Many caves in this area; most are not in any list other than just “Sepaculte.” Be sure you have permission of the alcalde of the specific aldea in which each cave is located. We have explored on of these caves, peeked at the blocked mouth of another, and were told of a third cave.

Se’Tzol, (San Fernando) Chahal, Rio Chiyu, 15 47 59 N 89 35 04 W, Franja Transversal del Norte, Km 360 http://gt.geoview.info/cuevas_setzol_chahal_av,40410904p

Yaxlik, considered

Zetzol, Chahal (see Se’Tzol, (San Fernando) Chahal, Rio Chiyu)

chisec-alta-verapaz-cave-mucbilha-photography-2186
Mucbilha Cave, Chisec Alta Verapaz, Taken with a Canon EOS 6D, June 2014

“Cave” face on cliff overlooking the road between Tucuru and La Tinta.

You can see this “cave” remains from the highway between Tucuru and La Tinta. Since it is on the other side of the river, and on a bluff, we have not explored to see whether there is any actual cave tunnel.

 

Visiting the Mayan K’ekchi’ caves of Alta Verapaz: hotels and guides

We have stayed in hotels in Raxruha, in the community hotel in Mucbilha, in the community association lodging in Candelaria Campo Santo, and a romantic bungalow hotel for backpackers (surrounded by cacao groves and overlooking Semuc Champey).

Respect the laws of national patrimony of Guatemala

It is not appropriate to damage or take any artifact.

It is illegal to bring any Mayan archaeological artifacts into the USA or into Europe or elsewhere.  It is also illegal to take any Mayan archaeology artifacts out of Guatemala.

Accommodations are basic and none of the rooms have toilets or showers in the rooms, but the local Q’eqchi’ Mayan people are friendly and helpful, the caves are worth visiting, there are lots of exotic Neotropical plants and animals. At night you are generally so tired you will sleep acceptably even if not a luxury suite. Besides, the price is reasonable (FLAAR is a non-profit educational institute, so we appreciate overnight accommodations which are reasonably priced).

The hotels in Chisec (and Raxruha) have toilets and showers in the rooms. These hotels are in villages and not at physical caves.

 

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Lanquin Cave, Alta Verapaz, Taken with a Canon PowerShot G16, June 2014

 

Caves are a major feature of Classic Maya civilization

To visit caves in tourist areas simply pay the entrance fee and this provides a local guide. Guides appreciate tips but their “salary” should already be built into the ticket price.

To visit caves near aldeas or on fincas, be sure you get permission of the finca owner and use an individual from the finca as your guide. Normal traditional payment is minimum of Q20 for a guide for an hour (on a finca or in an aldea); Q50 if half a day and Q100 for the day.

If the cave is in an aldea, it is essential to get permission of the alcalde or village elders. So allow time to accomplish this (often best by sending in your representative the afternoon before).

Try to avoid entering one aldea with guides and assistants from the neighboring aldea. It is best to hire as guides and assistants the people from the finca or aldea on which the cave is physically located.

It is best to have a local representative who knows people in many villages. Have him go to where the cave is located and ask for permission, in advance when possible, since the alcalde may be away elsewhere on a market day or may be in a distant milpa’

In Alta Verapaz it is essential that you have one person with you who speaks both Q’eqchi’ (K’ekchi’) and Spanish, since in most aldeas not everyone can speak Spanish. The local people often speak only the local Mayan language (there are 21 local languages, but Q’eqchi’ is spoken in the areas of most caves).

Caves were used by the Maya for thousands of years. Caves are the entrance to the Maya underworld, Xibalba, well described in the Popol Vuh. More and more archaeologists are studing caves nowadays.

My interest in caves is because as a child I had caves surrounding our family house in the Missouri Ozark Mountains. The water in our house came from the caves. There was even a cenote on our farm, about 100 meters from the house.

The primary feature of our farm is a cave-spring fed creek which goes through a hill. This is “The Sinks,” a natural wonder of Missouri. As kids we swam at one end every summer day (and occasionally would recklessly swim the entire 100 meters through the entire cave stream).

Me and my brothers explored caves every weekend. Today two of my brothers, Daniel and George, still enjoy exploring caves. Daniel came to Guatemala specifically to visit the caves of Candelaria (Candelaria Campo Santo and Mucbilha) because I recommend these caves.

So our Hellmuth family interest is in learning about caves. We do not excavate or do archaeology in them, though we are obviously aware that caves have been sacred locations for people for millennia.

The list of caves here is to assist people from around the world to realize that Guatemala is a great place to visit for more reasons than just Chichi, Lake Atitlan, or Antigua: Guatemala is also a land of impressive caves.

lanquin-alta-verapaz-cave-photography-2104

Lanquin Cave, Alta Verapaz, Taken with a Canon PowerShot G16, June 2014

 

Be sure to NOT take geological or mineral samples. Never, ever. Simply do not do it. If you take samples of any rock anywhere the local people may believe that you are working for a mining company (which is a negative aspect to local Mayan people, since mines release pollutants especially in a refinery).

We have already mentioned that it is illegal to take archaeological samples.

Obviously do not scratch you name into the wall of the cave.

Tourism is a healthy way for local people of Guatemala to earn income and support their families. And having local Mayan communities take care of the caves implies they will learn the value of keeping the forest around the caves.  It helps if parts of the forests are not chopped down for milpa fires or commercial plantations. The local animals and birds also appreciate when their forest is not chopped down.

Caves are essential for providing jobs for local Mayan people

Many tourists love caves. By realizing that caves are a major growth area to improve tourism in Guatemala, we can assist everyone. Tourism to caves provides many jobs, especially for hotels, restaurants, and tour guides.

Hotels

  • So hotel construction jobs
  • Hotel maintenance jobs
  • Restaurant jobs
  • Guide jobs

Crucial aspects

  • Protect the caves and surrounding forests and streams
  • Open caves to tourists with appropriate conditions to protect the caves
  • Provide more publicity about caves

It would be helpful to provide more publicity about caves

I never knew there were major caves near Senahu, even after visiting this beautiful village six times (one of our employees lives here, and the area is filled with interesting plants to study).

Candelaria and Mucbilha caves are acceptably publicized, but frankly deserve a bit more publicity. Both these caves have the advantage that the local villages benefit; there is no one single private commercial owner of Candelaria Campo Santo nor Mucbilha.

lanquin-alta-verapaz-cave-photography-2095
Lanquin Cave, Alta Verapaz, Taken with a Canon PowerShot G16, June 2014

 

Updated July 28, 2014
First posted early July 2014

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