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Exploring the Actun Chechem Ha Cave System


For 2018, we’ve added a new experience to our much loved Glover's Reef & Mayan Caves Belize trip itinerary.  At the beginning of this Belize adventure, guests can now look forward to visiting the ancient Mayan ruins at Xunantunich and exploring a unique archaeological cave at Actun Che Chem Ha.

We look at the fascinating history of this sacred cave located in the foothills of the Maya mountains:

Actun Che Chem Ha Cave System, Belize

The Actun Che Chem Ha cave is located 16 miles from San Ignacio in the rolling hills of the Cayo District of Western Belize.  Located on private land, the cave is accessed by a 45-minute descent, and short incline through the rainforest in the upper Macal River Valley.  After approximately 1.5 hours in the cave, we hike further down in the river valley to a small farm house, where our host family serves us lunch with a beautiful view over the Macal River.

Macal River Valley, Belize
Beautiful View over the Macal River Valley at the lunch spot

Che Chem Ha is the Yucatec Maya name meaning ‘Cave of the Poisonwood Water’. The Chechem tree contains a highly toxic resin.  

Mayan artefacts Belize
The cave is most notable for its unique collection of Mayan artwork and artefacts.

The Actun Che Chem Ha cave was used by the Maya as a storehouse for grain as well as a ceremonial centre for their after-life and bloodletting rituals.  What makes this cave remarkable in Belize, is the shear number of pots, as well as the number pots that are still intact.  

Actun Che Chem Ha Cave Belize
Exploring one of the chambers containing artefacts used in ceremonies.

Actun Che Chem Ha Cave Belize
Many of the ceramic vessels have been set above the floor level and are only accessible by ladders. 

Actun Che Chem Ha Cave Belize
The cave system is rich with geological formations, Maya artefacts and relics.

Visiting the Ancient Mayan Ruins at Xunantunich

After lunch, we visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Xunantunich. This ancient Mayan city is situated on the banks of the Mopan River and features incredible ruins of temples, plazas and even ball courts. It’s one of the great archaeological sites in Belize and provides an amazing introduction to the life of the ancient Maya people. 

Ferry at Mopan River
Crossing the Mopan River on the hand-cranked ferry to reach Xunantunich

Xunantunich means “maiden of the rock” or “stone lady” in the Maya language. 

The "Stone Lady" refers to the ghost of a woman claimed to inhabit the site of this ancient Mayan city. 

At the heart of the ruins at Xunantunich is a series of six plazas surrounded by more than 26 temples, palaces, and ball courts.

Xunantunich, Belize
Exploring the ruins at Xunantunich 


El Castillo
El Castillo

One of Xunantunich's best-known structures is the pyramid known as El Castillo. It is the second tallest structure in Belize, after the temple at Caracol. 

View from the top of Xunantunich
The view from the top of the ruins at Xunantunich 

If you go:

Guests experiencing our Glover's Reef & Mayan Caves trip itinerary will spend the first 2 nights at the beautiful Cahal Pech Village Resort, which overlooks San Ignacio. Day one will be filled with adventure and exploration, visiting  Xunantunich and the Actun Chechem Ha cave system. In the evening, there will be time to explore San Ignacio and enjoy dinner on the town.

The following 5 nights are spent at our Glover’s Reef Basecamp, located on Southwest Caye. The 7-night Glover’s Reef & Mayan Cave trip is available from early December to the end of April. 

Call 1.800.667.1630 or email info@islandexpeditions.com for more information.