Actun Tunichil Muknal is a Maya arechological site discovered in 1989 a few miles from San Ignacio. Following a 45-minute drive from San Ignacio and a 45-minute hike through the nature trails of the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, and several jungle stream crossings, visitors find a crystal-clear stream flowing from the cave opening. A short swim into the cave and a guided hike through the underground realm is rewarded by one of the most impressive Maya sites in Belize, including massive pots, ceremonial chambers and human skeletal remains cemented in limestone.
"The Crystal Maiden", the skeleton of a teenage girl, believed to be a sacrifice victim, is the most famous remains of the cave because the bones have a sparkling crystallized appearance as they have been completely calcified by the natural processes of the cave. The main chamber contains several other skeletal remains.
Most of the time, artifacts may be in danger of being taken from inside any cave but at Actun Tunichil Muknal, nearly all of the culturally significant artifacts remain in place just as they were when they were discovered. Belize’s Department of Archaeology has granted permission for only a handful of approved guides to lead tourists through the terrain in order to control the loss of valuable artifacts while giving the public access to this superb piece of Belize’s culture and heritage.