arrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upchevron-upchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upclosecomment-newemail-newfullscreen-closefullscreen-opengallerygridheadphones-newheart-filledheart-openmap-geolocatormap-pushpinArtboard 1Artboard 1Artboard 1minusng-borderpauseplayplusprintreplayscreensharefacebookgithubArtboard 1Artboard 1linkedinlinkedin_inpinterestpinterest_psnapchatsnapchat_2tumblrtwittervimeovinewhatsappspeakerstar-filledstar-openzoom-in-newzoom-out-new

Ancient Maya Sacrificial Cave Revealed in Rare Footage

Incredible abandoned ancient cities cover the region, but this hidden cave has a special allure.

Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, Belize

Take a look at the cave with Dr. Jaime Awe, the first archeologist to explore it.

Deep in the jungles of Belize, a sacred site has begun attracting tourists that are willing to hike, swim, and climb their way to reach it. The Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, a place of great significance for ancient Maya, was discovered in 1989. After years of research by Belizean archeologist Jaime Awe and his team, the site was opened to the public in 1998. The site is home to dozens of skeletons, including the famous Crystal Maiden. Although the cave now draws much interest from adventurous tourists, it is still not widely seen: a few years ago, photography and video were banned. (Go with Nat Geo: Explore the cave on an active trip with National Geographic Expeditions)

In 2017, Awe visited the cave again with National Geographic during filming for the new series One Strange Rock.

“They're portals to the underworld, to where important gods resided," Awe says, highlighting the cave's importance to the Maya civilization and the world. "We also see human sacrifice. Things must have been really difficult for the Maya to be doing this. The Maya certainly contributed to their own demise.”

There’s no place like home. Darren Aronofsky, Will Smith, and experienced astronauts are joining forces to tell the extraordinary story of Earth. Explore our pale blue dot in a whole new way on Mondays at 10/9c.

Follow Nat Geo Travel


Get exclusive updates, insider tips, and special discounts on travel and more.

Sign Up Now

Subscribe Now


Trips With Nat Geo