Extreme Mexico: Let’s go extreme caving!

CAVING in Mexico is great as the country has an impressive number of caves, including some of the deepest caves in the Americas. If you’re interested in caving, there are several ways to go at it in Mexico. There are known caves in the states of Chiapas, Coahuila, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Morelos and Nuevo Leon.

What follows are a few options. Bear in mind there are dozens of others to choose from, ranging from a pleasant swim in a warm cenote to a climb into the depths of what is arguably the deepest cave on earth.


The Juxtlahuaca cave and archaeological site lie inside a national park in the state of Guerrero, about 45 km southeast of the state capital of Chilpancingo.  The cave contains murals linked to the Olmec culture. Along with the nearby Oxtotitlán cave, Juxtlahuaca walls contain the earliest sophisticated painted art known in Mesoamerica. These caves, also called Grutas de Juxtlahuaca (“Grottos of Juxtlahuaca”), are a favorite destination of spelunkers. The caves are open to the public, but a local guide is required.  The spelunking archaeologists among you should have a field day here!

Another fine archaeological site can be found in the Loltun Cave in the Yucatán, approximately 5 km (3 miles) south of Oxkutzcab. The cave contains Late Preclassic Mayan paintings (Loltun means flower stone in the Mayan language). This two km long cave, one of the longest in Mexico, contains the recovered bones of mammoth, bison, cats, and horses, which confirm human presence in the cave. There are also hand painted human faces and other representation of animals and geometric forms. There are organized tours that’ll take you deep into the cave system to explore the vaults and galleries where the artifacts were found—some of them as  much as 10,000 years old. Definitely worth a day trip from Merida—the site is about 110 km. from Merida, and 10 km from the town of  Oskutzab.


Attention, all you crazy cavers: base jumping into a pit cave can be done at the Cave of the Swallows, the largest cave shaft in the world and the 11th deepest cave currently known on the planet. The Empire State Building would fit in here, and this cave was only explored in the 1960s, two years before man landed on the moon.

Super-cool thing to see: in the evenings, about once a minute, a group of  roughly fifty birds close their wings and drop into the cave, freefalling toward their nests. Naturally, human beings were not about to be outdone by a flock of birds, and so–base jumpers come from all over the world to to this cave, because you can fall for up to eight or ten seconds before popping your chute. Ascending from the cave can take more than an hour and is powered by a winch.

The Cave of Swallows (Sótano de las Golondrinas, or Basement of the Swallows), is located in the municipality of Aquismón, near the major city of San Luis Potosí.  Along with base jumpers and swallows, cavers flock here as well. Most fix their ropes on the low side, where bolts have been set into the rock and the area is clear of obstructions. Rappelling to the floor takes about twenty minutes, while climbing back out may take from forty minutes to
more than two hours. This is a BIG CAVE: An average-sized hot air balloon has been navigated through the 160-foot wide opening and landed on the floor below. There are two caves other caves worth mentioning here that you will probably NOT be exploring. One is the cave called Cheve. I would direct you to an interesting piece at National Geographic online to check this cave out—and if you are a driven soul caver, maybe you’ll head on down.

Sounds way too hairy for me, but then, I prefer sports that take place in daylight.  There is Cheve, and then there is the Crystal Cave.  The Cave of the Crystals or Giant Crystal Cave (Cueva de los Cristales) is a cave connected to the Naica Mine, 980 ft. below the surface in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. The giant selenite crystals found in the main chamber— up to 36 feet long–are among the largest natural crystals ever found.  Unfortunately, it is around 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside, and so, without proper protection people can only endure approximately ten minutes of  exposure at a time. Who knows, maybe by the time we head up there, they’ll  figure out some way to cool it off so we can have a look. Meanwhile, the heading of this post  is a photo from inside the cave, and you can also explore it online at various sites.

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