Seven kilometers (4.3 miles) southwest of Oxkutzcab, the Loltún grutas are the largest known caves in Yucatán.
This vast underground network served ancient people as a source of water and pottery clay—ceramics and carved reliefs dating from 1600 B.C. have been discovered here. It eventually developed into an important pilgrimage and ceremonial space for Mayas (caves typically represented fertility and the entrance to xibalbá, the underworld).
Researchers working in Loltún also uncovered bones belonging to mastodons and other extinct mammals that date to 9000 B.C. While some argue that early hunters dragged these animals to the caves, it has yet to be proven. Instead, stone tools dating to 5000–3000 B.C. mark the earliest sign of humans in Loltún.
Wear decent walking shoes in the caves. For the most part it’s an easy two-kilometer (1.25-mile) walk; however, it’s dark and damp, and in a few places the paths between chambers are steep, rocky, and slippery.
For safety reasons, you may enter the caves only at set times with a guide. Tours begin daily at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m., and last about an hour. Admission is US$4.75 (children under 13 are free), but none of that goes to the guides—budget another US$2–5 per person for tip. Tours are given in English or Spanish—let the ticket-seller know which language you prefer so you are paired with the right guide.
There is a small restaurant across the street from the caves, with friendly service, basic meals, and nice cold beer.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition