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Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria

The Cuevas de Candelaria are a complex of natural caves and subterranean waterways running through the limestone hills of Alta Verapaz. With the Candelaria river running 22 km underground (80 km including all the branches), they form the longest such system in Central America. Exploring the caves either on foot or on an inflatable inner tube is a great adventure: your lantern will reveal dripping stalactites, bulbous stalagmites and roofs of shining droplets, while bats flee screeching. Gliding down the underground river makes for good family fun too, as you splash in cool dark pools, then emerge in the middle of the forest.



But a guided tour through the caves will also reveal to you how they were (and still are) a sacred site for the Mayas. As described in the Popol Vuh (the Mayan equivalent of the biblical Genesis), these caves were an access to the underworld, and religious rites have been performed here for centuries. The caves were first explored using spelunking equipment in 1974, and fully mapped by scientific expeditions in the following years. Now the local communities have organized tours and accommodation.



Different caves can be explored from four different visitor centers: Candelaria Camposanto, Candelaria Muqbila, Complejo Cultural y Ecoturistico Cuevas de Candelaria and Los Nacimientos, all accessible from the Chisec-Raxruhá road, or else on a tour from Cobán or Chisec. The cheapest way to visit the caves is to base yourself in nearby Raxruhá, staying in Hotel El Amigo (simple rooms with private bathrooms: $7.25, Tel: 5368-5616) or in the friendly Hotel Cancuén (from $4.25 basic rooms to $27 suites, Tel: 7983-0720), which also runs tours to Los Nacimientos. From Raxruhá, microbuses run every 20 minutes and will drop you at any of the caves for $0.60.

Neighborhoods in Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria: Complejo Cultural y Ecoturistico Cuevas de Candelaria, Los Nacimientos, Candelaria Muqbila, Candelaria Camposanto,

Other places nearby Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria: Biotopo De Quetzal, Rabinal, Sierra De Las Minas Biosphere Reserve , Chisec, San Rafael Chilascó, Cubulco, San Jerónimo, Playa Grande, Río Ikbolay and Purulhá and the Corredor Biológico del Bosque Nuboso.

By Andrea Davoust
After more than two years of working and living out of a suitcase in Eastern Europe and in various improbable African countries that no-one has ever...
08 Dec 2009

Top Places in Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria

Candelaria Camposanto

136596The community of Camposanto runs cave tours ($4.25/person, 45 min) and tubing ($5/person) from the little shop Tucan by the side of the road, which unfortunately is rarely staffed by anyone competent ...
City Zone
Candelaria Camposanto, Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria, Guatemala

Los Nacimientos

136599This private reserve, which holds the final leg of the Candelaria river, belongs to the retired doctor who owns the Hotel Cancuén in Raxruhá. He organizes day tours for $18, including transport, a ...
City Zone
Los Nacimientos, Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria, Guatemala

Candelaria Muqbila

Also run by a local community, this center situated a 20-minute walk (or five-minute drive) off the main road offers cave tours (1.5 hour, $5/person) and tubing ($5.50/person) as well as ...
City Zone
Candelaria Muqbila, Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria, Guatemala

Complejo Cultural y Ecoturistico Cuevas de Candelaria

Managed jointly by one of the French speleologists who explored the caves in the 1970s and by the local community, this center is perhaps the more upscale one. While the cave and tubing tours are ...
City Zone
Complejo Cultural y Ecoturistico Cuevas de Candelaria, Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria, Guatemala
View Parque Nacional Cuevas de Candelaria Map

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