San Ignacio: Land of Mayan Death Cave Tours

San Ignacio Travel Blog

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San Ignacio

San Ignacio is a little strip mall of a town that serves as a base for adventure tours into the jungles Belizean Cayo district. The town itself is not much -- a series of cheap and moderate hotels, restaurants, tour companies and discount stores, with a little park and a big taxi parking lot.

There are many cab drivers in San Ignacio. I often wondered why, because the town itself is only a few blocks long, and the sites around it would be too expensive to go by taxi. I never saw anyone actually take a taxi, but you couldn't go a block without being asked if you needed one.

Outside the town and across the bridge, the countryside opens up and there are several better, more expensive hotels.

Barton Creek Cave Mouth
We, on the other hand, stayed in the center of town in the roach-infested Belmoral. Pros: $8 each for a double, private bathroom, TV, fan. Cons: A ridiculously hot room even when the fan was going and window was open, a baby cockroach infestation. The first room we were shown was absolutely overrun with insects.

The reason to stay in San Ignacio are the tours you can book there. There are several agencies in town that take you to some really cool locations in the Cayo District. The most popular trips include:

- Caracol - Mayan site

- Cave Tubing - floating down a relaxing river in an inner tube, through caves

- ATM cave - the most hardcore cave trip, where you swim, climb and wade through a cave filled with Mayan artifacts and sacrifices

- Barton Creek Cave-- a smaller cave with Mayan artifacts and sacrifices

- Several Waterfalls that can be combined into a trip, or are sometimes included with other trips

I kind of wish I had done ATM, but it was $80, the most expensive tour, and I wasn't sure if the guy was pushing it because it really was cool or if he would make the most money off it.

parrot at the restaurant outside Barton Creek Cave
I chose Barton Creek the first day instead, which was only $40. One annoying thing about the tours here are that it's sometimes hard to get the one you want if you're by yourself. Almost all the tours will only go out with 2 or 3 people at the very least, so if you're in town for only a few days by yourself, you're at the mercy of what other people happened to have signed up for.

Barton Creek was actually really fun. A group of Toucan Tour people were on the trip with me, and they were very nice. We went by van through Menonite/Amish farmland (Belize has a large Menonite community). All the Menonite/Amish people on the road would wave at us when we passed.

The van forded a stream, drove further down a dusty, unpaved road and we arrived at Barton Creek Caves. Right at the mouth of the cave, there is a little restaurant overrun by the pet parrots of the lady who runs the restaurant and canoe rental.

Bartn Creek Cave

We all got into canoes (comfily shared -- I didn't even have to paddle) and glided into the beautiful, vine-draped mouth of the cave. Little fish swam in the shallow waters of the cave and tiny, adorable bats flew overhead (I don't know how, but they're even cuter when they're upside down).

We saw lots of formations, some Mayan pottery and even a human skull from an ancient sacrifice. The whole trip was very relaxing and it was nice and cool in the cave.

jteddyb says:
I never knew there were Amish in Central America.
Posted on: Oct 05, 2007
mswim says:
You should have done the cave tubing, that's what I did. It was awesome! I regret not stopping by the ruins though, I'll have to do that next time. I was only in Belize for a day.
Posted on: Oct 01, 2007
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San Ignacio
San Ignacio
Barton Creek Cave Mouth
Barton Creek Cave Mouth
parrot at the restaurant outside B…
parrot at the restaurant outside …
Bartn Creek Cave
Bartn Creek Cave
Barton Creek Cave entrance
Barton Creek Cave entrance
Barton Creek Cave Canoes
Barton Creek Cave Canoes
Yup, thats a skull. Really it is.
Yup, that's a skull. Really it is.
San Ignacio
photo by: Biedjee