Grutas de Loltún

Cave in Ruta Puuc

One of the largest dry-cave systems on the Yucatán Peninsula, Loltún ('stone flower' in Maya) provided a treasure trove of data for archaeologists studying the Maya. Carbon dating of artifacts found here reveals that the caves were used by humans 2200 years ago. Chest-high murals of hands, faces, animals and geometric motifs were apparent as recently as 25 years ago, but so many people have touched them that scarcely a trace remains, though some handprints have been restored.

A few pots are displayed in a niche, and an impressive bas-relief, El Guerrero, guards the entrance. Other than that, you’ll mostly see illuminated limestone formations.

To explore the labyrinth, you must take a scheduled guided tour, usually in Spanish but sometimes also available in English, depending on your guide. Tipping your guide is, as you will be reminded several times, expected. Tours last about one hour and 20 minutes, with lots of lengthy stops. It's undoubtedly a pricey experience, and some visitors feel both ripped off and frustrated by the guide's laser focus on their tip. However, the caves are certainly spectacular, if you don't mind making this trade-off.

Colectivos (shared vans) to Oxkutzcab (osh-kootz-kahb; M$60, 1½ hours, frequent) depart from Calle 67A in Mérida, beside Parque San Juan. Loltún is 7km southwest of Oxkutzcab, where you can catch colectivos (M$20) to the caves from Calle 51 (in front of the market). A taxi costs about M$120.

Renting a car is the best option for reaching the Grutas, however.