Barton Creek Cave – All You Need to Know Before You Go
Barton Creek Cave – Belize’s Most Beautiful and Unusual Cave Destination
Belize’s cave network is extensive and varied, so whether you’re eager to peek into a world of prehistoric panoramas, want to take in the sights by kayak or canoe, or you’d like to settle into a big inner tube to sail past limestone and granite chambers, Belize is your destination. Barton Creek is a great example of a cave that offers a bit of everything. It remains a working archaeological site, so in addition to rock formations, artifacts and skeletal remains, you may even bump into an anthropologist committed to unearthing more mysteries.
Barton Creek Cave
Because Barton Creek Cave is nearly five miles long, allow plenty of time to investigate the areas that have been opened for tourists. From the comfort of a canoe, you will pass speleothems shaped by time and water over thousands of years. Your primary point of interest will likely be ten ledges researchers have identified as former staging areas for Mayan rituals. Evidence shows the scope of religious practices conducted deep within this cave that include conducting fertility rites, human sacrifices and acting as a burial chamber.
Why you should visit Barton Creek
As a recently-explored Maya cave, this is one of the easiest caves to see because you will take in the sites from the comfort of your canoe. Local guides have been schooled in ancient Mayan history, practices and culture so bring your hardest questions along. Don’t be surprised if the weird stalactites and other eerie cave formations don’t spur geologic questions, too. Besides, it may take a trained eye to point out a nicely-camouflaged skull that’s been in the chamber so many years, it would be easy to miss.
Where is the cave located?
Barton Creek is just a 45-minute drive from San Ignacio. Along the way, you may wish to stop and tour the Mennonite village that has been around for decades in the Upper Barton Creek region. This community has put down deep roots and is a major source of dairy foods in the area, so when you head out to the cave, feel free to wave at the cows as they graze in their fields.
When to go
Because Barton Creek Cave is fed by a single stream, paddling into the cave is normally an effortless experience, but in case the area receives an abnormal amount of rain, you may wish to skip coming here between June and October, because on occasion, cave attractions are closed if the water table gets too high. On the other hand, if the amount of rain that falls during a typical green season falls, you should be fine.
Best way to get to Barton Creek Cave
If you’re driving to the cave from San Ignacio (or sister town Santa Elena), stay alert because apparently tourists have a penchant for missing turns and going the wrong way—even on the area’s one-way bridges! Cross the Hawksworth Bridge (it’s the lone suspension bridge in Belize) and follow signs west or catch a bus or shuttle. A guided tour will always be your best option. Book with an experienced local guide and put all of the arrangements into their hands so you don’t have to lift a finger until you pick up your boat paddle.
Best way to experience Barton Creek Cave
The 2009 Xibalba Mapping and Exploration Team opened several kilometers of accessible cave that year but there is still much to be unearthed. Mayan communities made this cave their homes in both the Early Classic (200 to 600 AD) and Late Classic (from 600 AD to 900 AD) periods, so a little homework could make your visit more interesting. Arrange for a picnic during your excursion and a stop at area waterfalls. By the time you leave, you’ll understand why the Mother Nature Network named the Barton Creek Cave one of the nine most beautiful and unusual cave destinations in the world.