Whenever people hear the words cave and Guatemala, they tend to think of Lanquin caves. A beautiful place that takes you underground, but has set pathways and even artificial light in some places. But Caxlampon is nothing like it! This is a cave that will make you feel all possible emotions in just one trip.
Are You Ready for a Nature Adventure? Extreme Caving in Guatemala
One of my favorite hobbies is hiking. I have spent a lot of time exploring the trails of many mountains and volcanoes but I never really thought about going underground. Yes, I went to Lanquin cave once, but because I was so young, my family and I only stayed in the lit area with marked paths. But that was it! We had a great time, regardless.
So one day while I was looking for another fun hiking tour that I could go on, I found a hike of a cave called Caxlampon. I had never heard of it before, but the website said the cave is located in the Izabal department and was formed by the same river that created the slightly more popular Boqueron Canyon, a place where river tubing is offered.
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I checked out some videoes, and it looked insane. After I saw those, I had mixed feelings: I was loving the idea but I was so scared of spending hours underground in a huge cave that serves as pathway to a river and is constantly changing.
Caxlampon Cave in Guatemala
I guess I should start by mentioning Caxlampon cave is only open to visitors during a couple of months of the year. These are the ones when it is the driest in Guatemala (January to March). That is because the caves is a huge tunnel created by a powerful river, so for it to be safe, the river needs to be at its lower stage of the year.
This also means that each winter the river changes the cave a little bit, so even if you go back several times, it will never be a hundred percent the same.
I was also told by the staff that up until a couple of years ago, the entrance and the exit were different. So you actually crossed the mountain from underground. But in the winter of 2015, the rain managed to block the part of the river used as the entrance for the tour. So they turned it into a round trip where you enter and leave the cave in the same place.
Extreme Caving in Guatemala
Now for the actual tour.
It all starts in Guatemala City, from where you hop on the bus and meet the guides. For this sort of tour, they take anything from 3 to 6 guides, depending on the size of the group.
We spent the night sleeping on the bus while the driver took us to El Estor Izabal. We arrived at the camping area at 5 a.m. It as a lovely garden next to a small eatery. There we set up our tents and went to the eatery for breakfast (3 meals were included in the price; we only had to buy our own food for the cave) while we waited for 8 a.m. That was when the staff provided us with life jackets, harnesses, and helmets we were supposed to use at all times inside of the cave.
Heading Into the Darkness
Then we walked about one kilometer to the base of the mountain, where we found a huge, dark hole that serves as the entrance. From this point, you don’t see any water but you can hear it. Just seeing the dark void makes you think things over and question yourself about whether you really want to continue on.
But I was brave and started following the guide through rocks and mud until we reached the water. From then we started swimming into the cave. In a matter of only a few minutes we couldn’t see the sunlight coming from the outside. All we were left with was our headlamps.
More about the Tour
The tour consisted of around 10 hours underground while being wet. We had to walk, swim, and climb huge walls of rocks and waterfalls. Then on the way back, we had to either rappel or jump down those walls or waterfalls. This was definitely one of the scariest, most exciting things I have ever done.
Plus it was impressive to see the guides fixing up the safety ropes (which were huge). They had to carry them through the whole hike while fighting against the current and with almost no lighting. evEn more impressive were all of the tunnels and crazy rock formations within the cave. There is one section they call the cathedral with crazy high ceilings.
When we finally left the cave it was already night time. We were tired, cold and smelly, so on the way back to camp, we stopped by a natural hot spring waterfall where we could wash off all of the cave smell (no soap allowed) and get warm. Finally, we reached the campsite where the ladies from the small eatery started preparing dinner while we changed into warm and comfy clothes.
The Morning After
The next morning, those same ladies served us breakfast before picking up the tents. Then it was time to start the trip back to Guatemala City. We also stopped at Río Dulce for lunch (we had to buy this one on our own).
I was so tired after this that I slept all through the bus ride and most of the next day. But it was a wonderful experience. Although it’s not for everyone. If you are afraid of deep water or darkness, don’t even consider it. Also, you don’t need to be able to swim for it, since you will have a life jacket on at all times.
This is unlike any tours I have experienced long Central America.