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Grottoes of Balancanche (Grutas de Balancanché) are the most famous Maya cave sites, near Chichen Itza, in Mexico.

Approximately 4 km southeast of the Chichen Itza archaeological zone is a network of sacred caves known as Gruta de Balankanche.

Balankanche caves are one of the Mayan world’s most impressive Maya Ceremonial caves and underground waterways. Here ancient Maya World Initiation and Ceremonial Rites were celebrated by the Mayan Senior Wiseman or Aj Men J-Men.

Balankanche is easy to explore and visitors can see Mayan offerings vessels still in place within the main Mayan cave dome and ceremonial site.

For the past 22 years, the cave has been used as a tourist attraction.
In the caves, a large selection of ancient pottery and idols may be seen still in the positions where they were left in pre-Columbian times.

Origin of the Name

Balamka’anche’ in Yucatec Maya.
Other names of the cave include Balancanche, Balaamcanche, Balaancanche, Balankanche, and Balancanchyn.

The name translates to “the cave of the sacred jaguar throne”.

According to another version, the name of the cave is related to the Mayan leaders, not the animal jaguar.

History & Rediscovery

Balancanché was known to the Mayans as early as the pre-classical period, 3,000 years ago. The cave was a source of water and because of this, was the object of worship to the god of rain, Chaac.

For the first time in modern times, Balancanché was visited by Edward Thompson and Alfred Tozzer in 1905.

A.S. Pearse and a team of biologists explored the cave in 1932 and 1936. E. Wyllys Andrews IV also explored the cave in the 1930s.

Edwin Shook and R.E. Smith explored the cave on behalf of the Carnegie Institution in 1954 and dug several trenches to recover potsherds and other artifacts. Shook determined that the cave had been inhabited over a long period, at least from the Preclassic to the post-conquest era.

On 15 September 1959, José Humberto Gómez, a local guide, discovered a false wall in the cave.

Behind it was a Maya sanctuary consisting of the “Altar of the Jaguar” and the “Altar of Pristine Waters”. He found an extended network of caves with significant quantities of undisturbed archaeological remains, including pottery and stone-carved censers, stone implements, and jewelry.

The cave ended at a small lake. The sanctuary has been studied and described by Ramon Pavon Abreu. It turned out that the sanctuary was built in honor of the god Tlaloc, and walled in about 842 AD during the Classic Maya collapse.

INAH converted the cave into an underground museum, and the objects after being cataloged were returned to their original place so visitors can see them in situ.

How to get there

From Valladolid by bus, “colectivo” or local agency tour.
Getting there in a taxi from Valladolid will cost $7-$9 and will take around 0:45 min.

Just $1-$3 in a taxi from Piste.
And only $1-$2 from Chichen Itza (3,5 km distance).

Tourist Assistance + Emergency Numbers

You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.

Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.

You can also request information to the email


General Information: 040 (not free)

National Emergency Service: 911

Radio Patrols: 066
Police (Emergency): 060
Civil Protection: +52(55)5683-2222
Anonymous Complaint: 089

Setravi (Transport Mobility): +52(55)5209-9913
Road Emergency: 074

Cruz Roja: 065 o +52(55)5557-5757
Firefighters: 068 o +52(55)5768-3700

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