Even though the amount of waterfalls and attractions are abundant, not all of Tingo Maria’s landmarks are above the surface. The jungle surrounding Tingo Maria is filled with enough caves to satisfy anyone who craves adventure. From the limestone mountains of the Bella Durmiente to the hills in the jungle, the entire area is filled with subterranean caverns. While many of these caves have been discovered, few are available for visitors to explore.
Those that are open to the public are filled with a wondrous mixture of extreme obstacles and peculiar creatures that inhabit their depths. In many ways, they are gateways to a different world. These caverns provide an intimate glimpse of a place where humans are completely out of their element. Between the pitch black darkness and the steep embankments, these caves are unhospitable to anything that lives above ground. What lurks around in their depths has been the source of curiosity and folklore for centuries. For this reason, going into these caves is a special treat.
On top of illuminating another level of existence, each cave has a different feature that makes it special. From unique evolutions to underground waterfalls, these caverns truly are a different world. To highlight what’s beneath the surface, we compiled a list of the coolest caves in Tingo Maria. While these are just a fraction of the caves that are tucked away in the jungle, they are definitely the most well-known. Prepare to discover vibrant ecosystems that defy everything we think we know about life. There’s a lot more going on underground than most people believe, so dive into another dimension!
Epic Caves Around Tingo Maria
Cave #1: Cueva Huayna Capac – Out of all the things to do in Tingo Maria, exploring this cave steals the show. After traveling on a dirt road for 40 minutes, visitors reach the jungle community of Huayna Capac. From there everyone is equipped with harnesses and helmets that are adorned with lanterns. Once everyone is ready, the adventure begins. Following a guide, visitors are led on a fifteen-minute hike into the jungle. The dirt path winds through private farms and eventually runs dead into the side of a massive hill.
Upon reaching the foot of the hill, you enter a shallow river that’s flowing directly into the mountain. This small hole is the entryway to the Huayna Capac cave. Due to the relatively small opening, timing out your journey strategically is key. A heavy rain can completely cover the entrance within minutes and trap anyone who was foolish enough to enter. When visiting during rainy season, spending hours in the cave waiting for the river to die down is a dangerous possibility. In the jungle the weather changes at a moment’s notice, so you have to rely partly on intuition and luck when making the descent.
Immediately after following the river into the cave, visitors are greeted by swarms of bats. This species is only interested in fruit, so they just zip over your head to scare the shit out you. After ducking through the cavern of stalagmites and bats, you end up reaching the underground pools. These are filled with red eyed shrimp that dart back and forth within the crystal clear water. Luckily the water is constantly flowing into the depths of the cave, which creates a surprisingly clean atmosphere.
After a while, the bats disappear and you come face to face with gigantic spiders. These are the size of the average human’s hand, but fortunately they aren’t poisonous. To avoid having a heart attack, make sure to illuminate any area before putting your hand there. This simple tip is a godsend, since the cave is filled with surprises.
About an hour into the descent, visitors reach the first waterfall. By some freak accident of nature, crystal clear water pours out of the ceiling of the cave. This surprisingly refreshing water cascades down and mixes with the existing river water flowing through the cave. This area is surprisingly treacherous, so the guides have to secure ropes to stalagmites and help visitors repel down. One by one, everyone makes their descent.
Steadily lowering into cascading water while being over 100 meters below the surface of the earth is absolutely invigorating. There’s something about diving into the unknown that’s completely surreal. After repelling down multiple waterfalls, the journey ends at the final point that’s over 300 meters deep. While the natural throne and anaconda shaped rocks are impressive, they pale in comparison with the conundrum presented by this cave. There’s literally no end in sight, and the water continues to flow into the depths of the earth. Where it goes we know not, but there’s no arguing that this cave is absolutely breathtaking!
Cave #2: Cueva de las Luchuzas – Unlike the previously mentioned cave, this attraction is noticeably easier to access. Instead of donning harnesses and repelling into the bowels of the earth, all visitors have to do is take a taxi. Upon reaching the Tingo Maria National Park, the cave is just a few minute walk from the main entrance. There’s a monument to Alberto Fujimori and stairs leading up to this massive cave. In total it’s 20 meters high and 25 meters wide. This massive mouth of the cave is adorned with countless stalagmites. Many form recognizable shapes such as bears, saints and penises.
While the stalagmites are crazy, the unexpected inhabitants of the caves are the real anomaly. For some odd reason, a bird species called guácharos adapted to live in complete darkness. By uttering odd sounds, they use the ultrasonic rebounds to identify and avoid obstacles in utter darkness. These bizarre birds eat nothing but nuts, so the entire floor of the cave is paved with seeds.
As visitors follow the raised scaffold path, the cries of the guácharos become more pronounced. They hate the light, so they cry out in agony as the rays of sun filter into the cave. This creates a bizarre scene, since the entire cave echoes with harrowing calls. Despite this off-putting noise, the cave is absolutely breathtaking. Visitors can only walk up to a certain point in the cave before getting barred by a fence.
While the urge to go deeper remains, this cave isn’t nearly as clean as Huayna Capac. Thanks to the lack of water and surplus of birds, the entire floor of the cave is covered in shit, seeds and cockroaches. For this reason, the elevated scaffold is a godsend. While locals reminisce of going deeper into the cave and eating delicious guácharos, most people are happy with what’s available. This cave has a noticeably darker energy, so descending deeper into its depths isn’t recommended. While one could contemplate what depraved creature lives deeper within the caverns, it’s more enjoyable to leave it to the imagination.