Six kilometers (3.7 miles) east of Chichén Itzá, the Grutas de Balankanche (9 a.m.–5 p.m., US$4.65, children under 13 free) are a disappointment. The 1959 excavation of the caves by the National Geographic archaeologist Dr. E. Wyllys Andrews uncovered numerous artifacts and ceremonial sites giving researchers a better understanding of ancient Maya cosmology, especially related to the notion of xibalbá (the underworld).
Nowadays, the caves are basically a tourist trap—a wide path meandering 500 meters (0.3 mile) down a tunnel with urns and other artifacts supposedly set up in their original locations. Wires and electric lights illuminate the path, but the recorded narration does nothing of the sort—you can hardly understand it, no matter what language it’s in.
Entry times are fixed according to language: Spanish at 9 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.; English at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.; and French at 10 a.m. A minimum of six visitors are needed for the tour to depart.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition