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Cueva de las Manos
If you happen to be travelling on Ruta 40, consider a stop at these magnificent cave paintings, or better said, ancient stencils of hands. The well-preserved paintings are on a rock face and were made over 9000 years ago. Most likely, the hands were made by the Tehuelche people, also known as Patagons. They were known as very tall people which you can notice by the size of the hand prints. Most of the prints are of left hands, probably because the paint was sprayed using a bone tube which was held in their right hand. Apart from the hundreds of hands, there are also a few paintings of guanacos and some other animals.
Mayan sacrificial cave
Barton Creek Cave
The Mayans believed that a cave was the pathway to the underworld, a connection to the Gods. The cave at Barton Creek is a wet cave (water is dripping from the roof and a creek flows trough it) and was therefore thought to belonged to the rain God, Chac. So to make him happy and get a good harvest, they sacrificed what Mayan Gods apparently wanted: humans. Today, the tour into the cave is done by canoe with one of the park rangers acting as a guide. Bits and pieces of Mayan artefacts (including a skull) have been laid out to be viewed from the canoe, but you don't get on land to see the actual sacrificing place where the bones are. If Mayan bones are more your thing, you might want to try the more expensive Actun Tunichil Muknal cave (ATM cave) further east which requires hiking, scrambling and swimming to get to.
Galaxy Cave **
South of Salar de Uyuni
Only discovered in 2003 by two local men, Cueva Galaxia is a small cave but quite different from usual caves with stalagmites and stalactites. The cave has only a few small chambers with pretty ceilings that look more like web-like structures, kind of like deteriorated tree leaves - or like inverted corals - leave it up to your imagination!
In this small area just south of Salar de Uyuni there is also Devil’s Cave (Cueva del Diabolo) with sacred burial chambers. Around these caves and on the hill above the caves you get pretty views of the area. Furthermore is the area full of petrified cacti.
If you wonder what the ** is after the name of the Galaxy caves - it stands for the two men who discovered this site.
Phnom Sampeau outside Battambang
Like the Killing Fields, the Killing Caves at Phnom Sampeau are where the Khmer Rouge took their prisoners to kill them. There are three caves on the backside of the mountain of Phnom Sampeau, where this took place. The Khmer Rouge soldiers would either just push the victims over the edge of the skylight into the caves or cut their throats before throwing them in. It has been estimated that about 10.000 people were killed in these caves alone. Today, shrines, peaceful Buddha statues and cages with bones make out this grim memorial of the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge. If you want some fresh air afterwards, walk to the top of the mountain, which is one big complex of temples. The views from there are astonishing.
A deep cave with fairly impressive stalactites. The first section is lighted and deeper exploration is possible but the cave isn't really the attraction here, it is the bats. At dusk thousands of fruit bats (though we didn't counted) leave the cave to go hunt for food. They all exit at the mouth of the cave where it is possible to stand and experience the bat exodus from the inside of the cave. In the dark you can feel the animals navigating centimetres from your head but amazingly never collide with you (or each other). A flash from your camera will reveal how dense the air is with bats.
Kong Lor cave
50 km from Khoun Kham village
A 7.5 km long cave in the bottom of a gorgeous valley protected by steep limestone cliffs. At Ban Kong Lo, you can take a boat trip all the way through the cave to the other end (and back, of course) where it opens up into another valley. One section of the cave has a nice range of stalactites and stalagmites, where some are still growing. Unfortunately, the local tourists are having a hard time keeping their hands off the fragile formations. The rest of the cave is just one long tunnel that bends around big boulders that once have fallen from the ceiling high above. Sure it's a nice cave, but it is its extremely long length that makes it extraordinary.
Pak Ou caves
Intersection of the Mekong and Nam Ou river
The sacred Buddha caves at Pak Ou consist of two caves, where Buddhists for centuries have come to pray and place Buddha sculptures in hope of merits. They sit in a steep limestone cliff face right above where the Mekong River meets the Nam Ou river. The upper cave is dark and almost empty, since the old Buddha statues have been eaten by termites. The lower cave is open and is the famous one. Every surface is littered with big and small Buddha statues. It has been estimated that the cave has once contained more than 6000 statues, though the number is probably closer to 100 today thanks to souvenirs hunters and thoughtless tourists.
Sigulda castles and Gūtmana Cave
The outdoor capital of Latvia is Sigulda. Although it's not Chamonix, there are both bungee jump, bike trails, bobsled tracks and down hill skiing in winter. For those less adventurous, there are some fine sightseeing in the area. A beautiful church, a medieval castle along with a newer castle - plus views to the open air museum, containing another medieval castle, across the gorge in neighbouring Turaida. The famous Gūtmana Cave is also nearby. The cave ceiling and archway is covered in centuries old graffiti. The oldest readable 'tag' dates back to the 1667, though sources state that graffiti already was chiseled in the 16th century. Believe or not, but the cave's modest length of 19 meters makes it the longest cave in the Baltic.
Located in a limestone hill and consisting of several caves with a series of Hindu temples within, this is one of the most visited sites of Malaysia. What is more striking than nature perhaps, is man made – the world’s tallest statue of Lord Muruga stands just outside the entrance at an impressive 42.7 metres. To reach the actual temple complex, visitors have to climb 272 steps amongst local worshippers who do it barefoot. The best time to visit is during the Thaipusam festival, when as many as 800,000 devotees arrive, most carrying kavadis. These elaborately decorated frameworks are supported by metal hooks or pins that pierce the skin, cheeks, and tongue to support their weight and are meant as offerings of sacrifice. The caves themselves are decorated with natural limestone formations and ornately painted sculptures of Hindu Gods. Beware though, of the numerous macaques that will follow your every footstep all the way up those steep steps if you carry any semblance of food.
The limestone hills around the smal village of Bau are holed like a Swiss cheese. Most caves are hidden and should only be explored with proper caving equipment, but two caves are easily accessible, namely the Fairy Cave (picture) and the Wind Cave, about 6 km apart outside the village of Bau.
The Wind Cave (Gua Angin) has its fair share of stalagmites, stalactites, and pillars, but is particularly known for swiftlets and bats. A boardwalk runs the length of the cave, while a small river meanders at the bottom. A cool breeze blows, earning the name to the cave.
The Fairy Cave (Gua Kapor) is a totally different story. The cave entrance is 30 metres up, accessible through a flight of stairs in a concrete tower. The cave has been a place for prayer throughout times and there are several shrines in here. The cave is huge, a lot bigger than the Wind Cave, and though there are boardwalks here too (well, concrete stairs), you can go exploring the dark parts on your own. Just remember to bring a flashlight.