Deep under the tiny mining town of Naica, Mexico, is an enormous cave of crystals that defies logic and has fascinated scientists since it was discovered.
In 2000, two brothers accidentally stumbled upon the Cave of Crystals, a vast, sweltering underground realm full of gargantuan gypsum crystals. The chamber they discovered looks eerily like Superman's Fortress of Solitude, but the real-life version is far from cold. It is stiflingly hot, with temperatures up to 150 degrees. What's more, the humidity in the cave is nearly 100 percent, making it a completely inhospitable environment.
Scientists speculate that a mass of boiling magma directly beneath the cave supercharged the growth of the crystals and created the sauna-like conditions in the cave. The mineral-rich groundwater and intense heat combined to create the ideal environment for these crystals, allowing them to flourish.
Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed to visit the Cave of Crystals. The hot and humid conditions make this particular cave a hazardous place to visit, and even scientists need a special permit to enter the cave. You can learn about the various formations there at the online Mineralogy Museum of Mexico. Also, you can familiarize yourself with the ongoing conservation efforts to ensure that the caves remain intact for years to come.
Even though you can’t visit the cave, you can still take part in the mining culture of Naica. If you visit Naica on December 4, you'll have the chance to celebrate International Mining Day. Every year, the tiny town honors the contributions of its miners and the abundance of riches they've uncovered from the ground.
Chihuahua, Mexico, is 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Naica and is a beautiful town full of amazing architecture, art, and history. It's also home to the Grutas Nombre de Dios system of caves, a fascinating labyrinth of caves and tunnels full of crystals, stalagmites, and stalactites. Guided tours of the caves are available, or you can explore on your own between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.
The Grutas Nombre de Dios caves are safe, but plenty of the chambers are small and can pose problems for anyone struggling with claustrophobia. Wear heavy-soled shoes and bring a sweater or light jacket because, unlike the Cave of Crystals, this cave system can get a bit chilly. Adults pay 50 pesos or roughly $3, and children can tour the caves for half that price. If you're interested in exploring the underground world of the Chihuahua province, this is a great way to do it!
To get to Chihuahua or Naica, you'll have to fly into the Chihuahua International Airport and take a 16-minute taxi or Uber ride to Chihuahua proper. If you want to venture from Chihuahua to Naica, you will have to take a 1-hour bus ride from Chihuahua to Delicias, Mexico, and then take a 40-minute taxi ride to Naica. Track your journey on MAPS.ME, which works offline, to make sure that your taxi is on the correct route.
Planning a trip to Mexico? Here's everything you need to know about the country's drinking water.