El Arco del Tiempo del Río La Venta

Arch of Time of La Venta River - El Cañón del Río La Venta

Useful Information

Location: Comunidad General Cárdenas (General Cárdenas community). 1 h drive on narrow roads from Cintalapa, through Sayula and Fco I. Madero, dirt road, 4WD recommended. 8 km walk to the cave one way. El Ocote Biosphere Reserve. (16° 56' 3.64 N, 93° 44' 03.23 W)
Open: Cave: no restrictions.
Best time: FEB to APR.
Guides from Comunidad General Cárdenas: NOV to JUN daily.
Fee: Cave: free.
Guides from Comunidad General Cárdenas: Per Person MXN 135, Guide with Assistant MXN 400, Horse MXN 200, Rappel MXN 500.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave GorgeGorge ExplainCaves With Tallest Cave Entrances,
Light: bring torch
Dimension: Gorge: L=84 km, H=500 m.
El Arco del Tiempo: L=255 m, H=158 m, W=35 m.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Paco Méndez (2010): El Río La Venta y El Arco del Tiempo, La fascinante impronta del agua y el arco natural más alto del planeta, Chiapas, México. ISBN-10: 8896106591, ISBN-13: 978-8896106594. amazon
Address: El Arco del Tiempo del Río La Venta.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.



El Arco del Tiempo del Río La Venta (Arch of Time of La Venta River) is a through cave which is part of the gorge of the La Venta river. The river La Venta forms a gorge which is 84 km long and has walls which are up to 500 m high. The limestone cliffs have numerous caves. At one point the river flows through a natural arch which is the highest natural arch on the planet, 158 m high, 255 m long and 35 m wide. At least that's what they wrote in the UNESCO WHL submission. We think, if its 255 m long, its a cave, not an arch.

We were not sure if we should list this place at all. It is quite impressive and definitely noteworthy, but it lacks one basic aspect for our website: it is not accessible for tourists. That's not completely true, there are organized four day river tours with kayaks and other boats, which cross the cave. However, they are only for very sportive people, and quite difficult because of the rapids. On the other hand the place was submitted for UNESCO WHL status, and one of the basic rules for them is accessibility for the public. So we list this site in the hope it might be easier to access in a few years. If they ever want to leave the tentatice list they have to improve accessibility.

And then there was the problem how to classify this site. We already mentioned that some call it an arch or natural bridge, others call it a cave. But actually it is a gorge with caves. We finally settled with through cave.

To visit the cave you have two possibilities. Either you go on the above mentioned river cruises, where you float down the La Venta river with boats. That's a four day trip with three nights in tents in the gorge and several rapids. The other possibility is to drive to Comunidad General Cárdenas in the El Ocote Biosphere Reserve. The road from Cintalapa is a dirt road and a 4WD is much recommended. You will see Sayula and Fco I. Madero before you reach Comunidad General Cárdenas. In town simply ask for the community guides, who will guide you for a fee through the jungle to the arch. First you will drive 4 km as advised by the guide. Then its a 8 km (3h) hike through rough terrain, an abseil into the gorge, and also a boat ride through the cave, and sometimes the trails are tricky and steep.

If you want to avoid driving the dirt road yourself you can either use the bus (yes, there is a bus to Comunidad General Cárdenas), or book a two day trip with Visit Cintalapa Oficial from Cintalapa. The agency Ecoexperiences offers the trip from Tuxtla or San Cristóbal. You should definitely avoid the rainy season for this trip, which is June to September, for both options. At this time of year are no guides available and no daytrips offered. The best time is February and March. The four day kayak tour is offered only in February and March.