Shadow of the Tomb Raider has 9 Challenge Tombs in the story. This walkthrough shows how to complete them, where to find their locations and the solutions to each step.
None of them are missable. After the story you can continue to free-roam and work on 100% completion, for which the tombs are also required. Completing all challenge tombs unlocks the “Tomb Raider” trophy and achievement. They are the toughest puzzle sections in the game but also yield the best rewards. Each tomb unlocks one skill that cannot be unlocked any other way. At the end of every tomb is a statue (stele) that you can interact with for the bonus skill. Then you must exit the tomb, usually via a base camp fast travel point.
We’ll go through them in chronological story order. Also, none of them require any special tools or gadgets. Once you reach an area you will already have all the things you need to complete the challenge tomb. If at any point you get confused, refer to the video walkthrough below.
Video Walkthrough (All Challenge Tombs)
#1 – Peruvian Jungle (Underworld Gate) – 0:11
#2 – Peruvian Jungle (Judge’s Gaze) – 7:17
#3 – Kuwaq Yaku (Howling Caves) – 13:12
#4 – The Hidden City (Path of Battle) – 19:59
#5 – The Hidden City (Temple of the Sun) – 27:21
#6 – The Hidden City (Ancient Aqueduct) – 36:28
#7 – Cenote (San Cordoba) – 45:08
#8 – Mission of San Juan (Tree of Life) – 53:29
#9 – Mission of San Juan (Thirsty Gods) – 1:03:56
#1 – Peruvian Jungle – Underworld Gate
Location: South in Peruvian Jungle (0:11 in video).
The entrance is just in front of the “Jungle Ruins” base camp.
Solution: As with all challenge tombs there are some climbing sections at the start of the tomb. You must climb a tree and jump from the tree branch. Along the way you must also rappel down some walls to swing to platforms below. It’s basic traversal you already know but if you get stuck, take a peek at the video guide.
Puzzle #1: You will come to a part with a big crane, the only puzzle in this tomb.
(1) – Use the lever to rotate the platform that has a rope arrow beam on it.
(2) – Now you can connect a rope arrow from the rotating beam to one on the other side across the canyon.
(3) – Climb to the other side and use the big lever to move a hanging box.
(4) – Jump on the box and back to #1 rotating lever. Turn the rotating lever platform back around. Now attach rope from rotating platform to the box.
(5) – Jump back to the big lever #3 via the box. Use lever and very quickly jump on the hanging box before it moves away. Now you can stay on the box and jump off at the other side.
(6) – After this there is one more climbing section and you’re done with this tomb. To exit you will have to use the path left of the tomb stele, jump over branches and use a rope arrow to slide down a rope.
Reward: Eagle’s Perch – Increase climbing skills to traverse the environment with more speed.
#2 – Peruvian Jungle – Judge’s Gaze
Location: North-east in Peruvian Jungle (7:17 in video).
The entrance is very close to the “Plane Wreckage” base camp.
Puzzle #1: You will come to a room where a statue is blocking your path.
(1) – Simply jump on the counter-weight to the right side of it to lift the statue. You need to climb a little wall in the back of the room to reach it.
Puzzle #2: There’s a big room with two counter-weights (statues) hanging on either side, a bridge with two rope attachments, and two carts that can be pulled. The goal is to tether the statue weights to the bridge, jump on the counter-weights and fully raise the bridge so you can climb up.
(1) – On the left side, pull back cart #1. Then push it forward and out of the way.
(2) – Pull cart #2 underneath the weight (that’s the cart that can be pulled sideways).
(3) – Use rope arrows to tether the statue to the bridge.
(4) – Jump on the weight. You must climb a wall on the left to reach it. The cart below will lock it in place, thus raising the statue. Because it’s tethered to the bridge it raises the bridge halfway.
(5) – Now cart #1 can be pushed over to the other side under the bridge. Put it below the weight on the right side.
(6) – Tether the bridge to the hanging statue weight on the right side.
(7) – Climb the wall to the right-side weight. Hang on the weight then the cart below it locks it in place. The statue weight that’s tethered to the bridge will fully raise the bridge now.
(8) – Climb up the bridge that’s now leaning against the wall (controls can be a bit off here, jump on the left side of the bridge when it stands straight up).
Reward: Caiman’s Heart – Health regenerates more quickly.
#3 – Kuwaq Yaku – Howling Caves
Location: In the middle of Kuwaq Yaku region (13:12 in video).
The closest base camp is “Kuwaq Yaku Ruins”, watch out for a big cave entrance with yellow skulls near it. When you enter it tells you that you need a Rope Ascender but it’s not actually needed for the challenge tomb, just to destroy a wooden barricade that has some ore behind it but nothing important.
Solution: Follow the climbing sections until you get attacked by foxes. Kill them all. Then you can use rope arrows to tether one wooden beam to another and climb to the other side via the rope. This brings you to the challenge room.
Puzzle #1: You come to a burning room. The goal is to extinguish the fire by opening the shatters. They will blow cold wind on it and thus the fire goes away.
(1) – Pull lever at the entrance, thus the right shatter opens and makes the first pendulum swing sideways.
(2) – Climb the first pendulum. When it swings left, jump over to the ledge.
(3) – Pull lever to open 2nd set of shatters. The big thorned pendulum starts swinging.
(4) – Jump over to the other side, now that the fire is extinguished. Stand on the far right side, on the platform furthest ahead. Shoot a rope arrow at the spiked pendulum when it’s at it highest point. This makes it swing in a little rotation, thus hitting the rubble blocking the path.
(5) – Close the 2nd set of shatters. Then follow the middle path where you just removed the rubble.
(6) – Go to the 3rd lever. It can’t be pulled yet because the 4th pendulum is stuck. Jump up the wall to the right of the lever and climb over to the stuck pendulum. It has a rope arrow attchment. Shoot rope arrow from stuck pendulum to the 3rd spiked pendulum. Then use rope to climb back.
(7) – Open the 2nd shatters again. Because the spiked pendulum is connected to stuck pendulum it will pull the 4th pendulum away.
(8) – Now the 3rd lever can be pulled. The shatters open and the fire is extinguished.
Reward: Huracan’s Mantle – Reduce damage from fire and explosions.
#4 – The Hidden City – Path of Battle
Location: West of The Hidden City, outside the city in little jungle area (19:59 in video).
For this one you need to backtrack a little. In the Hidden City “Paititi”, there’s a little cave in the north-west (top left) that you can go under. Then you come to a jungle area with a pool of water and waterfall. Dive to enter the challenge tomb. If you were thorough you may already have the base camp “Wild Jungle” unlocked to get there more quickly. Otherwise, just stick to the left side wall of Paititi until you come to the tunnel that connects the city to this small jungle area.
Solution: First there’s a bit of a diving and climbing section, followed by a section with a lever. Pull the lever to activate some spinning metal traps. You can simply jump over them and stick to the left when walking through the third trap. When you get to a locked gate, pull the big lever on the right side of the path. This opens the gate and you come to the challenge puzzle room.
Puzzle #1: There’s a big spinning platform in the middle of a circular room. The goal is to jump over the platforms arms while it moves and then jump off the ramps next to it. There are levers that can be pulled. They trigger timed events – the center platform retracts but some spiked metal blades start spinning – quickly make it past all traps and pull the lever on the other side. Repeat once more on the other ramp.
(1) – When reaching the burning, spinning blade platform: step on the center platform and jump off the first ramp on the left. Hop over the spinning blades when they come towards you.
(2) – After jumping off the ramp, follow the path to the end and pull the lever. This triggers the blade platforms to start spinning.
(3) – Quickly make it past all the spinning blade platforms and hit the lever on the other end (timed event, if you take too long you have to pull the last lever again and run the course again).
(4) – The platform is now changed. Wait for the bottom blade to swing past you, then quickly run to the right of the middle platform and jump off the first ramp on the right.
(5) – Repeat the same procedure as before. Pull lever at the end of the path, quickly run back through the now spinning blades and pull lever on the other side (timed event). Now the platform in the middle gets locked in place and you can climb its “arm”, done.
Reward: Sip’s Quiver – Loose up to three arrows without pulling from the quiver.
#5 – The Hidden City – Temple of the Sun
Location: South in The Hidden City (27:21 in video).
In the south of the city there’s a house with a well inside of it. You need to dive into the well to reach a hidden flooded area. Here is the base camp “Village Caves”. Climb up the walls and remove the wooden blockade that blocks the path to the tomb entrance.
Puzzle #1: This tomb consists of one big mirror puzzle. There are 4 mirrors in the corners of the room that can be shined on the sticks that connect the platforms. Then you can climb the sticks and get to the next mirror. The goal is to reach the 4th mirror in the top left corner and shine it on the middle stick so you can reach the tomb stele.
I’ll list the order in which you need to shine what mirror to what stick (Mirror 1 = bottom right, Mirror 2 = bottom left, Mirror 3 = top right, Mirror 4 = top left).
- Mirror 1 > Platform between 1 & 2 (to the left of Mirror 1)
- Mirror 2 > Platform between 1 & 3 (the one closest to Mirror 3 that’s the furthest away – you may have to zoom in while aiming to see it)
- Mirror 1 > Platform between 1 & 3 (the one closest to Mirror 1)
- Mirror 3 > Platform between 3 & 1 (the one closest to Mirror 3 – this allows you to climb back)
- Mirror 1 > Platform between 1 & 2
- Mirror 2 > Platform between 1 & 2 (Mirror 1 + 2 both shining on the same platform now)
- Mirror 1 > Platform between 2 & 4 (the one closest to Mirror 4)
- Mirror 2 > Platform between 2 & 4 (the one closest to Mirrior 2)
- Mirror 4 > Middle Platform
Now jump over the platforms in the middle of the room to reach the tomb stele. You can then escape via an opening in the wall on the left between Mirror 2 & 4.
Reward: Hoatzin’s Hunger – Increase the amount of natural crafting resources gathered from each source.
#6 – The Hidden City – Ancient Aqueduct
Location: East in The Hidden City, where the Trinity cult is in power (36:28 in video).
In front of the base camp “Temple of Kukulkan” you can drop down a wall next to the river. There’s a cave entrance with yellow skulls on spikes in front of it. It’s just a few steps north of the base camp and then drop down the wall (do not jump over to the next wall, don’t climb over the river).
Solution: First there’s an underwater section. Then you climb some rocks and you see a mini cutscene with Lara burying her gear in the sand. After that there’s a base camp and you come to the aqueduct challenge room.
Puzzle #1: The first puzzle involves kicking a raft, tethering it to a floodgate, then filling the room with water via a lever up. This raises the raft and pulls open the floodgate. Swim through a cave and on the other side open another floodgate, kick the raft to this room and again fill the room with water so you can jump from the raft to an opening in a wall.
(1) – Kick the raft towards the floodgate that has a rope attachment on it.
(2) – Use rope arrow to tether the raft to the floodgate
(3) – Fill the room with water via the lever at the top (where you came from). This will raise the water and because the raft is tethered to the gate it also opens the gate. Note: if you already filled the room with water you can dive and use your pickaxe on a second floodgate that makes the water go away.
(4) – Swim through the underwater tunnel, remove the rubble at the end of it to get to the next room.
(5) – In 2nd room, interact with underwater floodgate to drain the water.
(6) – Kick raft from Room 1 to Room 2
(7) – Pull the lever again that fills the room with water
(8) – Climb the raft in Room 2 and jump to the opening in the wall.
Beware, a bunch of enemies spawn in the section that follows so keep your weapons ready and loaded.
Puzzle #2: After defeating all enemies there is one more puzzle. You trigger it by pulling a lever that fills the room with water. This also reveals a raft in the water. Jump on the raft, tether it to the water wheel. Then tether the water wheel to the anchor hanging overhead (thus raising a hanging box), jump back on the raft and climb the wall in the water. This lets you reach the now elevated platform so you can cross over to the other side.
(1) – After killing all enemies, pull lever to fill room with water.
(2) – Get on the raft. Tether it to the water wheel via rope arrow.
(3) – Tether water wheel to anchor hanging overhead. This raises a hanging box. Beware, enemies spawn. You must kill them to proceed.
(4) – Tether raft back to the water wheel so it’s in jumping range.
(5) – Tether water wheel to the anchor again. Now very quickly jump on the raft. Because it’s no longer tether it will quickly float away.
(6) – Jump from the floating raft to the wall in the water. Climb up and hop on the now elevated platform to cross over to the other side. All done.
Reward: Jaguar’s Paw – Increase chance to knock enemies down with melee attacks.
#7 – Cenote – San Cordoba
Location: In the north of Cenote (45:08 in video).
It’s by the base camp “Cenote Temple Ruins”. From the base camp you can jump over to a dark cave entrance where the challenge tomb begins. It can be a bit hard to see in the darkness but there’s a big opening you can jump to, just a little north-east of the base camp.
Solution: This one starts out with an underwater section. Stick to the right side until you come to a section with two eels. In the room with the eels you need to swim through a cove on the left. Then you get caught in the water stream. From here on out it’s just simple climbing sections until you reach a cavern with a stranded ship.
Puzzle #1: This is the cavern with the stranded ship. The goal is to put a heavy cannon above a breakable floor (by the ship’s steering wheel). Then cut the rope so the cannons breaks the floor and reveals the stele.
(1) – Climb the ship (right side of ship has a climable section).
(2) – Fully rotate the lever to put the cannon above the breakable floor part.
(3) – Jump in the water in the broken middle section of the ship. Dive to open a gate and swim through the ship. Climb up here.
(4) – Now that you’re on the other side of the ship, find a broken mast. Walk on it and jump from the broken mast to a wall on the side of the ship. This lets you circle around to the top of the fore-mast. Interact with the winch on the fore-mast.
(5) – Climb up the fore-mast and go back the way you came (note: don’t climb to the very top, only climb up one section and then go sideways to jump back to the mountain section where you came from).
(6) – Use the lever below the fore-mast to rotate the mast to the hanging box.
(7) – Climb the mast, jump to the hanging box, climb up the main mast, interact with the winch to drop the cannon through the floor.
Now you can jump through the hole in the floor to find the stele, all done.
Reward: Caiman’s Breath II – Further increase breath capacity when swimming underwater.
#8 – Mission of San Juan – Tree of Life
Location: In the south-east of Mission of San Juan (53:29 in video).
In the jungle area where you fight the Empress Jaguar. Near base camp “Ruined Tower”.
Solution: It’s very important that you come fully stocked with resources to craft arrows and fire arrows. This tomb requires you to shoot gas with fire arrows to make it explode… and you’ll have to do this a lot. So to make sure you don’t run out of materials come very well prepared. There are also some resources within the challenge tomb but not a lot of them. This one doesn’t have one main puzzle, rather it’s many mini puzzles with a fair amount of enemies in between.
- 1st Gas: When you come to the first green gas, shoot it with a fire arrow. This makes the gas go away that’s blocking your climbing path. Now you can climb up the wall.
- 2nd Gas: Immediately thereafter, some rubble blocks your way. Use the winch below the stone head to release gas, shoot it with fire arrow to make it blow away the rubble.
- 3rd Gas: Must shoot it to make a platform swing towards you. Quickly jump the platform and stay on it till it stops. Then you can safely jump off it.
- 4th Gas: Must use the winch below the gas head to trigger it. Beware, enemies start spawning, defeat them. Go back uphill and shoot the gas, thus a platform starts swinging. Quickly jump on it and jump to the other side. Only a very short time frame to do this, otherwise you must shoot the gas again to spin back the platform.
- 5th Gas: After cutting loose a platform, jump to the other side and use winch under stone head to activate gas. Enemies are spawning again, kill them. Jump back to the platform you just cut loose, then shoot the gas. It will push one platform lower and the one you’re standing on will go higher, thus you can reach the wall above you.
- 6th Gas: Just another stream of gas in your way, shoot it then climb the wall behind it.
- 7th Gas: There’s another platform you must cut loose here. Then use winch under stone head to trigger gas. Jump on the platform you cut loose and shoot the gas, thus you reach the next area. Beware, the final enemy wave spawns and there are lots of them coming in.
Now simply climb up the path where the enemies spawned from to reach the stele at the very top of the area.
Reward: Kinich Ahau’s Boon – Health is instantly restored once when near death in battle. Refreshes between encounters.
#9 – Mission of San Juan – Thirsty Gods
Location: In the south-east of Mission of San Juan (1:03:56 in video).
In the water, on the path east of base camp “Ruined Tower”. You can jump down into the water and swim over to the challenge tomb entrance that has yellow skulls on spikes in front of it.
Puzzle #1: After the first diving section you’re in a room with a stone head sticking out of the water.
(1) – Swim to the Mural on the left side of the room.
(2) – Shoot Rope Arrow at the wooden rubble on the top right side of the room. With the rubble out of the way the water will now drain and you can walk through the skull that was previously under water.
(3) – After last section you’re in a flooded room. You must dive through a crack in a wall (underwater), then in the next room you must cut loose a raft that’s underwater. Climb the raft and jump up the wall.
Puzzle #2: You now come to a big room with Piranhas in the water. The goal is to open the gate to the central building via the anchor that hangs above it. It can be tethered to a water wheel to raise the gate. Beware of the Piranhas. don’t swim too close and they will leave you alone.
(1) – Cut loose the underwater rafts. Now jump from the rafts to the wall left of the main building.
(2) – Use the spigot (via turning lever) to fill up the water bucket. This drains the water temporarily.
(3) – Use rope arrow to tether the water wheel to the anchor above the main building’s floodgate (now accessible because of lower water level).
(4) – Turn the spigot back to the water wheel. When you see the anchor raising, immediately turn the spigot away from the water wheel. Otherwise the wheel keeps turning and the rope breaks. So you have to time it right, just let the Spigot turn the water wheel for enough that the floodgate gets opened but not for too long that the rope gets severed.
(5) – Now you can dive into the main building where the stele awaits, all done!
Reward: Sip’s Strike – CHARGED Arrows deal more damage against armored enemies.
And that were all 9 Challenge Tombs in the main campaign of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. As a reward you unlock the Tomb Raider trophy or achievement.