Guatemala: El Mirador

El Mirador is an ancient Mayan city near the northern border of Guatemala in the department of Peten. It was one of the most important Mayan cities between 200 BCE to 150 CE, during the Maya Pre-Classic Period.  Its main pyramid, La Danta, is the largest pyramid by volume in existence in the world when including the pyramid’s base. The nearest town is Carmelita, a small village consisting of approximately 65 families, and is 52km walking from El Mirador. When hiking to El Mirador, one must pass through Carmelita, and it from here where guides are hired for a tour of the ruins. (It is also possible to take a helicopter to the ruins, though this option is very expensive and, well, just not the same).  Our trip was $280 per person for the 5-day hike which included all meals and transportation to and from Flores.

The hike is 104km round trip, but mules are provided for carrying your gear and provisions. The route follows an ancient Mayan road and is very flat, though the entire region is prone to being extremely muddy (so bring waterproof boots).  Food, camping gear, and professional guide services are all included. Our guide was a previous excavator for various archeological projects in the area and therefore was very knowledgeable on the excavation projects at El Mirador and the sites along the route.

Overall the hike is moderate in difficulty, requiring more endurance than strength – but the lack of development and tourism makes this place unique and very worthwhile for a visit. Standing on top of one of the largest pyramids in the world while looking out over endless rainforest, watching the sunset, and seeing the same stars that the Mayans would have looked upon over 2000 years ago made for an unforgettable experience.