El Mirador at its peak

What to expect

El Mirador is one the oldest Maya cities and has the biggest pyramid in the world. I did the tour last year and it was astonishing! It was one of the most beautiful parts of Central America I had ever seen!

Very special is the fact that it is so far away from civilized world… Completely hidden in the jungle.. As if it had just been discovered yesterday! The feeling you have standing on top of the Danta pyramid seeing nothing but jungle around you, is undescribable!

The trip to El Mirador is no picknick! You have to suffer a bit to get there! Some days you have to walk up to 8 hours a day crossing around 30 kilometers of jungle in a day! So those considering doing this tour should be in good physical shape and ready for some real action! During the 5 or 6 day trip one walks together with a local guide who explains about flora and fauna, prepares three meals a day and sets up the camp at night.

If you do the tour in 5 days, you walk two days to El Mirador, you spend the third day to explore the ruins and then you walk back to La Carmelita for two more days.

Those who want to do the tour in six days will visit two more Mayan sites besides El Mirador, which are Nakbe and La Florida. The advantage of doing the six day tour is that the way back is on a new and different trail.

What we offer

We offer a 5 and a 6 day tour to El Mirador. We work with experienced guides from the cooperative of La Carmelita, the base village from which all tours depart.

Transportation to Carmelita is included. This can either be by local bus or a private shuttle.

All tours include three good meals a day, more than enough water, camping gear (You’ll sleep in tents with foam mattresses). Depending on the size of the groups we will send a guide’s assistant, a cook and someone that takes care of the mules.

Mules are brought on this tour to carry all equipment, luggage, food and beverages. Most people hike all the way though it is not a bad idea to ask for an extra mule and divide the costs between the whole group. This way, if someone gets tired, he/she can always mount the mule for a bit.

Guides only speak Spanish. We can always send a translator if you so desire though i wouldn’t label this as an absolute necessity.

Basic meals are included. It isn’t a bad idea though to bring some snacks, like nuts or chocolate for some extra energy. Some groups bring some rum to share around the fire at night! It’s up to you.

Prices for the tour depend on how many people are going. Simply said: the more people in a group, the cheaper it gets. If just 2 persons go the price for the 5 day hike is $ 350 USD per person. If 3 persons go, the price drops to $ 300 USD per person and if 4 or more persons go the price drops to $ 250 USD per person.

Tips

  • Bring good hiking shoes. Make sure you also bring an extra pair of flip flops. At night you wanna give your feet some air.
  • Bring some nuts and chocolate for that extra energy on the way.
  • Hire an extra mule between the group. If you get tired you can relax on the mule for a bit.
  • Bring a bottle of rum and share it with the workers and archaeologists at El Mirador. They’ll love you for it and tell you all the ins and outs of the place. They also love it if you get them a newspaper. They are there for weeks with no contact with the outside world.
  • Buy some tick powder at the local veterinary store in Santa Elena and rub it on the mules. They’ll have less ticks which makes everyone happy!
  • Bring a pair of rubber boots if you are doing the tour in the rain season.
  • Make sure you’ll bring some extra cash with you. Once you come out of the jungle you are gonna want to buy a cold beer or soda.
  • If you are going in the hot season you can buy some bags of re hydration powder (ORS) and mix that in with your water. It will keep your energy levels high and prevent you from dehydrating.

History

We recommend watching this beautiful National geographic documentary about the history of El Mirador.

A dense network of cities – a true agglomeration – developed in Mirador Basin and also outside it. Often it is not easy to tell where one city ended and another started.

It seems that El Mirador was larger and more significant than other cities. Here were built the largest structures ever built by Maya and rough calculations show, that in order to inhabit this city and construct its giant buildings there was needed a population of more than 100 000 people.

El Mirador might have existed as a smaller settlement before – but in the 6th century BC it turned into an important city. The “golden age” of El Mirador lasted from 3rd century BC to 150 AD – in this time it was the largest known Maya city and one of ten largest cities in the world. At this time here were built some of the largest structures in the world.

An unknown cataclysm happened circa 150 AD – cities of Mirador Basin suddenly were abandoned. It seems, Maya experienced enemy attack. Northern, eastern and southern portions of the central part in El Mirador were surrounded by extensive fortification walls which, possibly, were up to 8 m tall. It did not save the city – it was abandoned.

El Mirador was first discovered in 1926, and was photographed from the air in 1930, but the remote site deep in the jungle had little more attention paid to it until Ian Graham spent some time there making the first map of the area in 1962.

The site and its vicinities became increasingly popular to looters. There was a risk that not much will remain for researchers, thus in 2003 was started an ambitious research project led by Dr. Richard D. Hansen – The Mirador Basin Project.

Fun fact

Have you seen the movie Apocalypto? The big city that is depicted at the end of the movie is based on The Mirador.