Trip Experience: El Mirador: Ancient Mayan culture and adventure hidden in the heart of Guatemalan jungle

2018-11-29T03:12:34-05:00July 26th, 2017|

El Mirador in Guatemala’s northern Peten region is now widely considered by archaeologists to be the cradle of the Mayan civilization and one of the earliest and most developed Mayan cities of this ancient civilization. This Pre-Classic Mayan city flourished as a trade center from around 300 BCE to 150 BCE. It’s two main attractions are the two pyramids complex that face each other called El Tigre and La Danta. The La Danta complex is technically lower than El Tigre; nevertheless it is located on a hillside, making it the tallest structure in the Mayan World (230 ft high). El Tigre is 18 stories high (nearly 200 ft) and it bases covers the area of three football fields.

El Mirador has been under active excavation for nearly forty years but due to it’s remote location, it sees only a handful of visitors each year, arriving either via a 5 day round-trip trek or 30 minute helicopter ride. Maya Trails’ founder James Rogers recently visited El Mirador for the first time. And while Jimmy has finished two full marathons and numerous half marathons, he decided to forgo the trek and opt for the birds-eye view via helicopter of this stunning Mayan complex.

Here is Jimmy’s account of his journey to El Mirador:

Taking that chopper ride from Flores to El Mirador was amazing – the pristine virgin jungle, it was amazing to fly right over the jungle’s canopy of the trees. The department of Peten is a very flat region with no mountains and very few hills even. From miles and miles away we could see the large structure of La Danta.

Our pilot flew us over La Danta and La Tigra, two of the most amazing and largest structures in the Mayan World. He circled around them twice so we could get some great photos and videos.

We landed at the “visitors center” where the active archaeologist dig is happening and where they live while at the site.

From here we started our journey of a 7k walk in the middle of the jungle, finding different structures, howler monkeys in the backgrounds, spider monkeys jumping in the tree canopy over you, and so much more wildlife. This 7k walk through the El Mirador site included visits all the way up La Danta and La Tigra. We also saw the site where Morgan Freeman filmed his segment on
Guatemala and the Maya for the series “The Story of God.”

It was an amazing walk, looking at all these Mayan artifacts, structures, etc.

Walking through this site gave a me feeling like if we were traveling back into the past, to the 1960’s when Tikal was first being uncovered and discovered by archaeologist in that time. You have the site completely to yourself. There were no visitors, only protectors of the reserve/Mayan Basin and some archaeologists. There must have been less than 10 people on the site. 

We had lunch in the visitors center – this isn’t like]a visitors center like in Jurassic Park or Tikal! It’s very, very basic. The water there is very scarce and there is no power. So for our Maya Trails guests, we bring in a catered picnic on the helicopter from Flores – talk about a very unique luxury picnic in the middle of this Mayan ruins in the middle of nowhere! 

All in all, this is a must. If your guests are looking for bragging rights and want to see and experience something very few other people have seen, El Mirador is the place to go. And if you want to up the ante, we can provide the tour with the renown archaeologist in charge of the Mirador Basin Project, Dr. Richard Hansen himself! 

Click here for details on a short sample itinerary which includes a helicopter itinerary to El Mirador.

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