While the majority of visitors to Guatemala get their fix of Mayan temples at Tikal, El Mirador offers a unique experience for more adventurous souls.
The well-kept lawns and perfectly reconstructed temples of Tikal feel like Disneyland compared to the rugged beauty of El Mirador. For starters, it’s a two-day hike from the last village of Carmelitas before you reach the complex itself.
Visit during the November–May dry season to avoid most of the mud and crowds of buzzing insects that inhabit the jungle of Peten. Most tours booked through operators based in Guatemala City or Antigua require travelers make their own way to Carmelitas, which is a three-hour drive north of the tourist hub of Flores.
Once you’re on the trail, prepare to be amazed by the presence of spider and howler monkeys, snakes and other animals. You’ll sleep in tents along the trail, eating food brought by the mule train which accompanies your expedition.
Most groups make the journey with around 12 people, and the harsh conditions of the jungle can take a psychological toll on some members. The heat is overbearing, the bugs start to get to you and the meager rations mean it’s best to take some additional snacks of your own.
That said, the trip is difficult for a reason and the complex which awaits is definitely worth the effort. While Tikal has been extensively excavated, El Mirador remains largely underground to protect the site from looters. The Danta pyramid is the largest in the world by volume, but only a tiny portion is visible.
El Mirador is more about the adventure and using your imagination to envision how the Mayans lived.
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