El Mirador, Guatemala


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El Mirador Ruins, Mirador Basin

Petén, Guatemala





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There has been a lot of reconstruction work done at El Mirador in a surprisingly large effort, including La Danta. It may even become more of a tourist Mecca if Carmelita could get its act together. This is an important part of the plan to keep the Mirador Basin from falling to settlements and ranches, such as one finds in western Petén. Assuming there are no changes in plans, there will be no roads into the Basin and access would be via a narrow gauge railroad and helicopters. Presumably there will still be mules and guides for those still wishing to go in that way. An advantage of more tourist access is that it keeps looters away.

El Mirador flourished as a trading center from around 300 BCE to 150 CE during the Maya Pre-Classic Period. With a population as Structure 34high as 80,000, it was one of the first large cities in North America.  The city's main group of buildings covers two square kilometers and many were built on a grand scale. The largest pyramid at El Mirador, El Tigre, has six times the surface area as Temple IV at Tikal and is 55 meters tall. 

The Danta Complex is about 300 meters wide on each side of the bottom base, which is 7 meters high and supports a series of buildings. The next and smaller platform rises another 7 meters. Above that is another platform around 21 meters high, which is topped off by three pyramids, the tallest of which is 21 meters high. The total height is 70 meters, making it taller than Temple IV at Tikal. 

The reasons that El Mirador is not swamped with tourists are its inaccessibility and that a lot of it is still unrestored mounds and pyramids in the jungle, though a lot of work is being done. Once a person has hiked to the top of El Tigre, the view that awaits is mostly of jungle and  other ruins, such as Calakmul and Nakbé in the distance. Still, it is the idea of a formerly lost city in the jungle that brings people to see it and more work is being done there each year.  Current tours also can involve visiting Nakbé and will take  just one day longer than seeing just the one main site. They require stamina and involve riding horses (or more often mules) or walking for around 27-30 hours over the course of five days. Saddle horses or mules are good to have along, but if you are not going in the rainy season, you will probably alternate walking with riding and may want to share a horse among two of you . 


El Mirador was a pre-Columbian site  whose existence began from the movement of people from Nakbé to what was then an area of shallow lakes and more water availability. It is two days on foot  in the Petén Jungle from the nearest village, although there is now helicopter service that is not unthinkably expensive.  Currently there is a project called the Mirador Basin National Park, whose objective is to form a major national park in the area, where archaeological excavation will be done and tourists also can share in the discoveries about the Maya civilization.  This will be done with the help of the Guatemalan government and interested individuals. A long term plan would include narrow gauge train service.


La Muerta

 In July 2002, I helped organize my group that first went to Nakbé and then to El Mirador. Along the way, we also stopped at a smaller site, where we found three pot sherds that fitted together.   Near the end of our journey, we camped at El Tintal and climbed its pyramid. This is an incredible area, and I returned in 2005/6 for greeting the New Year there with some friends. Then I returned in 2010.  See my discussion of how to get there. 


On April 18th, 2002,  President Alfonso Portillo signed legislation, which established the Mirador Basin National Monument as a Special Archaeological Zone. This is intended to provide  for the permanent protection of 600,000 acres of tropical rainforest in this area, which  surrounds the oldest and largest Maya archaeological sites in Mesoamerica. The Mirador Basin National Monument is designed as a wilderness preserve without roads.


A wall at Structure 34, El Mirador



Some other El Mirador-related Links



YouTube ad.

See Mesoweb's excellent account

Continuing Problems of the Park

Bibliography for the Mirador Basin

See a Number of El Mirador Trip Accounts

A lot of photos of the site.

See a lot of Nakbé photos

The Mirador Basin Project seeks to

 maintain the Mirador study an incredible array

 of Pre-classic Maya sites that collapsed around 150 CE. 

 They have a lot of ground to cover and need donations for their archaeological work.

The Story of Carmelita and El Mirador.

See photos of it

Photos of it and Nakbé as well.


A Mirador Trip on Youtube

Part 2

Part 3


How to get to El Mirador





Updated information is both welcome and requested. Please mail your info or feedback to

hiker at mostlymaya.com. Thank you.