Guatemala is home to the largest Mayan pyramid in the world as well as the largest group of Mayan buildings of any site. Located deep in the northern jungle of the Petén region, getting to the former civilization known as El Mirador Guatemala offers an unforgettable 5-day trek through ancient Mayan ruins.
When I booked my ticket to Guatemala, El Mirador was number 1 on my to do list! What I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be to plan the actual adventure. While traveling around the country in Guatemala City, Antigua and Lake Atitlán I kept asking locals and travel agencies for more info about El Mirador Guatemala and everyone kept giving me the same answer – go to the small town of Flores to figure it out.
A little nervous that I might miss a tour group I did more digging, found a company called Reino Kan Travel and emailed its owner Oscar Salas (firstname.lastname@example.org). Oscar replied with basic info about the trip and a problem – at the time, no one else was signed up to go! More determined than ever to make this trek happen, I arrived in Flores the next day via bus to Guatemala City and then a short flight to Flores.
Once I was in Flores I headed over to Reino Kan Travel to figure everything out. I found out that I needed at least one other person to join me and the more hikers on the trip, the less it would cost per person. Needless to say, I WAS ON A MISSION and within two days after arriving in Flores, I successfully recruited a group of ELEVEN strangers to hike together to El Mirador Guatemala – definitely one of the best travel accomplishments of my life!
The 5-Day Trek to El Mirador Guatemala (120 km)
DAY 1: FLORES – CARMELITA – EL TINTAL
Amped with excitement that El Mirador Guatemala was actually happening, I barely slept the night before. At 5:00am our group met up and boarded a colectivo from Flores to a small village called Carmelita. After filling up on a home cooked breakfast, we began our hike toward El Tintal, a Mayan “suburb” of El Mirador Guatemala.
For the most part the hike was pretty flat and as we made our way through the jungle everyone spent time getting to know one another. I was the only American in the group and became the de facto leader of our tribe (wait this isn’t “Survivor,” I mean group…). After about 6 hours of hiking, we arrived at El Tintal and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on top of the ruin.
DAY 2: EL TINTAL – EL MIRADOR
Waking up after sunrise, we ate breakfast and began our hike to El Mirador. The terrain was pretty similar to the first day – a flat jungle, hard muddy path. On the way we stopped to explore a small archeological site called La Muerta and actually went inside the ruins.
We continued on and after about 8 hours total, we arrived to our campsite just outside of El Mirador. Here we relaxed, ate and played games like “Mafia” which we renamed “Mayan” with new characters – Mayans (Mafia), Shaman (Doctor), Archeologist (Detective) and Civilians (Townspeople).
DAY 3: EL MIRADOR
We spent the entire day exploring the Mayan ruins in El Mirador Guatemala. I was immediately surprised how most sites had not been fully excavated including the largest Mayan pyramid in the world known as La Danta.
One look at La Danta, I would never have guessed it measures 70m tall with a total volume of 2.8 million cubic meters. A majority of this massive structure has been reclaimed by the jungle and is still buried.
After three days of hiking, we made it! The views from the top of La Danta were incredibly worth it.
We also checked out El Tigre measuring 55m tall. El Tigre, La Danta and a number of other temples display “triadic” styles with three pyramids on top of large platforms.
As we continued to explore El Mirador Guatemala, it was crazy to learn that for centuries this settlement flourished as the greatest Preclassic Mayan city and present day it has so much more excavating to go.
DAY 4: EL MIRADOR – EL TINTAL
The hike out of El Mirador Guatemala can be described as déjà vu since we hiked back on the same path. Even though the views and scenery stayed the same, it was still fun trekking through the jungle.
DAY 5: EL TINTAL – CARMELITA – FLORES
On the last day we made a pit stop at a site called La Florida before heading back to Carmelita.
As we ended our 5-day trek, I couldn’t help but feel like Jack from “Lost” exiting the jungle with new friends. It was here where we sadly had to say goodbye to our amazing guide Adrian, his wife and our cook Tia Nettie and their nephew and helper Elmer.
During our hike we stayed in tents at two designated campsites. Here’s a more detailed look at the costs:
2 people – $480 USD each / 3 people – $390 / 4 people – $350 / 5 people – $320 / 6 or more – $280
- Four nights camping accommodation (camping gear and blankets)
- Meals for the entire trip (4 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners and purified water)
- Authorized guide, cook and muleteer responsible for mules that carry food
Does not include:
- Food that is not on the menu such as alcoholic beverages
- Mounted mules for riding
- English guide or any other language ($200 USD extra)
Before and after the hike, I stayed at Los Amigos in Flores. This hostel is a hot spot for younger backpackers, has a welcoming outdoor common space and a hopping bar upstairs at night.
El Mirador Guatemala is rich with history and hiking, but when I think of my experience a phrase comes to mind that we constantly shouted throughout our trek… “¡Nuestra Familia!” Starting off as a group of 11 strangers – who took a risk on my sales pitch to actually join the trip – we became a family. El Mirador stripped away our daily luxuries and bonded us with our common love for adventure. It gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible travelers who I’m lucky enough to have as friends.