El Mirador

In the upper north regions of the Petén department of Guatemala, near the border of Mexico, rests the ruins that some scholars believe to be the original "cradle of Mayan civilization". El Mirador is an expansive pre-Classic Mayan city that until 1926, remained unknown. Still covered in thick vegetation, with trees sprouting from the rocky ruins, El Mirador Guatemala is one of the best examples of the architectural and spiritual achievements of the pre-Classic Mayan civilization. Its remote location is largely responsible for its exclusion among popular tourist sites, but with the help of the Mirador Basin Project, efforts are being made to make El Mirador more accessible and less cluttered with overgrown plant life. If you plan to visit El Mirador Guatemala, it is highly recommended that you check ahead of time with Guatemala tour companies that can help you decide if the arduous trip is for you. During the rainy season, generally from May to October, trips to remote El Mirador Guatemala can quadruple in difficulty and are sometimes cancelled altogether. El Mirador in Spanish basically translates to, "The Lookout".

El Mirador is over 2,000 years old and it is believed that it thrived between 150 B.C. and 150 A.D. Believed to have been a major Mayan trade center with an impressive "urban" configuration, it is larger in size than other sites in the surrounding area. Together with the Mayan ruins at Tikal, El Mirador is one of the best examples of the accomplishments of the once great Mayan civilization. Civic buildings and complexes constructed for religious purposes comprise the center of this ancient city, and besides being a trading center, it is also believed that El Mirador was also a strong political and economic power in its time. The two main structures at El Mirador are the large "El Tigre" complex and the "La Danta" complex. El Tigre rises to about 180 feet tall, while La Danta tops out at around 230 feet high, making it one of the loftiest of all Mayan civilization structures. El Tigre's base alone spreads over 14 acres, while the base of La Danta comprises an area the size of around 35 football fields. Tours of El Mirador are generally arranged with guides and agents based in the north Guatemalan village of Flores. Flores, for hurried travelers, can be reached by air from Guatemala City, as it boasts the country's second busiest airport.

One of the primary joys at El Mirador is a climb to the top of El Tigre, where you can see the outlying pyramids giving way to lush, rolling jungle hills and smaller ruins in the distance. Views of the setting sun reveal hues of red and orange that envelop the trees to the west. The stars at night seem to be close enough to touch. El Tigre was most likely a religious temple where high priests and El Mirador rulers are believed to have ordered and performed sordid rites of devotion, such as blood-letting and human and animal sacrifices. This Mayan civilization highly revered nature and the natural world, and its appears that in an ironic twist of fate, Mother Earth and her forces may be responsible for their mysterious fall. Some accounts actually claim that El Mirador rulers and citizens laid such waste to their natural environment as to cause their resulting extinction. Perhaps more interesting than anything is the fact that as the other Mayan civilization centers such as Palenque (Mexico), Copán (Honduras) and Guatemala's famed Tikal were just entering their glory days, El Mirador had already pretty much come and gone.

Getting from Flores to El Mirador Guatemala is, as stated, no easy task, that is unless you have enough spare dough to get in and out by helicopter, which can be arranged. Otherwise, you will be hoofing it. The journey, lasting at least 5 days there and back, is not for the faint of heart or the truly out of shape. Mules help to carry the load, but you are not encouraged to bring large backpacks or all sorts of unnecessary items, unless you want to hold everything up and look foolish doing so. Do bring mosquito repellant, by all means, and be prepared for blisters. In wet conditions, which can reduce the trail to a veritable river at times, your feet will most likely have trouble staying dry. Upon setting up your tents and provisions as you camp along the way, it is a good idea to air your feet out, which will help ward off the dreaded "trench foot" should you be experiencing wet conditions. If you have a good guide, you can learn a little about the native flora and fauna. The Pimento wild herb can be brewed into a soothing and somewhat hypnotic tea, and among the jungle creatures are howler monkeys, toucans, tarantulas, heavyweight cockroaches and an array of insects. Perhaps more scary than anything, other than a band of armed robbers, are the more rare snakes, jaguars and pumas that live in the jungle. Your guide should prove more and more valuable if any unwelcome situations should arise.

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