Hiking to El Mirador, Guatemala – All your questions answered!

What to do when you visit Flores, Peten, Guatemala? / Flores top tourist activities

FAQs about El Mirador Mayan ruins including La Danta, located nearby Flores, Peten, Guatemala, including what to bring, guided tour information, cost, & more!

There are very few experiences in life that are truly and completely unique, something you could never describe fully in photos or words, something only a few people in this entire world have done, something you could never really imagine without experiencing it…the hike to El Mirador, Guatemala, is one of those experiences.

El Mirador was one of the most important ancient Mayan cities and is home to La Danta, the largest pyramid in the world. Exploration of the site is ongoing and therefore it is constantly evolving, but much is still left to be discovered. With the El Mirador jungle trek, you embark on a 5 to 6 day adventure into the Guatemalan wilderness to visit this ancient civilization, surrounded by animals, nature, and thousands of years of Mayan history. After hiking days into the jungle with only your guide and the wild monkeys to forge a path, summiting La Danta, and watching a breathtaking sunset from the top of the world, nothing but trees in all four directions for as far as the eye can see—then you will feel what is so special about this once in a lifetime experience!

Sounds interesting, but you have some questions? We have the information you need! Keep reading for answers to all the frequently asked questions about visiting La Danta & El Mirador, Guatemala.

How difficult is the El Mirador hike?

The path is mostly flat and in the shade, so the difficult part is the distance and not the path itself—you will need to walk between 17 – 36 km a day. You do not need any special hiking gear or experience to complete this trek, so most people with an average level of physical fitness should be able to do it! 

If you have a particular capability concern, please feel free to contact us to discuss it.

What are the campsites like?

You will camp at established campsites every evening, which are also shared with the archeologists and park rangers who work in the area. There’s a big sheltered area with a wood stove for cooking and picnic tables and benches for eating and relaxing. You sleep in tents with camping mattresses, which are under a covered area in case of inclement weather. There are also camping toilets and bucket showers available. Basically, its rustic, but you have everything you need. 

What do I need to bring for a trip to El Mirador?

When you book a tour to El Mirador, most of the essentials are included. All you need to bring is:

  • small backpack
  • a couple changes of clothes (recommended 2 for daytime in light & breathable fabrics, 1 for sleeping)
  • comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes that you can wear all day
  • a large refillable bottle for water (1 – 2 liters)
  • flip flops or sandals for the evening
  • headlight
  • mosquito repellent with DEET (please note that clothes do not stop jungle mosquitos from biting, only repellent does that)

Each guest can place a bag of up to 10kg on the mule and needs to carry only a small pack with their day’s supplies. Any other belongings you are traveling should be stored in Flores or Carmelitas during the hike. Check here to see what is included in the tour when you book with us. 

What kind of weather should I expect?

During dry season, January to May, the weather conditions for the hike are best. There is little to no rain, which also means few mosquitos, little mud, paths that are easy to traverse, and a better shot at clear sunrise and sunset views. However, it will be hot and humid, with heat usually peaking in April and May. As most of the hike is in the shade, you don’t have to worry about sun, just focus on staying hydrated. 

Rainy season begins in June and stretches through December, hitting its worst point around September and October. In the first few months, you will most likely experience a light drizzle here and there, but nothing to slow the hike down too much. As the season progresses, rainfall becomes heavier, causing mud to build up and making path conditions tougher. Most rain happens overnight, but you’ll probably get one day of the trek with rain during the daytime. Rainy season has some benefits though, such as the wildlife becoming more active so you’re more likely to spot a wider variety of animals (just be advised this also includes mosquitos). Another difference is that out of the entire year, the archaeologists only work during the first few months of the rainy season, when rainfall means they can collect water to survive off of, but conditions are still dry enough to not hinder their progress. A visit during this time could mean you are onsite for a new discovery!

Tours to El Mirador run year round regardless of season, and though conditions may become slightly more difficult seasonally, it is still possible anytime and just depends on your personal preference as to when you want or are able to go.

What’s the difference between the 5 and 6 day tour?

There are 2 main options for the trip to El Mirador, a 5 day hike or a 6 day one. On the 6 day you get to see 2 extra sites, but the 5 day trip is the most common. They both start on the same path and split on the 4th day to return different ways. Here is the basic itinerary for both options:

5 Day Itinerary

  • Day 1: travel from Flores to Carmelita, group breakfast, then begin on foot to Tintal (18 km)
  • Day 2: hike Tintal to El Mirador (23 km)
  • Day 3: tour of El Mirador
  • Day 4: return to Tintal (23 km)
  • Day 5: return to Carmelita (18 km), last meal, and travel back to Flores

6 Day Itinerary   

  • Day 1: travel from Flores to Carmelita, group breakfast, then begin on foot to Tintal (18km)
  • Day 2: hike Tintal to El Mirador (23km)
  • Day 3: tour of El Mirador
  • Day 4: hike El Mirador to Nabke (14km)
  • Day 5: Nabke to La Florida (33km)
  • Day 6: return to Carmelita (8km), last meal, and travel back to Flores       

What languages do tour guides speak? 

As all guides are local to Carmelitas, they speak Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, you can add an English translator to your tour for an additional cost, or you can take a chance and hope another guest on your tour is bilingual 🙂

Do I need a tour guide for El Mirador?

Yes, it is required to go with a tour guide. For your safety and the security and preservation of the site, unaccompanied visitors are not permitted.

Besides it being a rule, it’s really in your best interest to go with a guide! The guides are all Carmelitas locals who have grown up by the site, spending their entire lives getting to know the jungle and the complex history it holds. Your guide will be able to show you so much, give great information, and add immensely to the overall experience. You will also have the unique opportunity to get to know someone who is from a completely different background than you and learn about their life. Hiking and camping for 5 days in the jungle is also a very special experience, halfway between a homestay and an adventure tour, so the guides and assistants you share it with will become just as much a part of the experience as La Danta itself.

In addition, tourism is a major source of revenue for the tiny village of Carmelitas, so hiring a local guide helps support the local community and contribute to the ongoing natural and historical preservation efforts.

You can set up your guided tour to El Mirador here.

Ok, its ‘required’ to have a guide, but I’ve heard about people going alone. What if I just sneak in?

Its true that in past years, regulations were much more relaxed and many people did attempt the El Mirador trek without guides, but it is basically impossible for anyone to do the hike completely alone and they always end up needing some kind of help or resource from the park rangers. Without assistance, some people have ended up lost for weeks, become injured, dehydrated, and needed hospitalization to recover, even though they were experienced hikers and very physically fit.

Even if nothing major goes wrong, you will still need assistance. For example, though you may be prepared with all the food and camping equipment you need, for most people, carrying a 5 day supply of drinking water in addition to that, while hiking 20km a day, is impossible. There is no natural source of water in this jungle, no river or lake nearby that you can get water from, so the only way to get water is through the established campsites where rainfall is collected and purified by the tour companies and park rangers. If you show up dehydrated and in need, of course they will share water with you, but you will essentially be stealing a valuable resource from people who also need it to survive.

When you purchase a tour, part of the money goes to maintaining the campsites and vital resources, paying for the years of investment that have already happened, plus maintaining the archeological site itself. The money also helps support the local villagers who have been working hard every day for decades to take care of it, including the park rangers, tour guides, mules who carry supplies, caretakers for the mules, providing food and shelter to all of the above, and leaving over a small salary to support families. Carmelitas is a poor, rural farming community (there’s no wifi or plumbing), so tourism is a major source of revenue for them. You can arrange a tour for less than $50 a day, including round trip transportation to the hike site, all accommodation and camping necessities, three hot meals a day, drinking water, knowledgeable local guide dedicated to you 24/7 for 5 days, and mules for carrying group supplies. When you think about everything you get, it’s a really fair price! 

Is the El Mirador hike dangerous?

With a trained guide, not especially. As with any wilderness excursion of this length, there are some inherent risks, but injuries or evacuations are very rare in tour groups. The guides know the terrain, main paths and alternative routes, how to navigate through weather, which plants are safe to touch and which are not. With that said, you will be in a natural area with potentially dangerous wildlife nearby, such as snakes, but as a general rule they avoid people and it is highly unlikely you will encounter anything. However, should such a situation arise, your guide is trained to handle it and always carries a machete and walkie-talkie that connects to the main camps.

A more likely scenario is very minor injuries due to exertion, such as blisters or pulled muscles. Your guide also travels with a first aid kit so he is ready to help at any time. Should anybody sustain a more serious injury and become unable to walk, they can be transported via mule to the next campsite. If the injury is serious enough that they need medical attention, they can be evacuated via motorcycle, ATV, or helicopter, depending on what the situation calls for.

I am not into the idea of hiking and camping for 5 days, but I really want to see La Danta. Is there another way to get there?

Yes! You can go via helicopter directly to the main El Mirador site, have a day tour, and return the same night. Contact us if you want to discuss this option. 

Still have questions? Please feel free to check our site for more details or contact us for any help you need planning your trip!

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