El Mirador in Guatemala

Friday, 6 May 2016

My recent travels in Central America (Panama) and the Caribbean (Cuba) started with a visit to Guatemala. Wearing my Global Heritage Fund archaeology hat I flew by helicopter to El Mirador, the remote Mayan site south of Flores and Tikal and close to the border with Mexico.

IMG_5746 - La Danta pyramid, El Mirador - 270

◄ The site’s iconic La Danta pyramid is claimed to be the biggest pyramid in the Mayan world by volume.




If you don’t travel by helicopter getting to El Mirador means a long trek through the rainforest of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. From a helicopter it’s remark- able how dense and continuous that jungle is, you certainly wouldn’t want to have to make an emergency landing. ▼IMG_5716 - Maya Biosphere Reserve, Flores to El Mirador - 540

IMG_5739-relaxed-howler-monkey-El-Mirador-540.jpg▲ A very relaxed looking howler monkey! They do indeed howl and their regular cries are reminder that you are indeed out in the jungle.

IMG_5865 - La Danta Pyramid, El Mirador - 540IMG_5837 - steps up Leon Pyramid, El Mirador - 270▲ Mayan temples are often surrounded by jungle and at many of the great Mayan sites the temples seem to pop up out of a sea of green. At El Mirador, however, only the tops of a couple of temples manage to make it up above the jungle canopy. La Danta is one of them, here a sliver of the temple summit is visible from El Tigre, the second highest El Mirador pyramid and a popular place for viewing the sunset.

◄ Restoration work has barely commenced on many of the El Mirador sites, there’s little to indicate that the Leon Pyramid is anything other than a natural formation.


On the other hand the Jaguar Paw Temple has been extensively restored. I’m sitting on the temple steps beside the claws of one of the jaguar paws.  ▼  IMG_5806-Jaguar-Paw-Temple-El-Mirador-540.jpg

IMG_5763 - Popul Voh frieze, El Mirador - 540▲ I was fortunate to travel to El Mirador with Richard Hansen, the archaeologist responsible for most of the work at El Mirador. The long Popul Voh frieze is one of his most recent discoveries.