Explore the abandoned ruins of El Mirador on this fascinating Guatemalan expedition

There are three ways to get to the abandoned city of El Mirador, deep in the Guatemalan jungle: by helicopter (Mel Gibson’s preferred mode), on horseback, or on foot. On this new Intrepid expedition, we take the third option (with the help of a couple of trusty mules) and trek through over 60 kilometres of thick jungle to this fascinating Maya city. After all, taking the easy option has never been our style. Get acquainted with the colour and beauty of Guatemala as we visit Antigua and Panajachel, cruise the wide Rio Dulce river, and wander the tiny streets of Flores – and that’s all before the trekking part begins. Uncover the history of early Central American life, learn about the flora and fauna in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, and explore the massive ancient structures – including one of the largest pyramids on earth – at the mysterious El Mirador complex.


Start
Antigua, Guatemala
Finish
Antigua, Guatemala
Country
Guatemala
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition
Code
QVTM
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 2, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Paddle around the magnificent Lake Atitlan by kayak

  • Venture into Antigua’s bustling Central Market and sample fresh fruit and local delicacies

  • Spend five days trekking in the jungle – it’s about as close to nature as you can get (so don’t forget your mosquito repellent!)

  • Watch the sunset over the jungle from the top of an ancient pyramid

  • Go off the grid. Unlike some of Central America’s more famous Maya sites, the ruins at El Mirador are well off the tourist trail

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip requires a good level of fitness. On trekking days, you’ll be walking up to 30 kilometres each day in hot, steamy conditions.

  • Luggage and equipment will be carried along the trail by mules, however you’ll need to carry your own daypack.

  • Accommodation on the trek will be at permanent campsites with basic facilities. There are no showers along the trail.

  • Remember you’re in the tropics! The jungle will be hot, humid and there’s likely to be quite a few bugs and mosquitos.

Itinerary

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Guatemala!

Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. In 1773, the city was destroyed by an earthquake but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. A walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy carved-wood entrances and crumbling old buildings is a great way to spend an afternoon.

As there's a great deal to do in Antigua we recommend staying a few extra days to make the most of this exciting city. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
We’ve got an early start today as we travel by private minibus to the famous – and colourful – Chichicastenango market (approximately 2-3 hours). Every Thursday and Sunday, locals travel to town from the surrounding villages to sell their wares, and the streets are lined with stalls offering multi-coloured textiles and fresh produce.

After visiting Chichi, head towards Panajachel (approximately 1.5 hours). Located on Lake Atitlan, with distant volcanoes looming in the background, Panajachel has a thriving market, great eateries and a stack of water-based activities to enjoy. The surrounding area is dotted with villages, which can be reached on foot or by boat.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Lake Atitlan is one of the most picture-perfect lakes on earth, with its near-constant blue skies and backdrop of distant volcanos. It’s also a great spot for a kayak, which is what we’ll do today. Paddle across the still waters of the lake, soaking up the scenery. Don’t forget the sunscreen! Afterwards, explore some of the local villages surrounding the lake, perhaps picking up some handmade souvenirs or practicing your Spanish on the locals.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After breakfast, return to Antigua and visit the buzzing Central Market. Venture deep into the market to get a glimpse of the real Antigua: traditionally dressed women making fresh corn tortillas, mangos, pineapples and bananas stacked in boxes and baskets, and tables covered in freshly caught fish. Sample some of the local produce, and perhaps have lunch at one of the many market restaurants. The afternoon is free to explore this fascinating city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Tuck into an early breakfast before making the long drive via private minibus to Rio Dulce (approximately 8 hours), then transfer by boat to our riverside hotel. Perhaps spend the afternoon relaxing on the waterfront deck, or stretch your legs with a short walk into town.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Wake up to the sound of birdcall in the jungle. Today we’ll take a boat trip down the river to Livingston, an old port town. Set at the mouth of the Rio Dulce on Amatique Bay, the town is easily navigable. You might like to spend some time wandering the quiet streets, checking out the handicraft shops, slurping down a bowl of tapado (seafood soup) or indulging in a couple of potent Coco Locos (coconut water and rum).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Settle in for the drive to Flores (approximately 4 hours). Officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, the tiny island of Flores had existed in various forms for years beforehand. Many of the locals still get about in the traditional way, paddling around by dugout canoe. Enjoy some free time this afternoon, perhaps strolling through the quaint cobblestone streets, browsing local handicraft stores or taking a refreshing dip in Lake Peten Itza.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Set the alarm for this morning’s early start. Leave Flores at 5am and travel to the remote Carmelita community – the starting point for our trek to El Mirador – where we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast before our first day of hiking. While some choose to travel to El Mirador by helicopter, we’ll be getting in and out of the site – through dense rainforest – on foot, with the help of some horses, who will carry luggage, camping equipment and food.

After stopping for lunch at El Guacute, continue on to El Tintal, an important archaeological site dating back to the Middle Preclassic era (1000-400 BC). Spend some time exploring the ancient architecture before settling in for the night at our campsite.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After an early breakfast, trek through magnificent jungle to the La Muerta archaeological site, stopping along the way for a quick snack at El Zompopera. La Muerta features several Early to Late Classic monuments and structure, including the creatively named Structure 2, an unusual building featuring a two-level underground labyrinth. After a tour of the site, have lunch and continue on to El Mirador, where we’ll camp for the evening. If weather permits, watch the sunset over the jungle before dinner under the stars at our campsite.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
It’s hard to believe the forgotten city of El Mirador was once home to around 250,000 people. The region flourished from the sixth century BC, as workers moved to the area to build the massive constructions, however the site was seemingly abandoned at the end of the first century AD. Building started again generations later, yet work was halted for good at the end of the ninth century. The site lay abandoned until it was rediscovered in 1926.

Today we’ll spend the day exploring the ruins, including some of the biggest man-made structures on earth: the La Danta and El Tigre pyramids. Learn about the important archaeological work being done at the site before returning to our campsite for dinner and another spectacular jungle sunset.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Trek through the jungle to Nakbe, one of the largest and oldest early Maya sites. It’s believed Nakbe was abandoned at around the same time as El Mirador. We’ll walk for around four hours, before enjoying lunch at the site and spending the afternoon exploring the ruins, tombs and causeways. Spend the night at our Nakbe campsite.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast, set off through the Maya Biosphere Reserve towards our camp at Yucatan. Keep your eyes peeled for scarlet macaws and howler monkeys along the way. We’ll be trekking through the steamy jungle for most of the day, so be sure to take it easy and have plenty of snacks on hand. Arrive at our camp in the afternoon. Spend a couple of hours exploring the jungle – or relaxing at your tent – before indulging in an evening of delicious food and drink.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Pack up the camp, give the mules a goodbye hug and transfer to Uaxactun by 4x4, stopping for lunch along the way. Uaxactun was one of the longest occupied Maya sites, populated from 500 BC until 900 AD, and is also home to the oldest completed – and accurate – astronomical complex. The town itself was re-established around 100 years ago, with villagers making a living collecting allspice and chicle, a natural gum, from the surrounding jungle. After exploring the site and isolated town, enjoy a traditional meal with a local family before spending the night at our camping spot.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Transfer to Tikal National Park for a tour of this incredible ancient city. Covering around 16 square kilometres, the central part of the UNESCO World Heritage site is home to around 3,000 temples, monuments and plazas, including the tomb of Lord Chocolate, one of Tikal’s most powerful rulers (perhaps he melted in the heat). After lunch at the ruins, return to Flores for a much-needed shower and some free time. Transfer to the airport for the flight to Antigua, via Guatemala, then check into our hotel for the night (in a bed!).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your adventure comes to an end this morning. There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners

Transport

Private minibus

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nts), Camping (6 nts)

Dates & availability

Trip search is unavailable.

Jump to a departure month

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.