Why you should trek to the El Mirador Mayan ruins

Jurg Widmer Probst - Guatemala Mayan ruins

Guatemala is open to tourists again, although there are lots of COVID-19 restrictions in place. In this blog we’re going to look at an unforgettable trek to the Mayan ruins of El Mirador.


Whether you go for it this year or next, El Mirador should absolutely be on your bucket list of travel destinations. But first we’ll give a quick run through of the new travel advice to Guatemala.


Jürg Widmer Probst Guatemala special feature: a trek to the Mayan ruins of El Mirador


The international airport in Guatemala reopened on 18 September 2020. If you travel there you must wear a mask at all times in the airport and stick to the social distancing measures in place. Anyone over the age of 10 arriving in Guatemala must show a negative COVID-19 Antigen or PCR test. These can’t be more than 72 hours old.


Before you arrive at the airport you must also complete a Health Pass. Airlines will need the completed Health Pass and proof of a negative COVID-19 test before you can board the plane. There are various health protocols in place at entry ports into Guatemala, including screening departing and arriving passengers. Any foreign visitors arriving in the country hand displaying symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed in.


Traveling within Guatemala


The official State of Calamity ended on 30 September 2020 and the nationwide curfew and lockdown has also finished. However, you can’t buy alcohol between 9pm and 4am. All public spaces, entertainment facilities, shops and businesses are allowed to open provided they have the appropriate social distancing measures in place.


Public transport is also available again, but there are various restrictions on capacity. It won’t necessarily be simple to access public transport so if you’re planning a trip, bear this in mind. Social distancing means you must be at least 1.5 metres apart from other people. You must also wear a face mask in every public space, including the street. If you don’t, you could be fined or arrested. Fines in Guatemala for flouting COVID-19 rules range from £700 to £15,000.


Under the Guatemalan Government’s system of health alerts, each town has a warning colour. The colour corresponds to the number of cases of COVID-19 reported in that town. Red is the highest number of cases, amber is high and green lower. What you’re allowed to do and where you can go depends on the threat level in your region. See the Guatemalan government website for all the details and make sure you understand the threat level and instructions for your trip. You should also follow the guidance of local authorities, which you can find here.


When booking somewhere to stay make sure you call in advance to make doubly sure that your reservation is certain. You can also ask about any specific requirements they have or measures you must adhere to.


Visit the remote and beautiful El Mirador Mayan ruin


Now all the formalities are covered, let’s have a look at El Mirador itself. This Mayan ruin is a stunning example, and while there are others in Guatemala, it is singular in its fantastic design and atmosphere.


One of the reasons El Mirador feels so magical is because it is very remote. Visitors reach it either by a seven-day hike through the jungle, or by the quicker and easier helicopter ride. However, you plan to get there, it’s a trip worth taking. This Mesoamerican site is like nothing you’ll have seen before.


Hiking to El Mirador is an experience in itself and gives you the best chance to put yourself in the Mayan’s own footsteps. Walking along ancient roads, the hike may be exhausting but it’s also incredibly special. By helicopter you’ll get a real sense of the isolation of the site, with miles of jungle finally giving way to the top of the pyramid as you approach.

El Mirador means ‘the lookout’ and includes the largest pyramid in the Mayan world, along with stunning stone carvings. El Mirador used to be the capital of the entire region, signified by its impressive architecture. Ancient roads connect it with other important sites such as Los Faisanes and Los Cruces.


The site deserves a thorough exploration, and it’s also worth pushing yourself to climb to the very top of the pyramid itself. Experience the air getting fresher as you make it further towards the top and look out at one of the most spectacular views you’ll ever see.


You can find loads more details about the treks available here.