The Cuenca Mirador
The Cuenca Mirador is part of the Tentative list of Guatemala in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
The Cuenca Mirador comprises the archaeological sites of El Mirador, Nakbé, Wakná, Xulnal and El Tintal in the Mirador Basin, a depression in the rainforest. They were large pre-Columbian Maya settlements from the Preclassic period (1000 BC – 250 AD). Tombs have been found here with mural paintings and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Several locations were linked by causeways.
Map of The Cuenca MiradorLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
There is going to be a long paragraph about logistics but first off: this HAS to be inscribed! One of the Top 20 missing in my opinion and even if you are jaded of Mayan ruins having traveled through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and even Honduras, there is just a link missing right here. Even with an inscription I don't know if the situation regarding preservation and tourist numbers would change because it is always going to be visited by either trek or chopper.
So there are 4 sites. If you go for the trek it will take you 1 day to reach the first site, Tintal (don't know if there is a stop at Xulnal). The minibus takes you as far as it can via the dirt road through Tikal to the last guesthouse and then you walk for the rest of the day. This is not very far but you tend to have goods with you including a donkey carrying it, and because the Tintal ruins is the camp site one way or another there is no rush. This trek is not advised after rains. The second day is from Tintal to the camp at El Mirador. On the 3rd day you visit the ruins, then it is 2 days back to Flores. If you select one of the longer treks it also includes Nakbe, but I hear that doesn't happen too often. The entire thing will cost you maybe $200-300 which doesn't seem too cheap if you think about it. I mention it because I in fact did none of the above. I only chatted with some hikers who gave me lots of info on all this, plus info from the guide. I actually splurged on the chopper ride which takes less than 1 hour to reach El Mirador, circles the pyramid (a view you would NEVER have when trekking) and sets down just past the camp site. You spend around 4-5 hours on the site and then fly back. The only risk here is that bad weather could leave you stranded so don't plan too tight even though it sounds like a day trip is a massive time saver, it definitely is, though wind is apparently not too uncommon. The chopper ride is amazing, totally worth the money alone, and you even get to fly co-pilot if you are the selected lucky person.
The place is generally not in good condition. The great pyramid (grandest of all pyramids, not tallest but space used) is in pretty good condition and safe to climb. One has lunch up there and can see Calakmul only 40km away (it feels nostalgic if you were sitting on those pyramids before but El Mirador is harder to spot because the "peak" is more overgrown and flatter, and interesting enough the Mexican army controls the borderline checking for illegal border crossing!!). On the way you learn about the most unique part of the site - the carvings. I did not choose a picture of that but I recommend you to search online for 'morgan freeman el mirador' because he was sitting right at those carvings for some documentary on gods. There are tons of video clips online. The guide claims they are not renovated which I find miraculous. Is it really true? One of my criticisms of ChanChan was that everything looked plastered new, same here but it was all covered and perhaps it was kept in such a good condition for that reason. The rest of the buildings are not in good condition though. Most rocks have crumbled and a few places had to be redone a lot just to see where the entrance was. The guide made a big talk about how the Mayans moved on from this area because the limestone business but I still think other reasons played a big factor. There is another tall temple to climb with some good views but after staying on the pyramid that long you feel a bit Mayan'd out again, especially if you were on Tikal the day before and climbed all possible sections there.
2002 Added to Tentative List
The site has 5 locations