The largest of all Mayan cities is also one of the oldest and most mysterious.
Between 300 BC and 100 AD, El Mirador was a thriving trading centre of the pre-Classical Mayan period with an estimated population of at least 100,000 inhabitants. In the second century after Christ the city was abandoned and only in the late classical period it was repopulated to a much lesser extent.
The area in which the city’s government and administrative buildings were located covers an area of more than 26 km² and includes monumental buildings and several thousand structures at a height of between 10 and 72 metres.
The three outstanding pyramid complexes, called “El Tigre”, “La Danta” and “Los Monos”, each consist of a large man-made platform with three pyramids erected on each platform. The “La Danta” pyramid is 72 metres high and has a volume of almost three million cubic metres calculated from the bottom of the forest, making it one of the largest pyramids in the world.
The 55-metre high pyramid “El Tigre” in El Mirador is six times larger than Temple IV in Tikal.
Due to the remarkable orientation of the various assemblies, archaeologists assume that El Mirador was a planned city from the beginning.
Despite their immense dimensions, El Mirador’s buildings, which have only been exposed to an insignificant extent, can only be recognized by experienced eyes, since the excessive vegetation makes them appear as hills rather than buildings.
In the surrounding area, the so-called El Mirador Basin, 8o further cities and settlements were discovered, which were connected to the metropolis by the typical white high roads, called sacbeob.
Those who want to visit El Mirador today must do so on foot or on the back of a mule as part of a four- to five-day trek, otherwise they will have to pay a heavy price for a helicopter flight.