El Mirador: The “Holy” Mayan City

A vast civilization, the Mayans, expanded across South America for centuries. Specifically, impressive Mayan artifacts and sites exist in southern Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. One of those sites is Guatemala’s El Mirador which people call the Holy City.

el mirador pyramid
Antiqua Archeologia

El Mirador, or the Window/the Balcony, is close to a much more famous Mayan site Tikal. Due to Tikal’s popularity, the city was an obscure and remote place for a long time. So much so that archeologists could not discover it until 1926.

el mirador bridge
Urban Walker

Although the initial discovery was in 1926, for more than 30 years, El Mirador remained a mystery because of the terrain and heavy forests. When the true extent of El Mirador came to the surface, it changed the entire basic knowledge of the history of Mayans.

el mirador ruins

El Mirador is at least 4000 years old, far more than historians ever thought that the Mayan civilization went back. Moreover, the city was not just a small town with a small population. It was a legit social and cultural center with a population of tens of thousands living inside big buildings.

el mirador towers above forest

Throughout its history, El Mirador had its ups and downs. While the city continuously flourished for 600 years, towards the end of the 9th century it saw its end, as people abandoned it for which historians have a couple of guesses.

inside the mayan city

The remains of walls around the settlement ranging from 3 to 8 meters suggest that the people of El Mirador were threatened by invading forces. They may have been powerless to stop the invaders and therefore left the city. Another reason was probably deforestation as the Mayans frequently burnt trees to make a plaster for their buildings named stucco.

the pyramid of el mirador

Despite its consequences, the city is a gateway for the beauty of Mayan architecture. There are various triadic structures with summit pyramids standing on top of them. One of the most noteworthy of these structures is La Danta temple. La Danta is more than 70 meters tall making it one of the largest pyramids in the world.

el mirador city stairs

Today, El Mirador is one of the most important sites for understanding the early Mayan civilization. While its remote location makes the city an unpopular destination for tourists: unfortunately, looters put the site at risk through theft and arson.

ruins of el mirador