February 24-26, 2018 - A private trip:  "Mr.Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology":  El Mirador

Hello from the Mirador Travel Agency. 

No, we are not a travel agency, the name is just a joke.  We went with 21 friends, with two helicopters, to "El Mirador" on February 25, 2018, Carlos Morales, an expert archaeologist guide and Dr. Richard Hansen, the Director of the FARES project that explores El Mirador and protects the Mirador Basin. 

Lower on this page is the recipe how we did it and you can repeat it. 

Just below the photos are some short videos our helicopters.  What a trip!
El Mirador

La Danta is the largest such stucture in the Americas.  Also the largest pyramid by volume in the world.  The first stage the platform, the size of 18 football flields, on top of it a huge stage 2.  That has several pyramids on it not yet excavated.  Here we are at Stage 3, with yet another pyramid on top. Used to be intact, but "squatters" moved in 1,000 years after it was abandoned and used the big stones to build themselves little condos at the base of this pyramid with the looted stone. Click in any photo to see a larger image.
El Mirador

We made it to the top of La Danta, 72 meters above ground!  The Mexican border behind us just a few kilometers. The Mirador Basin all around us.  Click in any photo to see a larger image.
El Mirador

The two great archeaologists together on top of the La Danta pyramid, Doctora Marion Hatch Popenoe with Doctor Richard Hansen, who directs the El Mirador project and is working to protect the entire Mirador basin. They got together here! Que COOL!  Click in any photo to see a larger image.
El Mirador

Wow!  They are doing a lot of work, excavating and protecting what they find.  These friezes from 300 B.C. tell the story that is in the Popol Vuh. Click in any photo to see a larger image.
Jaguar Temple #34

We had lunch at the Jaguar Temple, Building #34.  As an added bonus, we went into the underground to see paintings from 300 B.C. Click in any photo to see a larger image.
See a video of flying into El Mirador:   https://youtu.be/vl0QP_19WYo Video:  Flying into El Mirador:   https://youtu.be/uL1tBcfkKE8
Video: Flying into El Mirador:  https://youtu.be/UZI8NGX9Zjs Video:  Flying back into Flores:  https://youtu.be/AOR9NnU8Y1E
Jaguar Temple #34

This was in Guatemala City, embarking our our plane/helicopter charter trip to El Miradior. Click in any photo to see a larger image.

No, we are not a travel agency, the name is just a joke.  We went, with two helicopters, to "El Mirador" on February 25, 2018, with 21 friends, an expert achaeologist guide and Dr. Richard Hansen, the Director of the FARES project that explores El Mirador and protects the Mirador Basin. 

This is how you can do it, too!!

In 2011, another 20 traveled to El Mirador and thanks to careful planning, enjoyed 6 hours there and had a fabulous day.  In 2012, we went, with 48 people and two buses to Tak'Alik Ab'aj, where Christa Schieber named the group "Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology" after our donation paid for carbon dating tests that helped her make a big discovery.  In 2013, we went, with three helicopters and 36 people to "La Corona" and in 2015 with a chartered plane and 33 to Palenque, Yaxilan and Bonampak.  Now the MTA came back to El Mirador.

Most of us have visited, many times, Tikal and Uaxactun, Yaxha, Copan in Honduras, Tak'alik Ab'aj and other sites, easy to reach by road, but El Mirador was a distant dream.  If you cannot afford thousands of dollars on your own helicopter, then you have to drive a dirt road to La Carmelita and from there, hike 2-3 days through mud, or ride on a mule.  I prefer my "Archaeology in luxury" and thanks to getting a group together, it now seems possible to go by air and not pay a fortune.

The cost of the trip was $1,500 per person, including a $250 donation EACH, to FARES, which funds the Mirador Basin Project

The price included a bus from Antigua to the airport and back, the flight to Flores (5 in a helicopter, 16 on a chartered 19-seat TAG plane), two nights at the Maya Internacional hotel, two dinners with drinks, two breakfasts, helicopter flights to and from El Mirador, an experienced archeologist guide, all drinks and a lunch in El Mirador (with cold water, sodas and beers), tips to various people along the way and a return to Guatemala and Antigua. 

People whe went on the trip:

1.           Elizabeth Bell
2-3.       Tomas Cernikovsky & Lorraine Duncan
4-5.       Barbara Chastain & Tom Blakey
6-7.       John Chudy & Mary Anne Anderson
8.           Marion Hatch Popenoe
9.           Sylvia Jauregui
10.         Agnes Molina
11-12.   Raul & Cindy Montenegro
13.         Andres Molina
14-15.   Frank & Linda Peterson 
16-17.   Hilda & Sarah Rogers
18-19.   Kathy Rose & Hal Vogel
20.         Maria Streicher
21.         Carlos Morales Aquilar, Arqueologist, our guide
22.         Dr. Richard Hansen
, Arqueologist, head of FARES which manages El Mirador

Hotel Maya Internacional is at http://www.villasdeguatemala.com/index.php/en/maya-internacional

TAG airline
is at https://tag.com.gt/
Saturday February 24

11:-12:00 met at my house.  Sandwiches and drinks

12:00 - bus from Antigua to the airport, TAG hangar

14:00 - Helicopter and a chartered plane fly from TAG to Flores Aeropuerto Mundo Maya and Helipuerto del Hotel Maya Internacional.  The plane carried the luggege and coolers for drinks the next day.  Shuttle transfer from the airport to hotel.

18:30  - in the hotel bar ... over drinks, a presentation by Carlos Morales, our archeologist guide the following day ... information about El Mirador site history and explorations.

19:30  - Dinner with drinks included, water, sodas, beer, wine. 

Over dinner, we distributed boarding passes for the 4 helicopter groups of 5-6 people each for the next morning's exciting trip to El Mirador. 

Sunday February 25

- Breakfast included. 

- First two groups left the hotel's heliport for El Mirador, with coolers with cold drinks flew to El Mirador, landed at 08:00. Helicopters returned to the hotel about 08:30 and refueled.

08:45 - Second two groups left for El Mirador, with sandwiches and arrived 09:15.  The helicopters  stayed at the El Mirador heliport.

09:30 - 15:30 - A walking, hiking, climbing tour of El Mirador.  Dr. Richard Hansen, Director of the Mirador Basin Project, promised to provide an archaeologist as a guide.  But he came with us for the day!!! 

Lunch:  at the amazing Structure 34.  We had enough food for the guide, drivers, pilots and the security staff at the site.

16:00 - the first two groups flew over the La Danta pyramid and returned to Hotel Maya Internacional in Flores, E.T.A. 16:00.  The helicopters refuelled and returned to El Mirador about 17:00

16:45 - the second two groups flew over the La Danta pyramid and returned to the hotel, E.T.A. about 18:00.  Sunset at 18:06.

19:00 - Dinner with drinks included, water, sodas, beer, wine. 

Monday February 26

07:00 - Breakfast  

10:30 - Shuttle transfer for 16 people to Areopuerto Mundo Maya for a flight in our chartered Embraer plane back to Guatemala.

09:00 - Helicopter returned with 5 to TAG at Guatemala City airport.

12:00 - bus to Antigua.  Or UBER to Guatemala City destinations.
"Mr. Cernikovsky's Friends of Archaeology" made an exciting trip to La Corona in the PetÚn in 2013 ... please click on this link to see a short video of that expedition.  This will be similar, but to El Mirador.

La Corona Archaeological Expedition

July 2012: Richard Hansen's Final Report on 2011 at El Mirador.  A huge file, listing donors, showing Hansen with VIP's and celebrities at the site and in meetings, exhibitions and conferences around the planet. Please note that it takes, depending on the speed of your connection, a long time to download (10 minutes!!! lots of photos), but it makes an interesting read.  There is a section in the middle of the document that talks about actual exploration work at the site.  Please click to download the report, which will open as PDF.
... and here are some photos of our 2011 trip to El Mirador.  Hopefully, this coming trip will be better!
Click on any photo to see a much larger image

The interesting thing about this, the bottom part of the top pyramid at La Danta is the "reconstruction".  The original pyramid may have been build, as a religious site, about 200 B.C.  El Mirador was soon after abandoned.  However, more construction went on and about 700-800 A.D., many big stones removed and made to support walls of many small rooms, of which you can see four here ... probably residential.  One of our party thought it was like converting a New York brownstone into apartments ... more on the the next two photos below ...
Click on any photo to see a much larger image

... at another site, another "residential conversion".  The sloping hill behind shows you the condition in which the archeologists found this structure.  The plan sloping wall with dirty green stucco was the original, ceremonial pyramid, maybe 200 B.C.  However, the stone wall in the foreground was added almost 1,000 years later to turn the "ceremonial" into "residential", probably for some king's family around 700-800 A.D.  ... and see the next photo to keep up with the story ...
Click on any photo to see a much larger image

Just above the area shown in the last photo, here is a residential area constructed about 700-800 A.D. on top of a ceremonial building that was built some 1,000 years earlier.  Talking about converting old buildings into "condos", seems the Maya were at it much before us.  With each photo, you can click and see a much larger image.
Click on any photo to see a much larger image

The Mirador Basin Project and the site are now supported even by Guatemalan companies and here is a sign listing some.  Click to see a larger image. 
Click on any photo to see a much larger image

 ... and here it is.  This is the side of one of the causeways, where in 2009 they found what they now call the "Popol Vuh Relief", made of stucco. It is amazing.  And yet a small part of the causeway was explored, and only one side.  There could be much more of this on the other side or further along.  The photo is a little dark, since it's all protected by black tarps until they can build a more permanent roof to protect it.  Larger image if you click.  Visit their website for a detailed story.

Map credit to www.mapasdeguatemala.com

From the Heliport, we first explored the archeologists' camp and then went all the way to La Danta.  Richard Hansen suggested that we do that early, while we are still fresh and it turned out to be an excellent idea.  The staircases constructed to get you to the top are long, but sturdy and excellent. We went on a fairly cool day, overcast in the morning, but by lunch, the sun was up and it was getting warm and we were glad that after lunch we explored the areas closer to the helicopters, a Maya royal palace, the newly discovered "Popol Vuh relief" stucco and the "royal bath" on the side of one of the causeways.  By the time people were tired, we were close to our choppers.

El Mirador:  If you plan to go, please study these links before you go, to have an advance idea of what to expect:

Click here to learn more about the Mirador Basin Project
This page is a combination of our photos and a description of the component parts of our trip to El Mirador:

Mirador Basin Project, ran by Dr. Richard Hansen, FARES, the organization that raises money for it, and the helicopter company, the airline and the hotel in Flores.  We are not, in any way, connected with them, and this is not an advertising page.  You can try and get to El Mirador some other way, but it is extremely inaccessible.  Unlike at Tikal, where you would be one of several hundred visitors on a given day, here at El Mirador, during our last visit, other than our guide, the pilots and security staff, we were the only people at the gigantic site. 

To  contact the author, Tomas Cernikovsky, write to:  cernikovsky@hotmail.com