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DESTINATION: GUATEMALA

Atop the world of the Maya

Visitors brave snakes, mud and mosquitoes in the Guatemalan jungle to visit an ancient civilization's jewel. With `Apocalypto,' more tourists may hit the trail.

January 07, 2007|Ben Brazil | Special to The Times

Trekking to El Mirador is a no-frills experience that demands toughness and good physical condition. You'll need a guide and at least five days, round-trip -- six to see the Nakbe ruins, which are on a different trail. Expect long days (six to 10 hours of walking). Pricier tours may offer a combination of walking and horseback riding.

Maya Expeditions, 15 Calle A 14-07, Zone 10, Flores; 2363-4965, www.mayaexpeditions.com. The American-run company offers seven- to 10-day treks costing $625-$1,085 per person with a four-person minimum. Price does not include travel to Flores.

Martsam Travel, Calle Centroamerica, Flores; 7926-0346, www.martsam.com. The well-established Flores agency has five-day treks for $350 per person or seven-day treks for $460 per person for groups of four. English-speaking guide is extra. It also arranges guided, one-day helicopter trips to El Mirador, which cost $1,420 for up to four people if a helicopter is available in Flores. Often the helicopter must come from Guatemala City, raising the cost dramatically.

Many travel agencies in Flores sell cut-rate trips. Be careful: Some have sent clients without sufficient food or water, and service may be surly or worse.

TO LEARN MORE:

The Guatemala Tourism Institute, (888) 464-8281, www.visitguatemala.com.

-- Ben Brazil

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