Birding Tour Guatemala: Volcanic Highlands and the Mayan Empire February 2019

Tour Details

Duration: 15 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Date Start: February 04, 2019
Date End: February 18, 2019
Tour Start: Guatemala City
Tour End: Guatemala City

Tour Costs

Price: US$7,787 / £6,368 / €7,159 per person for 4 – 8 participants.

Single Supplement: US$765 / £626 / €704

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

Price includes:
Guiding fees
Entrance fees
All transport while on tour

Price excludes:
All flights
Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
Alcoholic drinks
Personal insurance
Laundry service
Personal expenses such as gifts and other items of a personal nature

Guatemala: Birding the Volcanic Highlands and the Mayan Empire 2019

Guatemala is blessed with some amazing habitats for birds, from the steaming volcanoes of the highlands of southern Guatemala to the hot jungles of the Mayan empire. Birding in Guatemala is an unforgettable experience.


Itinerary (15 days/14 nights)

Day 1. Arrival, transfer to Antigua Guatemala

We arrive in the cool of Guatemala City. Located at 1 500 meters, this altitude ensures that evenings are cool and days are pleasant. We’ll meet you at the airport and take you to our hotel for the night in the pleasant town of Antigua Guatemala, the once thriving capital, before it was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1700s. Rebuilt, it is now again a thriving city with the old-world charm of yesteryear.

Overnight: Antigua Guatemala

Day 2. Finca El Pilar to Unicornio Azul

Today we start with some local birding up the mountains surrounding Antigua, at Finca El Pilar. We’ll get a taste for some classic Guatemalan birds in the dry forest up here, like Blue-throated Motmot, Collard Trogon, Rufous-collared Thrush, Red-faced Warbler, and Black-capped Swallow. The mechanical and musical song of Brown-backed Solitaire echoes through the woods, and we’ll check through the many flycatchers here. We’ll also stop on the way down to check some hummingbird feeders, where we might pick up the local, endemic Rufous Sabrewing as well as Blue-tailed or White-eared Hummingbirds. From here we head up into the cool pine forests surrounding Unicornio Azul to look for a very localized species, the endemic Goldman’s Warbler; this pine specialist lives only up in these cool pines. There also are other Warblers here, like Pink-headed and Crescent-chested, which we’ll also look out for. We may also see several Hummingbirds here, including Garnet-throated and Magnificent, to add a splash of color to the scenery. We’ll have the afternoon and the next morning to bird in this majestic setting.

Overnight: Unicornio Azul

Day 3.  Fuentes Georgina, Finca El Patrocinio Reserve

After we’ve birded the morning away we’ll head to Fuentes Georginas to look for another localized specialty, the Wine-throated Hummingbird. There is also another chance for Pink-headed Warbler, and we hope to find Black-capped Swallow, Garnet-throated Hummingbird, Black-capped Siskin, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush, and many others along this road. From here we head south onto the pacific slope to a coffee finca, El Patrocinio, which is also a private nature reserve. Here we’ll bird the rich grounds for species like Highland Guan, Gartered Trogon, Blue-diademed Motmot, Spot-breasted Oriole, Violet Sabrewing, Prevost’s Ground Sparrow, and another localized specialty, the White-bellied Chachalaca. This is one of the best spots to see this range-restricted species.

Overnight: Finca El Patrocinio

Day 4.  Finca El Patrocinio to Finca Las Nubes

We wake before sunrise to greet the day from Finca Patrocinio’s canopy tower, where we’ll catch the long-whistled song of Highland Guan before its wing-rattling buzz, as it flies from perch to perch. Common Black Hawk nests in the area, and their crying calls echo about the forest, along with the onomatopoeic calls of Blue-diademed Motmot. Another great feature here is the Long-tailed Manakin lek. We’ll hike into the forest for a bit to watch this amazing display, as the males dance about the understory in an effort to attract a mate.

In the late morning we’ll drive to another coffee plantation, Finca Las Nubes, this one on the slopes of the Santo Tomás volcano, draped in pine oak forest and lichen-covered trees. We’ll spend the morning in the lower reaches of the finca, checking for birds like Bushy-crested Jay, Western Tanager, Rufous-backed Wren, Emerald Toucanet, Hooded Grosbeak, and Elegant Euphonia. After dinner we’ll take the jeeps high up into the edge of the forest to look for the localized Fulvous Owl. Lower down we may encounter Mottled Owl around the lodge.

Overnight: Finca Las Nubes

Day 5.  Finca Las Nubes for Resplendent Quetzal

This morning we rise early to take the jeeps high up into the pine woods, to look for a bird revered by the Maya, the Resplendent Quetzal. Their long calls echo through the cool forest, and we’ll take some time to track down one of these stunning birds, whose emerald-green and red plumage, combined with its long plumes, make it a very memorable bird. We’ll also spend some time this morning at one of the many forest overlooks, checking for another endemic, this time in the form of Cabanis’s Tanager. Its thin song reaches out from the canopy to lure us to its location. We’ll also spend some time walking some of the forest trails for skulkers like Spotted Wood Quail. Also in these forests we’ll find yet another endemic, this time in the bright yellow-and-black guise of Bar-winged Oriole. Crested Guan, Barred Parakeet, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Masked Tityra, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, and several Warbler species can be seen here, like Golden-crowned, Tennessee, Townsend’s, and MacGillivray’s.

We’ll have lunch at one of the overlooks to take in some of the aerial species like Chestnut-collared and White-throated Swifts, Violet-green, Black-capped, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and possibly a raptor or two.

After lunch we’ll again head for the forest overlooks to check for species we may have missed, like Flame-colored Tanager, Elegant Euphonia, Emerald Toucanet, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Rufous-naped Wren, Painted Bunting, Paltry Tyrannulet, Slate-throated Whitestart, and Berylline Hummingbird.

We’ll do some owling again tonight for Fulvous Owl or Mottled Owl, if we’ve missed them the night before.

Overnight: Finca Las Nubes

Day 6.  Finca Las Nubes to Los Tarrales Reserve

We’ll do some final birding around Las Nubes this morning, before heading to Los Tarrales Reserve, an area of lowland forest at the base of the Atitlán volcano. The warm forest here at this fantastic lodge is home to some great species like Tody Motmot, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Long-tailed Manakin, Pine Flycatcher, Red-throated Ant Tanager, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Gartered Trogon, Scrub Euphonia, and Highland Guan.

We might do some night birding for Black-and-white Owl for those that are up to it.

Overnight: Los Tarrales Reserve

Day 7.  Los Tarrales Reserve for Horned Guan

Today there are a couple of options. For those of you with a desire to see Horned Guan, now is your chance. If you want to make the hike, we’ll leave at 2:30am after some coffee and biscuits and drive for an hour to the foot of the volcano, where we’ll begin a three- or four-hour hike up into the habitat of the Horned Guan. We must advise you that this is a tough, strenuous hike at an altitude of around 8 000 to     9 000 feet up the side of a volcano. There is little time for breaks, as we need to be up there at the top at dawn, when the birds are most active and vocal. Even then there is no guarantee of success. Though large birds, the population is quite small and fragmented, which means numbers are thin up here. We’ll be lucky to find a bird, and it may require some bushwhacking to get to see it, but it is an amazing sight. On the way down we’ll also look out for some of the higher-elevation birds, like Black Thrush, Highland Guan, Golden-browed Warbler, and others. The descent is steep, so we’ll take our time, as we’ll also want to check the lower forest slopes for Cabanis’s Tanager, Swainson’s Thrush, Rufous-capped Warbler, Green Shrike-Vireo, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Velasquez’s, Pale-billed, and Lineated Woodpeckers, localized Orange-fronted Parakeet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and many others.

If, like many people, you choose not to torture yourself climbing a volcano, we’ll spend the day around the lodge birding the forests and trails of this wonderful lodge. The afternoon is free for you to check the grounds, rest up, and enjoy the scenery.

Overnight: Los Tarrales Reserve

Day 8. Lake Atitlán, transfer to Antigua Guatemala

We’ll do some morning birding around the lodge, before heading to Lake Atitlán. Here we’ll bird the dry scrub for species like Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Rusty Sparrow, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-throated Swift, Black-vented Oriole, and a very localized specialty, Belted Flycatcher. This range-restricted species is very skulking, and we’ll make a special effort to find it here. There is also the chance to visit some gardens, where we’ll find several species of hummingbird, like White-eared and Azure-crowned Hummingbirds and Black-crested Coquette. The lake will also provide us with some waterside species like American Coot, Great-tailed Grackle, and Spotted Sandpiper. Once we’ve handled the birds here, we’ll drive to Antigua Guatemala for the night.

Overnight: Antigua Guatemala

Day 9.  El Astillero lo de China Regional Municipal Park, Río Escondido Nature Reserve

Today we head east to some dry thorn scrub, where we’ll look for species that favor this habitat, like Russet-crowned and Turquoise-browed Motmot, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Lesser Ground Cukoo, Lesser Roadrunner, White-throated Magpie-Jay, and Streak-backed Oriole. After we’ve birded here thoroughly, we’ll head back west into the cloud forest corridor. We’ll spend the afternoon birding round the lodge in the pine-oak forest. Here we’ll look for several Warbler species, like Grace’s, Golden-cheeked, Black-throated Green, Townsend’s, Hermit, Black-and-white, Crescent-chested, and others. Along with these migrants and residents, we may also find Rufous-collared Thrush, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Rusty Sparrow, and Slate-colored Solitaire.

Overnight: Río Escondido

Day 10. Río Escondido to Biotopo del Quetzal

We’ll do some morning birding for any species we missed the day before, while heading up into the cloud forest to our next lodge, where we’ll bird the thick forest canopy for species like Resplendent Quetzal, Green-throated Mountaingem, Blue-throated Motmot, Black-headed Siskin, Brown-capped Vireo, Bushy-crested Jay, Slate-colored Solitaire, and Grey Silky-flycatcher.

Overnight: Ram Tzul Reserve and Hotel

Day 11. Biotopo del Quetzal to Guatemala City,  Cayalá Ecological Park

We’ll have the morning to bird around the lodge, before we head back to Guatemala City. Here we’ll check out CayaláEcologicalPark, good for species like Buffy-crowned Wood Partridge, Painted Bunting, Vaux’s Swift, Velasquez’s Woodpecker, Bushy-crested Jay, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Band-backed Wren, Great-tailed Grackle, Black-and-white Warbler, and White-tipped Dove.

Overnight: Guatemala City

Days 12 – 14. Tikal National Park

Today we rise early to catch a flight across the mountains and over the forest-draped slopes, down into the humid forest of Petén and the heart of the Mayan empire. This once was home to the greatest Mayan city, Tikal, whose ruins stand as testament to the amazing building skills of these people.

Upon arrival we’ll meet our local guides and drive into the park to our lodge. Once we’ve checked in, we’ll begin to explore the grounds around the lodge and some of the trails. Birding in this park is quite special and unlike anywhere else on earth. We’ll bird the trails around the citadel, admiring the massive ruins of the amazing temples. We’ll climb TempleIV to take in the view across the forest, and we’ll do some night birding. The old airstrip is also a great place to bird, and the grounds of our lodge provide some hummingbirds at the flowers. Several small lakes entice waterbirds, and not only do we get to see birds, but there are also several mammal and reptile species that are very interesting.

The forest here, though, is particularly full of birds. We’ll enjoy a plethora of species like Tody, Blue-diademed, and Keel-billed Motmots, Chestnut-colored, Pale-billed, Lineated, and Velasquez’s Woodpeckers, migrant Warblers like Hooded, Worm-eating, Kentucky, and Chestnut-sided, flycatchers like Yellow-olive and Eye-ringed Flatbills, Bright-rumped Atilla, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, Couch’s Kingbird, and Yucatan and Sepia-capped Flycatchers. Little Tinamou calls from the forest, along with other skulkers like Scaly-throated Leaftosser. Bright forest birds like Emerald Toucanet, Keel-billed Toucan, Gartered and Slaty-tailed Trogons, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, and White-collared Manakin add touches of brilliance to the verdant forest.

American Pygmy and Belted Kingfishers as well as Grey-necked Wood Rail and Northern Jacana haunt the waterways, along with Mangrove Vireo.

Night birds like Pauraque and Yucatan Poorwill are heard before sunrise, along with Vermiculated Screech Owl and Spectacled Owl, as well as Central American and Ferruginous Pygmy Owls.

Forest-floor dwellers like Ocellated Turkey, Singing Quail, and Spotted Wood Quail could all be found. Red-lored and Mealy Amazons, along with Olive-throated Parakeet, add to the parrot list, while Pheasant Cuckoo could be an exciting find.

Overnight: Jungle Lodge, Tikal

Day 14. Tikal National Park, Cerro Cahuí Nature Reserve

We’ll spend the morning around Tikal before heading to Cerro Cahuí Nature Reserve after lunch. We have several targets here, including Mayan Antthrush and Grey-throated Chat. We’ll also look for Northern Barred and Tawny-winged Woodcreepers, Rose-throated Tanager, Plain Chachalaca, Long-billed Gnatwren, Scrub Euphonia, Blue Bunting, and Red-throated Ant Tanager. In the late afternoon we’ll drive to the city of Flores for the night.

Overnight: Flores

Day 15. Departure

Today we’ll catch an early flight to Guatemala City to connect with your outbound flights.

Please note that the detailed itinerary below cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.

Download Itinerary