Guatemala | Birding Guatemala’s Highlands and Lake Atitlan | A Flyway Expedition

Guatemala | Birding Guatemala’s Highlands and Lake Atitlan | A Flyway Expedition

About this trip

Guatemala is a richly diverse cultural center and a lush and vibrant paradise for birders. Set in the heart of Central America, it is one of the New World’s prime migratory corridors. Learn about Audubon’s local conservation partner in Panajachel, Asociación Vivamos Mejor, and their program to train nearby residents to become birding and nature guides. Together with an expert guide and part-time apprentice guides, you’ll explore a variety of habitats and see firsthand many of the rare and endemic species Audubon hopes to protect through its ongoing conservation efforts. Also meet with locals who are part of the Audubon bird-tourism initiative in Santiago Atitlán, a hub of Maya culture.

About Flyway Expeditions

Holbrook Travel is a supporting partner in Audubon and its partners’ conservation work in Latin America and in the Caribbean. Participants on these tours have a direct economic impact on local people and communities, help preserve IBAs, and nurture an emerging ecotourism industry.  
Learn more about Flyway Expeditions.

Highlights

  • Bird the lower and upper trails at Los Tarrales, with the goal of seeing the Long-tailed Manakin’s impressive courtship display.
  • Visit Corazon del Bosque Reserve for the chance to see Mountain Trogon, White-naped Brush-Finch, and with luck, the uncommon Pink-headed Warbler.
  • Ascend to the higher-elevation forests of Los Andes Private Nature Reserve, where you may spot the Resplendent Quetzal.
  • Explore Santiago de Atitlán, a village known for its many women’s cooperatives and traditional textile weaving.
  • Meet representatives of Asociación Vivamos Mejor, a private nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life in communities surrounding Lake Atitlá.
11 Travelers

$2,895

Land Cost

Group size

Book 10 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

13 Travelers

$2,695

Land Cost

Group size

Book 12 travelers and 1 group
leader travels for free

Antigua

Day 1

Arrive at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, Guatemala. *Please schedule your flight to arrive no later than 2:00 pm. You will meet our local representative outside the airport after clearing immigration and customs and transfer to Antigua, about an hour away depending on traffic. This evening enjoy a welcome talk on your upcoming journey.

Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Posada Don Rodrigo Antigua

Los Andes Private Nature Reserve

Day 2

After breakfast, travel to Finca El Pilar, a private reserve with pine-oak forest and excellent trails for birding. Walk the trails looking for various species and visit the hummingbird feeders. In the afternoon, continue to Finca Los Andes at the southern slopes of Atitlán Volcano. Los Andes is home to the elusive Resplendent Quetzal as well as the rare and exquisite Cabanis's Tanager, also known as the Azure-rumped Tanager. This small bird's highly localized habitat is shared by hundreds of local and migrating species, including a host of hummingbirds, orioles, flycatchers, trogons and motmots. In 2001, Los Andes was declared a private nature reserve, and it is a founding member of Guatemala's Association of Private Nature Reserves. The reserve works closely with local residents to promote self-sufficiency, health and education. Some residents are also enrolled in a guide training program to provide them with an alternate source of income. Hunting is prohibited in the reserve, and present programs for conservation include building artificial nests for the Quetzals. The reserve also has a reforestation program approved by INAB (The National Forestry Institute), as well as eucalyptus forests planted for firewood. Financial and technical assistance are provided to buy and install efficient wood burning stoves in the workers' houses. Los Andes has its own hydroelectric plant, which generates all power used on the estate.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Finca Los Andes

Los Andes Private Nature Reserve

Day 3

Today, continue birding at the reserve. Hummingbird feeders at the lodge may attract the Blue-tailed Hummingbird as well as Violet and Rufous Sabrewings. The rarer Wine-throated Hummingbird may also appear. Head up to the higher forest above the tea plantations via pick-up truck, then embark on a set of trails that may lead to a Resplendent Quetzal. Also present are Tody Motmots, Emerald Toucanets, and other deep-forest species such as Singing Quail, Spotted Nightingale-Thrush and Scaled Antpitta. Tonight after dinner, there will be an optional walk for owling.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Finca Los Andes

Los Tarrales Reserve

Day 4

Enjoy early morning birding around the lodge. After breakfast, transfer to Finca Los Tarrales, located on the flanks of the same mountain as Finca Los Andes. However, the elevation and humidity profile differ, and so does the bird life. Los Tarrales ranges in altitude from 2,300 to 11,500 feet, with good access to various types of forest, and 340+ species of birds from lowland to highland habitats. The reserve is part of the Atitlán Important Bird Area, and harbors 21 regional endemic bird species, including Horned Guan, Highland Guan, Azure-rumped Tanager, and Blue-tailed Hummingbird. There is also an impressive abundance of migratory birds here, including Swainson's Thrush, Tennessee, Magnolia, and Black-and-white Warblers, Western Tanager, and Orchard Oriole. It is a good place for raptors as well, including the Black Hawk-Eagle, and sometimes the gorgeous Black-and-white Owl. Morning and evening are great for commuting parrots, with four species of parakeets and parrots typically seen. During lunch, take some time to enjoy the feeders, where Orchard, Altamira, Spot-breasted and Baltimore Orioles come to feed along with Rufous-naped Wrens and Yellow-throated Euphonias.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Finca Los Tarrales

Los Tarrales Reserve

Day 5

Continue birding the reserve's lower and upper trails in search of a diversity of birds, including displaying Long-tailed Manakins. Los Tarrales is private and self-sustaining; costs are covered from income selling coffee, ornamental plants, and honey, and through tourism services. Sixty Maya Kaqchikel families live within the protected area, working in agricultural production, as forest rangers, and in tourism. Los Tarrales also has a private primary school for children living on the reserve, offering classes in nature, science, and conservation in addition to the standard disciplines. (Note: School visits must be arranged for a weekday, when school is in session.)

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Finca Los Tarrales

Santiago de Atitlan

Day 6

After birding in the morning, transfer to Santiago de Atitlán in time for lunch. In the afternoon, there are a few chances to see some new species. If lucky, you may find the uncommon Slender Sheartail hummingbird or Prevost's Ground-Sparrow. Santiago de Atitlán is a hub of Maya culture and there may be an opportunity to meet some locals who are part of the Audubon bird tourism initiative. National Audubon has partnered with Asociación Vivamos Mejor (AVM), a private nonprofit development organization committed to improving the quality of life of rural communities surrounding Lake Atitlán. AVM focuses on sustainable watersheds and resiliency to climate change as a strategy for promoting sustainable development. Along with your primary group leader, each location will have a local guide involved in the project.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Bambu

Santiago de Atitlan

Day 7

This morning, enjoy birding at Parque Mirador del Rey Tepepul, a 3,500-hectare forest park with a wide altitudinal range. Although new to the bird tourism scene, this park has great birds, including the Yellow-naped Parrot, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, and the Azure-rumped Tanager. In the afternoon, head back to Santiago de Atitlán to explore the town. Santiago de Atitlán is home to an incredible number of women's cooperatives and women's groups. The groups do fine weaving of textiles on the traditional back strap loom and, to a lesser degree, the Spanish floor loom. The village is also a hub for natural dyed fabrics.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Bambu

Santiago de Atitlan

Day 8

Spend the day in San Juan La Laguna area on the western shore of Lake Atitlan, another new site to bird tourism. Seek out the rare and gorgeous Belted Flycatcher along the lower slopes of Volcán San Pedro. You may also come across the Lesser Roadrunner and other dry forest species such as Prevost's Ground-Sparrow. Participants in excellent shape can try the hike to the volcano to find the Horned Guan. This hike is very difficult, strenuous, and not for everyone - nor is it a guarantee to see the rare guan

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Bambu

Panajachel

Day 9

In the morning, take a boat ride across Lake Atitlán to Panajachel on the northeast shore. From here, visit the Semetabaj Archaeological site for a chance to find the Inca Dove, House Wren, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Yellow-winged Tanager, Melodious Blackbird, and Vaux's Swift. Spend the morning birding at the reserve, then have lunch in town. After lunch, visit the Atitlán Reserve for additional opportunities to spot target species. To follow is free time to enjoy some shopping or relax and take in views of Lake Atitlán from the hotel. Before dinner, meet with a representative of Asociación Vivamos Mejor and learn more about their work with communities surrounding Lake Atitlán.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Posada Don Rodrigo Panajachel

Guatemala City

Day 10

This morning, visit Corazon del Bosque, a reserve located higher up in the oak-pine forest zone. The star bird here is the gorgeous and uncommon Pink-headed Warbler. While looking for the warbler, you may catch a glimpse of Mountain Trogon, Spotted Woodcreeper, Yellowish Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Wren, Olive Warbler, Crescent-chested Warbler, White-naped Brush-Finch and the local form of the Yellow-eyed Junco, the "Guatemalan Junco," which many consider a separate species. After the visit, head back to Guatemala City and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant en route. Arrive in Guatemala City in the late afternoon with time to freshen up before the farewell dinner at the hotel.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Radisson

Day 11

Transfer to Guatemala City Airport to take your flight home. Breakfast will be available depending on your flight time.

Breakfast- included