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NEW! Guatemala

Central America's most diverse birding nation

2025 Dates
  • 26 Jan - 14 Feb 2025
Duration20 Days
Guides joined by Mike Coleman with over 8 clients
2025 Price
Guide Price £5595 pp
£395 single supplement. Deposit £1000. TIKAL extension price TBC.

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

Max Group Size12

Guatemala is Central America’s most populated country, though only 2% of its landmass is urbanised, making for exciting birding! We travel through some incredible scenery and habitats, ranging from densely wooded mountains, cloud forests, mighty steaming volcanoes, vast coffee plantations, arid deserts, savannahs, wetlands, mirror-like mountain lakes and lowland rainforests. This tour is set within beautiful landscapes, inviting you to enjoy the country’s friendly hospitality in comfortable, well-located lodges. It incorporates many classic Guatemalan images: Mayan ruins, villagers in colourful traditional clothing, and fabulous, ancient colonial cities, as well as offering some of the finest neotropical birding for hard-to-find and localised species in Central America.

Over 760 bird species have been recorded in Guatemala, and we expect perhaps 300 on this tour. Of those breeding in the highlands, about 10% are endemic to the North Central American Highland, including Highland Guan, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Wine-throated Hummingbird, Rufous-browed Wren and Blue-and-white Mockingbird. The range of some is even more restricted to only western Guatemala and the south Mexican state of Chiapas, including Horned Guan, Azure-rumped Tanager, Pink-headed Warbler, Bearded Screech-Owl, and Black-capped Siskin. The highlands are also home to Guatemala's national bird, Resplendent Quetzal, a species considered so special within Guatemala, it adorns the national flag, and the national currency is named after it! The lowlands have many birds in common with southern Central America, and this region contains the country’s highest diversity, nearly 500 species having been recorded.

Our tour is generally relaxed and easy-paced, although as usual in the tropics expect some early or packed breakfasts to make the most of the morning bird activity.  Although most walking is not strenuous, the optional hike to see Horned Guan in its volcano forest habitat can be a long day, although well worth the effort when seen! As well as exceptional birding, we try to experience as much of the history and culture of the country as we can. Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the ancient former capital city is well worth exploring when we stay there, located next to former coffee plantations which have been reborn as private nature reserves, where we watch Rufous and Violet Sabrewings, White-eared, Magnificent, and Berylline Hummingbirds.

We will enjoy a huge variety of birdlife, including Mountain Trogon, Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-throated, Russet-crowned and Turquoise-browed Motmots, Black-headed Siskin, Emerald-chinned, Blue-tailed, Cinnamon, Garnet-throated and Amethyst-throated Hummingbirds, White-bellied Chachalaca, Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge, Singing Quail, Crested Bobwhite, Lesser Roadrunner, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Bushy-crested, Unicolored, Black-throated and Azure-hooded Jays, Spot-breasted, Black-vented and Bar-winged Orioles, Rufous Sabrewing, Plain-capped Starthroat, Slender Sheartail, Pacific Parakeet, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Belted and Nutting’s Flycatchers, Gray Silky-flycatcher, Slate-colored Solitaire, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Common Chlorospingus, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Spotted and Black-headed Nightingale-Thrushes, Varied Bunting, Lesser Nighthawk, Buff-collared Nightjar, Guatemalan Screech-Owl, Stripe-headed Sparrow, and White-eared Ground-Sparrow.

TIKAL EXTENSION this extra few days (recommended) offers a good number of extra bird species, and also the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Mayans, as we explore the wildlife and culture of another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within a vast area, ancient pyramids and structures reach out of the deep forest into the sky amidst a soundscape of birdsong, to cap a fantastically diverse, and stunningly beautiful tour.

Additional species possible in Tikal include Great Curassow, Ocellated Turkey, White-fronted and Mealy Parrot, Crested Eagle, Orange-breasted Falcon, Slaty-tailed Trogon, Keel-billed Toucan, Chestnut-coloured Woodpecker, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, White-bellied Wren, Montezuma Oropendola, Gray-breasted Chat, Green-backed Sparrow, Yucatan Flycatcher, Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, Mottled and Black-and-white Owls, Guatemalan Screech-Owl, Common Pauraque, Yucatan Poorwill, Bananaquit, Scaly-breasted and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Rose-throated, Scarlet-rumped and Crimson-collared Tanagers, Stripe-throated and Long-billed Hermits, White-necked Jacobin, Red-capped and White-collared Manakins, Dusky Antbird, Black-faced Grosbeak, Black Catbird, and Fork-tailed and Vermilion Flycatchers.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Sun 26 January 2025        Arrival
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we take a scheduled morning flight from Heathrow to Guatemala City, via a short stop in an American airport to change planes. We arrive in the evening, and transfer to a nearby hotel for one night.

Day 2: Mon 27 January             Guatemala City – Tecpán – Zunil
After breakfast in the hotel, we drive the short distance to a pine-oak forest reserve in Guatemala City to look for Bushy-crested Jay, Gray Silky-flycatcher, Spot-breasted Oriole, White-eared Ground-Sparrow, and Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge among others. A good introduction, then we drive for 2 hours to Tecpán, where after lunch in a local restaurant we visit a high-elevation pine-oak forest to seek Pink-headed Warbler, Mountain Trogon, Blue-throated Motmot, Rufous-browed Wren, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird and other special birds of the northern Central American highlands. Continuing into the hills to Zunil, through forests and rolling farmland, some late afternoon birding at cloud forest edge habitat will complete our day. Dinner and accommodation for one night in Zunil.

Day 3: Tues 28 January           Zunil – Santiago Atitlán
An early morning visit to the cloud forest in the Zunil municipal park, where our targets will be Garnet-throated and Wine-throated Hummingbird, Black-capped Siskin, Unicolored Jay, Black-throated Jay, Rufous-browed Wren, and other sought-after highland specialities. After lunch in the hotel, we drive through wooded mountains to the picturesque Lake Atitlán – former home of the now extinct Atitlán Grebe. After a birding stop near the lake (possibly seeing closely-related Pied-billed Grebe), we drive to the village of Santiago Atitlán where we stay for the next two nights.

Day 4: Wed 29 January        Santiago Atitlán / Horned Guan
The enigmatic Horned Guan is target of the day, its favoured habitat being the upper slopes of volcanoes around Lake Atitlán. Always a difficult bird to try and see, for those who wish to look for this strange, fabled species an early start with both packed breakfast and a packed lunch will be required. A challenging hike covering an altitudinal range of about 1100 m (3600 ft) on winding forest track is by no means an easy feat, but we take our time enjoying many other species on the way. A torch or headlamp are advised though for the early part of this walk, as are good hiking boots!

For those who prefer a gentler option, good birding will be offered in a mid-elevation cloud forest nearby. Azure-rumped Tanager, Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Emerald-chinned Hummingbird and many other cloud-forest birds may be seen and lunch can be taken in the hotel. In the afternoon, there will be a chance to visit the town of Santiago Atitlan (a visit to the church and the colourful local market with varied handicrafts and some art galleries is recommended) and a period of relaxation will be planned in the hotel garden.

Day 5: Thurs 30 January        Santiago Atitlán – Los Tarrales
To make the most of the light and early morning birding opportunities, we take a packed breakfast to a mid-elevation cloud forest near Santiago Atitlán to see beautiful Azure-rumped Tanager and Emerald-chinned Hummingbird. Resplendent Quetzal also occurs in this forest, always a delight to see. After lunch we drive to the wonderful Los Tarrales Private Reserve, where late afternoon, in the tropical surroundings of Los Tarrales Lodge, we look for Pacific Parakeet, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and White-bellied Chachalaca and more. Dinner and accommodation is at Los Tarrales Lodge, where we stay for the next two nights.

Day 6: Fri 31 January             Los Tarrales
A full day birding in Los Tarrales. We may take an early morning drive within the reserve to an elevation of 1,200 m (3,900 ft), where Blue-tailed Hummingbird, Azure-rumped Tanager, Highland Guan and other range-restricted birds occur. Several raptors, including White, Gray, Short-tailed, Great and Common Black Hawks and Black Hawk-Eagle are regularly seen. After lunch in Los Tarrales Lodge, we will focus on looking for any remaining target birds before retiring to the lodge for a relaxing evening.

Day 7: Sat 1 February          Los Tarrales – Antigua Guatemala
We enjoy some final birding in the surroundings of the lodge before taking the winding route down from the hills to the quaint and historic city of Antigua Guatemala where we stay for three nights. In the afternoon, we visit a nearby pine-oak forest to look for Bar-winged Oriole, Black-headed Siskin, Highland Guan plus many more.

Days 8 & 9: Sun 2 & Mon 3 February         Antigua Guatemala
Over the next two days we will birdwatch at a local, private reserve and in local pine-oak forests where Black-vented Oriole, Rufous Sabrewing, and Singing Quail occur. On a visit to Finca Filadelfia, in the dry oak forest and scrub we expect to see hummingbirds, large mixed flocks of passerines and wintering warblers and vireos. Regional endemics such as Bushy-crested Jay, Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo and Belted Flycatcher will be sought and there will also be some free time to enjoy the delights and the colonial splendor of Antigua City itself. These days are also likely to include packed breakfasts to make the most of the peak time of day for birding.

Day 10: Tues 4 February           Antigua Guatemala – Motagua valley
After breakfast we go to Cerro Alux, to the high-elevation pine-oak forest where Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, Rufous-browed Wren, Blue-throated Motmot and other regional highland endemics feature among our targets. Leaving the lush trees behind, next we head into the arid Motagua valley in central Guatemala. After lunch in a local restaurant, we spend the afternoon in scrubby habitat where Russet-crowned and Turquoise-browed Motmot, Plain-capped Starthroat, Varied Bunting, Nutting’s Flycatcher and White-lored Gnatcatcher are all possible. Staying in the Montagua valley overnight will give us the chance to try and see Lesser Nighthawk, Buff-collared Nightjar and Guatemalan Screech-Owl on a dusk walk.

Day 11: Wed 5 February            Motagua valley – Biotopo del Quetzal
We continue to look for birds of the arid scrub habitat through the morning, perhaps adding Crested Bobwhite, Lesser Roadrunner, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Stripe-headed Sparrow and Ash-throated Flycatcher to our growing lists before driving to Biotopo del Quetzal. The afternoon is spent in the surroundings of the Biotopo, one of the most important cloud forest reserves in the country, and we stay here for the next two nights to take full advantage of this birding gem.

Day 12: Thurs 6 February            Biotopo del Quetzal
In the private nature reserve near Biotopo del Quetzal we may find speciality birds such as Highland Guan and Azure-hooded and Unicolored Jays before breakfast! The rest of the day will be spent in the cloud forest targeting Slate-colored Solitaire, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Common Chlorospingus, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Spotted and Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush and more.

Day 13: Fri 7 February               Biotopo del Quetzal – Guatemala City
After an early breakfast, there will be some time for birding in the cloud forest of Biotopo del Quetzal with any missing species specifically targeted. Following an early lunch in the hotel, we will drive back to Guatemala City in the afternoon.

Day 14: Sat 8 February             Departure
Transport from the hotel in Guatemala City to the airport in time for your international flight. Breakfast may be available in the hotel, depending on flight time.

Tikal Extension

An extension to the Tikal region is recommended, offering a good number of extra bird species and also the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Mayans, as we explore the wildlife and culture of another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within a vast area ancient pyramids and structures reach out of the deep forest into the sky amidst a soundscape of birdsong, to cap a fantastically diverse and stunningly beautiful tour. 

Additional cost TBC

Day 13: Fri 7 February                 Biotopo del Quetzal – Hun Nal Ye
After an early breakfast, there will be time for some last-minute birding in the cloud forest of Biotopo del Quetzal. After lunch, we drive to Hun Nal Ye with a birding stop on the way for our first experience of Atlantic slope foothill birding – the most bird rich part of the country with a completely different set of birds to learn! New species will be plentiful, and may include Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, Bananaquit, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Scarlet-rumped and Crimson-collared Tanagers. We stay in Hun Nal Ye Lodge for two nights.

Day 14: Sat 8 February              Hun Nal Ye
A full day birding in the fragmented lowland rainforest and adjoining open habitat of Hun Nal Ye. Here we search again for sought after Scaly-breasted Hummingbird and among the diverse species we also hope to see are Stripe-throated and Long-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Red-capped and White-collared Manakin, Dusky Antbird and Black-faced Grosbeak.

Day 15: Sun 9 February           Hun Nal Ye – Tikal
After some early morning birding in the surroundings of Hun Nal Ye Lodge, we take the rest of the day to drive north through the lowlands to Tikal. Among several birding stops along the way, we visit wetlands and open habitats which may produce Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Northern Jacana, several heron and kingfisher species, Anhinga, Fork-tailed Flycatcher and stunning Vermilion Flycatcher. We reach Tikal in the afternoon where we stay for three nights.

Day 16 & 17: Mon 10 & Tues 11 February          Tikal
We enjoy two full days of birding in Tikal, a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dividing our time between different habitats such as tall rainforest, Yucatan scrub, open areas and waterbodies, we aim to see all the specialities of the region. These include Ocellated Turkey, Orange-breasted Falcon, Gray-breasted Chat, Green-backed Sparrow, Yucatan Flycatcher, Rose-throated and Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, and many more. During a nocturnal birding excursion we hope to find Mottled and Black-and-white Owl, Guatemalan Screech-Owl, Common Pauraque, and Yucatan Poorwill. There are also several mammals present in the forest with Black Howler Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey, Tayra, Coati, Jaguarundi, Ocelet, Margay and even Jaguar and Puma possible. There will also be enough time to enjoy and learn about the history of the impressive Maya temple pyramids of Tikal.

Day 18: Wed 12 February         Tikal – Guatemala City
After one last morning birding in Tikal, we must drive back to the island town of Flores for our early farewell lunch. In the afternoon, we take a domestic flight from Flores to Guatemala City, staying in a hotel near the airport.

Day 19: Thurs 13 February            Departure
Transfer from the hotel in Guatemala City to the airport for your international flight back to the UK, arriving on the morning of Friday 14 February 2025.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more..
  • Scheduled return flights between London Heathrow and Guatemala City. A plane change will be required which is of course included as are airport taxes and hotel transfers.
  • ground transportation as outlined, in a modern and spacious air-conditioned vehicle,
  • accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. All meals are locally sourced, often at local restaurants between or near to birding destinations and packed lunches may also be provided from village markets. Water is provided in the vehicle each day.
  • the services of your leaders.
  • entrance fees to parks and reserves,  and tips to hotels and restaurants.

Free Field Guide! 'The 'Birds of Central America' by Andrew C. Vallely and Dale Dyer is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, personal expenses including drinks ordered at the lodges, visa costs where necessary, optional tips to the driver and local guide, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

More holiday information:

Accommodation is in hotels or lodges with all rooms en suite. Some of the lodges are remote, and have simple-style rooms. All are spacious, have en-suite facilities, and are very comfortable to a good standard.
Food is local and may be served as a buffet, with a wide choice. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate with some uphill track and road walking, in general an average level of fitness is required. NB an optional pre-dawn hike covering an altitudinal range of about 1100 m (3600 ft) onto the side of a volcano will be needed to try and see rare Horned Guan. A torch or headlamp are advised for this day as are good hiking boots!
Weather will be mixed. Mostly the temperature will be warm, with the possibility of rain. In some locations the weather is hot and humid, in others hot and dry, and at altitude can be cool and wet.
Insects There are biting insects, though not usually as a major problem.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Visas for Guatemala are obtained upon arrival in the country for UK passport holders. Passports should have six months remaining at the time of departure from Guatemala.
Flights are from London Heathrow. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

Your Leaders

Knut Eisermann
Knut’s knowledge of the birds, the people, and the country is based on more than 20 years of ornithological field research, travelling, and nature conservation work. He has lived in Guatemala since 1997 and has been organising and leading specialised birding tours here since 2003. When not leading tours, he is in the field learning about the behaviour of the endemic birds, finding new and exciting birding hotspots, training local guides, supporting the development of birding lodges and areas and conservation initiatives. Knut has contributed to numerous peer-reviewed papers and book chapters about the ornithology of Central America, and has co-coordinated the designation of International Bird Areas (IBAs) in Guatemala.

Mike Coleman
Mike joined Heatherlea in 2001, and is a top leader with a friendly manner. Mike is an experienced birder worldwide including Guatemala (he lists Antigua as one of his favourite places in the world!) and other Central and South American destinations. We know you will enjoy birding with him on this tour!


Other birding and wildlife holidays in Central America & Caribbean

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in the Americas?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248