Day 1: Sun 10 January Arrival
After relaxing in our complimentary 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 11 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 12 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 13 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 14 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 15 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 16 January 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 and 9: Sun 17 and Mon 18 January 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 19 January 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 20 January 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 21 January 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 22 January 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 23 January 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.
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 GBP1395, Single supplement GBP125.
Day 13: Fri 22 January 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 23 January 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 24 January 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 and 17: Mon 25 and Tues 26 January 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 27 January 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 28 January 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 29 January.