From The Highlands to The Pacific Coast In 8 Days


Trip Dossier

DAY 1.
Our adventure in Guatemala begins with at La Aurora International Airport, with a transfer to the Ciudad Vieja Hotel, located in Guatemala City. Our guide and host will give brief details of the upcoming days.

DAYS 2 - 4
The central highlands of the country belong to the biome called Mountain Forest, extensive and elongated sierras that play a very important role in the avian diversity of the area. These zones, with an average altitude of 3000 meters ASL, serve as a corridor for several species arriving from the north. Floral specimens like oaks, pines, maples and alders grow here, providing familiar habitat for northern birds. For this reason, birds that we can find here are very similar to those found further north. No fewer than 25 northern species live primarily in this biome, including Red-shafted Flicker, Whip-poor-will, Hairy Woodpecker, Steller's Jay and Eastern Blue Bird. An additional 40 tropical species make a great contribution to the diversity of this area. Around 20 endemic species belong to this region, which starts in the Tehuantepec Isthmus in Mexico, and finishes in the Darien, Panama. Emerald Toucanet, Highland Guan, Bushy-crested Jay, Blue-throated Green Motmot, Trogons and several hummingbirds are some of the birds that share this habitat with northern species. This splendid mix of birds makes these mountains a charming place to start your trip to "THE BIRDS OF THE NEOTROPICS." Some of the cultural and natural attractions to be visited include:


"The most beautiful lake in the world." Everyone who visits repeats that phrase. From every roadside vista, Lake Atitlán is a breathless picture of rugged mountains and gentle waters. Three volcanoes - Tolimán, Atitlán and San Pedro, form the lake's western shore. The lake's surface is 1600 meters ASL and the depth is over 300 meters. There are twelve indigenous towns around the lake. We will spend two nights on this magnificent scenery.

This indigenous town rests on the south shore of Atitlán Lake. We will meet here a very respected indigenous lady, who will show us her weavings, most of them dedicated to birds. Here we will begin to learn the intricate relationship between The Maya and the birds.

At an altitude of 1530 meters ASL and surrounded by three volcanoes: Agua (3750 meters ASL), Acatenango (3960 meters ASL) and Fuego (3800 meters ASL), the former capital of Guatemala is a colonial-stylish jewel, declared "Mankind's Heritage" by UNESCO. Founded in 1543, La Antigua was built and rebuilt several times, due to the earthquakes that occur with certain regularity on the area where the city stands. This rebuilding process has left on the city a varied architectural style, whose chronology stops in 1773, date in which the capital of Guatemala moves to its actual position. We will spend one night on this enchanting scenery.

DAYS 5 - 8
From the Highland Humid Subtropical Forest we descend to the Pacific Foothills located on the south slope of the Sierra Madre, the Pacific Foothills begin at about 850 meters ASL and ends on the coastal plain, around 200 meters ASL. This area, which faces the Pacific Ocean, receives abundant precipitation at the middle and low altitudes and has great quantities of mist at higher elevations. These are fertile areas for coffee and cardamom plantations.

No fewer than 30 species have adapted to this kind of forest. Most are endemic passeriforms of Mesoamerica, with two exceptions - Horned Guan and Rufous Sabrewing. In this humid area, we can find Long-tailed Manakin, Rufous and White Wren, Spotted Nightingale-Thrush, White-eared Ground-sparrow and Chestnut Capped Warbler, for example.

Descending from the mountains, the south coast plains are quickly reached. The south coastal beaches, stretching along the Guatemalan Pacific Ocean, consist of black volcanic sand. Covering more than 90 kms inland, the wide, lowland plains are crossed by dozens of rivers and shallow marshes. This farming area is the most fertile land in the country. Everywhere are huge sugar plantations, as well as traditional cattle ranches. This area was, until the beginning of the century, was a closed jungle of Tropical Dry Forest. The establishment of the industries mentioned converted this forest in a Tropical Humid Savannah. Some of the most common species that we can find in this place are White-collared Seedeater, Wood Stork, White Bellied Chachalaca, Yellow-naped Parrot, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Roadside Hawk and Harris Hawk.

Heading south from these plains we reach the exotic black sand beaches of the Pacific Ocean with adjacent Mangrove Forests, marshes and swamps. Several aquatic species can be found in this area, including Night Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Olivaceus Cormorant, five species of kingfishers, Northern Jacana, Peregrine Falcon, two species of pelicans, Snail Kites and many more. This part of Guatemala is an exceptionally rich area for Birdwatching and the Monterrico Nature Preserve will be our birding place for two nights!


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