Guatemala is home to hundreds of species of birds, and its diverse set of ecosystems means the variety is huge. Here are the best destinations for birdwatching in the country.
A quetzal, Guatemala’s national bird © ryanacandee / flickr
Biotopo del Quetzal
Head to this nature reserve near the city of Coban in the centre of the country and keep your eyes peeled for the famous quetzal. The long-tailed bird is a symbol of Guatemala and even lends its name to the currency.
The beautiful Lake Atitlan is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Guatemala, and is also a favourite with birdwatchers. Setting off on hikes from the villages that ring the lake, you can spot species such as the quetzal, azure-rumped tanager, and violet sabrewing.
This colonial town draws in backpackers and other visitors keen to experience its cobbled streets and vibrant nightlife, but it’s also surrounded by amazing forests. At the El Pilar Nature Reserve, two miles from the center of town, you can see myriad species in dry forest and cloud forest environments. A definite highlight are the hummingbirds, known as “colibris” to the locals.
Around an hour drive from Antigua is another popular birdwatching spot at Tecpan. Take a stroll into the hilly forests to spot species such as the pink-headed warbler, which is unfortunately threatened by deforestation. It is thought there are only around 50,000 left in southern Mexico and Guatemala, but fortunately there Tecpan is one of the best places to see them.
The magnificent Mayan ruins here are the main draw for tourists, but the birdwatching is fantastic too. Tikal National Park is reportedly home to as many as 400 species of bird in its broadleaf forest, including keel-billed toucans, ocellated turkeys and rare orange-breasted falcons.
Punta de Manabique
This wildlife refuge on the Caribbean coast is within striking distance of Puerto Barrios, around six hours by bus from Guatemala City. Its swamp forests, mangroves and beaches are home to thousands of birds including great egrets, herons and hummingbirds. You may also see jaguars and tapirs in the forests if you’re very lucky!
Near the border with Mexico in the western highlands of the country is the mountain village of Sibinal. Here you can see endemic species such as the pink-headed warbler, crescent-chested warbler, horned guan and more. Be aware that Sibinal is 2,500 metres above sea level, so altitude sickness can be a problem.