Upcoming Tour Date(s)
January 12-22, 2023 —
2 of 8 Spaces Available
January 2026 Dates TBD —
8 of 8 Spaces Available
Not only did Tim deliver the birds, but he kept us in good spirits, even when hiking up a mountain at 3am.
Daniel T. Most Wanted, 2017
Mexico: Chiapas Endemic birds, Mayan History, and Unique Cuisine!
Most people think of Mexico for white sandy beaches and familiar tourist destinations like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. But on the southern border with Guatemala, the state of Chiapas is a dream destination for birders. Here, species like antbirds and tyrants typically associated with Costa Rica from the south, and species like chickadees and nuthatches from the Mountain West intersect. This transition creates one of the most diverse state bird lists in Mexico with almost 700 species. Combined with the rich Mayan history, unforgettable scenery, and regional cuisine, this tour will be a highlight of your year.
Leaders: Luis Ku & Tim Avery
Itinerary subject to change due to weather, birding conditions, and other factors out of our control.
Day 1 -Villahermosa, Camino Palizada, and Laguna de Catazajá Thursday, January 12
With all of our group having arrived on the 11th, our local team will plan on picking the group up from our hotel after breakfast and get right to birding. We’ll visit Camino Palizada birding the open country, agriculture, wetlands, and second growth. Many of the species will be familiar birds wintering from the United States here. Waterfowl, shorebirds, waders, vultures, etc. But, you never know what may show up, a Jabiru and Double-striped Thick-knee were present here in November, while birds like Aplomado Falcon, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Snail Kite, and Grassland Yellow-Finch are all possible.
After lunch, we’ll visit Laguna de Catazajá and take a boat ride. We’ll likely have some overlap from Camino Palizada, but should pick up a healthy number of new species. Our focus will be on American Pygmy Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, and Pinnated Bittern.
Afterwards, we’ll continue to Palenque for dinner and possibly some owling afterwards!
Night in Palenque
Day 2 - Palenque and Surrounding Areas Friday, January 13
Palenque is a medium-sized site, smaller than Chichen Itza, but icontains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb, and bas-relief carvings that the Mayas produced. Much of the history of Palenque has been reconstructed from reading the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the many monuments. By 2005, the discovered area covered up to 1 square mile, but it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city is explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle.
This introduction to birding in the state of Chiapas is reminiscent of birding locations further south in Central America. Hummingbirds, Motmots, Toucans, Tanagers, and Parrots of numerous varieties can be found here, as the park boasts a list of more than 300 species. After the morning we’ll make the long drive south to Frontera Corozal, our destination for the next 2 nights.
The drive is an interesting juxtaposition of agricultural land and dense jungles, the intersection of people and wild here where we bird in the most remote corner of Mexico.
Night in Frontera Corozal
Day 3 - Bonampak Saturday, January 14
While the ruins here are quite small compared to other sites in the state, the bird list exceeds 300 species and should provide an exciting morning of tropical birding. With any luck, we might find Black Hawk-Eagle, White-whiskered Puffbird, any number of woodcreepers, flycatchers, tanagers, and wrens. Hummingbirds are also plentiful here while other rare jungle goodies like Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Black-throated Shrike-Tanager, Slaty-tailed Trogon, and Scaly-throated Leaftosser are possible.
Here in the southern portion of the state, the birdlife more closely resembles that of Costa Rica, than elsewhere in Mexico.
In the evening we’ll put some serious effort into nocturnal birds like Great Potoo, Northern Potoo, Black-and-white Owl, Crested Owl, Mottled Owl, Middle American Screech-Owl, and Central American Pygmy-Owl.
Night in Frontera Corazal
Day 4 - Yaxchilán Sunday, January 15
This morning we’ll board a boat to visit Yaxchilán, an archeological site on the Usumacinta River bordering Guatemala.
Spotted Wood-Quail, Great Tinamou, and Little Tinamou may be heard bellowing in the understory. Purple-crowned Fairy and Stripe-throated Hermit may be seen feeding on the tropical flowers. Rufous-tailed Jacamar is expected, so hopefully, we can nail down a good look, while we enjoy the woodpeckers, toucans, and parrots. Lovely Cotinga, Great Antshrike, Dot-winged Antwren, Dusky Antbird, Cinnamon Becard, Royal Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, and White-whiskered Puffbird are just some of the possibilities. A real prize here would be the incredible Ornate Hawk-Eagle, a show-stopping bird not soon to be forgotten.
After lunch, we’ll travel 2 hours south to the edge of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. We’ll be spending the night here at a lodge, allowing us to bask in the jungle, in one of the most remote regions of Mexico.
Night at Hotel Ecolodge Ara Macao Las Guacamayas
Day 5 - Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve Monday, January 16
The Montes Azules (Blue Mountains) Biosphere Reserve was established in 1978 as Mexico’s first biosphere reserve. This reserve covers part of the Lacandon Jungle, covering 331,200 hectares, one fifth of the original rainforest in Chiapas. It remains one of the largest remaining montane rainforests in Mexico.
We’ll spend most of the day around the lodge and reserve taking a boat tour to cover more ground. Much of the birding here will be based on what the local guides have staked out, what we have the best opportunities to find, and what specialty birds we expect to have. Scarlet Macaw, Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Muscovy Duck, Crane Hawk, Sungrebe, toucans, motmots, trogons, hummingbirds, and more than 300 other species are possible here.
In the afternoon we’ll transfer to Las Nubes and continue birding after dark for owls and nightjars.
Night at Centro Ecoturístico Las Nubes
Day 6 - Centro Ecoturístico Las Nubes Tuesday, January 17
This hotel lodge is situated on the banks of the Santo Domingo River in front of the Las Nubes Waterfall on the west flank the Lacandon Jungle that we’ve now seen from 3 sides. With our last morning in this jungle habitat we’ll work on picking up any species we might still need before ascending to higher elevations, cooler temperatures, and some very different bird life for the next few days.
Las Nubes is far less visited than Las Guacamayas by tourists, but is equally as beautiful and has similar potential for species. In comparison the bird lists here is much smaller due to the lack of western birders—we’ll try to add a few birds to their location list on this visit.
After lunch we’ll transfer 2 hours to Montebello National Park for the night, and get our first taste of west Chiapas specialty birds. While all the targets are listed on tomorrow’s itinerary, we will likely encounter a few before wrapping things up for the night.
Night in Montebello National Park
Day 7 - Montebello National Park Wednesday, January 18
This morning we’ll enjoy the stunning views, and stunning birds of this area which may be highlighted by any number of the following birds: Band-backed Wren, Common Chlorospingus, Rufous-collared Robin, Azure-crowned Hummingbird, White-naped Brushfinch, Highland Guan, Brown-backed Solitaire, Northern Emerald-Toucanet, Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush, Green-throated Mountain-gem, and Slaty-breasted Tinamou.
Eventually we’ll start making our way to San Cristobal de las Casas for the night and if time permits we will do some light birding before dark to see if we can track down a few of the highland specialties here, namely the Pink-headed Warbler, but also various Mountain-gems, Hooded Grosbeak, Golden-browed Warbler, Black-capped Siskin, Wine-throated Hummingbird, and Gray Silky-flycatcher.
After dark we’ll venture out to search for the mythical Unspotted Saw-whet Owl and near endemic Bearded Screech-Owl. No guarantees, but we will put forth some serious effort!
Night in San Cristobal
Day 8 - Parque Ecoturístico Montetik Thursday, January 19
We’ll spend the morning birding the mountains around town again, making sure we get incredible looks at Pink-headed Warbler, but also seeking out other specialties like Mountain Trogon, Blue-throated Motmot, Tufted Flycatcher, Black-capped Swallow, Pine Flycatcher, and Olive Warbler.
The transition to montane forest also provides an abundance of species more typical of the mountain west like Steller’s Jay, Western Tanager, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker, and Spotted Towhee.
In the afternoon we’ll make the 3+ hour journey to the Pacific Lowlands. On the way if time permits we’ll make a few stops in the foothills for our first shot at the gorgeous Rose-bellied Bunting. This species is a highlight on any tour and well worth the effort to track down. But it’s not the only bird of note: Citreoline Trogon, Orange-breasted Bunting, and Orange-fronted Parakeet are also found here.
Night in Tonalá
Day 9 - La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve and Pacific Lowlands Friday, January 20
This morning we’ll leave the hotel early to travel to the La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve on the South Pacific coast of Mexico. You’ll be able to snooze on the 2-hr drive in the dark. One of our main targets here will be the elusive and stunning Agami Heron which breeds locally in the mangrove lined waterways here.
Other birds we might encounter include Boat-billed Heron, Sungrebe, Gray-headed Kite, all the local kingfishers, waders, raptors, and more. Some of the lowland endemics are possible here as well. In the Pacific Lowlands heading back to Tonalá, we will look for the nearly endemic Giant Wren and White-bellied Chachalaca, as well as Turquoise-browed Motmot, Spot-breasted Oriole, Orange-chinned Parakeet, and perhaps Yellow-naped Parrot and Pacific Parakeet.
If time permits in the evening we’ll do some birding near town if we missed any targets for the day, or the conditions are good for photos.
Night in Tonalá
Day 10 - The Pacific Slope and Nava’s Wren Saturday, January 21
This morning we’ll focus our effort on the pacific slopes. Regardless wow our luck earlier, we’ll try again for a very specific target bird, the gorgeous Rose-bellied Bunting. As mentioned, this species is a highlight on any tour here and well worth the effort to track down. We’ll also spend some time making sure we are able to track down Citreoline Trogon, Orange-breasted Bunting, and Orange-fronted Parakeet.
Once we’ve tracked down these targets we will head to Camino a Ejido Armando Zebadua for the very local endemic Nava’s Wren found humid evergreen forest of limestone lowlands and foothills here.
We’ll end the day in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, go over our checklist so far for the tour, and celebrate our last full day with a delicious meal. There is a small chance we may go owling tonight, but this is something we would decide the fly.
Night in Tuxtla Gutiérrez
Day 11 - Sumidero Canyon National Park & End of Tour Sunday, January 22
In the morning we visit the dramatic Sumidero Canyon National Park, where the Grijalva River exits from the central valley of Chiapas on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The incredible scenery and birds we might find here should make for a great last morning on our tour!
We’ll spend the morning in this superb area, whose birds include Lesser Roadrunner, a variety of hummingbirds, Belted Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Red-breasted Chat, Yellow Grosbeak, Blue (Cabanis’s) Seedeater, and Bar-winged Oriole.
The afternoon will be reserved for tracking down any birds we might still need that we have a reasonable chance of finding. Any airport drop-offs will happen n the afternoon, while the rest of the group staying overnight for morning flights will be dropped off at our hotel in the evening, where we’ll do our final checklist, and get a good nights sleep!
End of Tour - Thanks for joining us in Chiapas!
What's Included & What to Expect
What to Expect on Your Tour
All attendees need to plan on arriving on January 11th. Upon arrival at Carlos Rovirosa Pérez International Airport in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, you will take a hotel shuttle to the Holiday Inn and check in for the night. The group will mee the following morning at 7:45 AM in the lobby to load the van and begin the tour.
Throughout the tour, we will travel in a comfortable 15-person Van. There is lots of room to stretch out with your gear and not feel like a sardine in a tin. Throughout the tour, we'll switch up seating arrangements so everyone gets a different view day-to-day.
Ice-cold water is available whenever you need from the back of the van.
Accommodations are typically basic but comfortable and often the best local option available where we're birding.
Birding 1st, Photography 2nd. This is a birding tour, with the focus on getting as many birds as possible, although casual photographers in the group will find some birds for photography. There may be some feeders on this tour, but most photography is on the fly as it and will always take second place to making sure everyone sees the bird. None-the-less there will be plenty of photo opportunities on this tour.
Most mornings we leave early and will stop at a convenience store for you to purchase coffee and snacks. Most days we eat two large meals. Usually a late morning meal after the best birding hours are over--often at local villages with delicious cuisine--and then dinner at a normal hour at some of our local favorite restauraunts. Typical Mexican fare is the norm and you will eat some of hte best tacos you've ever had while on this tour! On the rare occasion we may have an early breakfast at our hotel then lunch after our morning birding.
Generally, this tour follows a rather relaxed but steady pace. Quite often we will spend a longer amount of time birding a single location, often walking or driving short distances then spending a good deal of time observing. Therefore we will spend a greater amount of time in the field, but the actual pace will be fairly relaxed. There are several long drives between major locations that will provide chances to relax while we travel. Also, with around 12 hours of daylight, the days aren't too long and with limited nocturnal birding, evenings typically provide a nice chance to relax as well.
The combination of pace, terrain, climate, and observability make this tour fairly easy for just about anyone. There will be a fair amount of walking day-to-day (up to several miles at most), but it is mostly on well-maintained roads, tracks, or trails that are generally flat. A number of locations provide birding that is also generally pretty easy with open views of the canopy, or forest edges where birds may perch in the open.
Weather and Temperature
Chiapas is warm year round. High temperatures range from the mid-70's to the low-90's. Night time temps at some of the higher elevation sites will dip into the 50's, and rain is possible this time of year about 1 in every 3 days. So we generally do expect rain, but it should be limited. Plan accordingly for both warm and cool temperatures.
Insects, Snakes, and Predators
Oh my! Malaria-carrying Mosquitoes can be found at all of the locations we will be visiting near the Guatemala border, so we highly recommend anti-malarials, protective clothing, and repellent. There are various other biting insects, spiders, snakes, etc, but nothing of any serious concern.
A valid passport or passport card is required for all U.S. citizens traveling beyond the Mexican border zone. Passports or passport cards are required for U.S. citizens 16 and older to re-enter the U.S. Mexican immigration may not accept washed, mutilated, or otherwise damaged passports, and require their carriers to return to the United States.
Tourist cards are required for this tour. Tourist cards are available on line before you travel, on the plane, and at the airport in Cancun. Travelers must keep their card with them at all times, since immigration federal officers have the right ask visitors to provide proof of their legal status at any time. Travelers without the proper documentation have occasionally been detained. It is also important to have passport and tourist card photocopies in case the originals are lost or stolen.
U.S. citizens must return their tourist card when they depart Mexico. Visitors who are unable to present their card may encounter significant delays and be asked to file a police report, pay fines, and obtain an exit visa.
Endemic Bird Highlights
- West Mexican Chachalaca
- Red-breasted Chat
- Rose-bellied Bunting
- Orange-breasted Bunting
- Giant Wren
- Nava’s Wren
- Citreoline Trogon
- Cinnamon-tailed Sparrow
- Nearly 60 Mexican Near Endemics
- Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve
- Montebello National Park
- Sumidero Canyon National Park
- Parque Ecoturístico Montetik
- Tuxtla Gutiérrez Zoo
- Professional Guide Service
- All Ground Transportation
- 10-nights Accomodations
- 2-3 Meals/day with Soft Drinks
- Water for Refreshment
- Spotting Scope while Birding
- Birds—we’ll find some birds
- Some Flammtastic Tour Swag
- Delightful Conversation about Birds
- A Thoroughly Enjoyable Time!
We also include SFW dad jokes, witty bird puns, and the occasional commentary on things non-bird related!
What's Not Included
- Alcoholic Drinks
- Cameras and Lenses
- Personal Flashlights/Headlamps
- Bug Spray
- Jackets or Sweaters
- Shoes and Socks
- Room Service & Additional Food
- Phone Calls
- Tips to Guides & Porters
- Flights or Transportation to Mexico
2020 & 2022 Trip Advisor Travelers' Choice Award Consistently earning great reviews from birders!
Top Rated Wildlife Tour in Salt Lake City
Tim was passionate about the birds, enthusiastic about getting everyone on every bird, professional with planning and guiding, and extremely knowledgeable about the birds. We got all of our targets...
Becky L Most Wanted , 2019
Still have questions? Ready to book a tour? Either way tapping the buttons below will put you in touch with us!
Sign up for our mailing list so you never miss an update, get our latest tour news, and exclusive deals on new products and tours!