Best of Yucatan Birding



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The Best of Yucatan Birding Among the Mayan Ruins  


A 13 day / 12 night Mayan tour to explore the Yucatan peninsula's most diverse ecosystems with over 700 species of birds, both endemic and migratory. Encounter with the ancient civilization and legacy of the Mayan Culture.  The tour includes caverns, archaeological sites and nature reserves that are home to a great number of bird species.

This exceptional birding experience will explore some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the Mayan world: Palenque, Uxmal, Chichén Itzá, and Calakmul. This learning adventure will journey through time – from modern Yucatan to the cradle of Mayan civilization – and through eleven eco-zones ranging from humid rain forests to coastal scrub. Some of the 700 bird species recorded on this circuit are very rare or endangered with another 20 endemic species. Tour participants will gain an understanding of the many birds observed against an historical background and an ever-changing landscape.  This is a physically active program with light hiking up to 2-4 hours a day on undulating trails. sometimes climbing old, uneven steps at some ruins.    

We prefer to offer this tour during the months of January through June when the greatest number of endemic and migratory species are in residence, but we can run the tour at any time during the year.

Begins in Cancun and ends in Villahermosa Mexico.

The following itinerary may vary slightly from program to program. Some activities may not be available because of local conditions. Comparable activities will be substituted in these cases. All field trips have site lectures, while excursions and extracurricular activities do not. Except for Day 1 all meals are included with the program.


Day 1 – Cancun - Arrival in Cancun for a transfer to hotel and a welcome for all participants and a briefing on the specifics of the tour activities.  Dinner and overnight accommodations at the Marriott Courtyard.  (D)


Day 2 – Program orientation, Birding at Selvática at Puerto Morelos, Chichén Itza  - This morning, transfer to Selvática for birding on forest trails.   Selvática is a jungle-adventure park located in Puerto Morelos, approximately 20 miles south of Cancún. Within the jungle reserve, guests can enjoy swimming in a cenote, walking on trails and suspension bridges, or zip lining through the forest.  Depart for Chichén Itza. Lunch on route at Xay Be restaurant. Arrive at Mayaland-Chichén Itza hotel and check-in. Enjoy birding around the hotel garden and trails. Pre-dinner lecture. (B,L,D)



Day 3 - Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve - Early morning departure for a field trip to the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve wetlands. Birdwatch during a boat ride in the reserve's wetlands.  This important wetland reserve is located approximately 167 miles from Mérida. There is great diversity of plant and animal life in the area which includes 523 registered plant species, 335 bird species (179 are resident, 142 are migratory, and 14 are resident migrants), 95 reptile and amphibian species, 71 registered fish species, and 58 mammal species listed as endangered. The reserve’s most famous resident is the colorful Caribbean Flamingo which can be seen nesting in the El Cuyo basin. Other bird families commonly spotted in the reserve include: herons, storks, kingfishers, cormorants, coots, rails, and gallinules.  Lunch at local restaurant and an afternoon return to the Mayaland-Chichén Itza hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon birding on hotel grounds. (B,L,D)



Day 4 - Birding at Chichén Itza Ruins, Swimming in a Cenote, Merida - Early morning birding at the hotel then a morning field trip to the Chichén Itza ruins and site lecture.  The once powerful city, Chichén Itzá, located in the north-central region of the Peninsula, is a fascinating archaeological complex. It centers upon two unusually large cenotes, one that provided water for the city and the other a famous Sacred Cenote. The forests in and around the archaeological complex are home to a variety of wildlife. Parrots, trogons, toucans, and tanagers are commonly sighted in the area. Endemic species include the Yucatán Woodpecker and the Yucatán Parrot. This is also a good area to spot migrant songbirds that spend the winter in this more benign environment.


Continue your field trip with a visit to Cenote Ikil for swimming, lunch and a site lecture on cenotes and the spiritual life of the Mayas.   The tour will then continue to Merida.  One of Mexico’s most hospitable and nostalgic colonial cities, Mérida combines colonial era architecture with a rich Indian heritage. Graceful colonial buildings and shade trees border the city’s lovely Plaza Mayor. Most historical buildings were built between the 17th and 18th centuries and are notable for their gleaming white and pastel exteriors. Mérida is an ideal focal point from which to access birding sites in the area. Endemic birds include the Yucatán Wren, Yucatán Bobwhite, Mexican Sheartail, Caribbean Flamingos and White Pelicans.

After arrival at the El Castellanos hotel and check-in there will be a lecture on birding the Yucatán.



Day 5 - Birding Uxmal Ruins - Exploring Campeche.  A morning field trip to Uxmal.  Located in the Puuc region of Yucatán, Uxmal was one of the largest Mayan cities in the Classic period between 600-1000 A.D. During this period, it maintained its status as capital of a vast territory on the peninsula. Uxmal’s architecture was executed in the Puuc style, with finely hewn stones and elaborate stone mosaics forming geometric and naturalistic designs on the upper faces of the buildings. Among its buildings are the famous Pyramid of the Wizard, the Quadrangle of Nuns, and the House of the Turtles. There is little water in the area and the Mayans built a series of limestone-lined reservoirs and cisterns to catch water during the dry season. Because of the scarcity of water, the rain god Chac was of utmost importance and his image is abundant here.  Here we hope to spot some endemic species such as the Yucatán Flycatcher, White-browed Wren, Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallow, and the colorful Gray-throated Chat.


After lunch at local restaurant you will transfer to Campeche.  The city of Campeche is located on the southeastern part of the Yucatán Peninsula, facing the Gulf of Mexico. This colonial city, founded in 1540 by Spanish conquistadors, was built on top of a Maya city (known as Campeche or Kimpech). It was the most important port in the Yucatán until the mid 1800’s and was one of the largest and most important cities of the peninsula (second to Mérida). The old Spanish fortifications which can still be seen throughout the city, date back to the late 1600’s; built to protect its inhabitants from pirate attacks. Some notable historic sites in the city include the main plaza, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Conception, the Puerta de Tierra, San José Fort, Casa #6, and the San Miguel Fort. A more recent addition, inaugurated in 2000, the Malecon (waterfront) was built along the city’s seafront and has paths and sitting areas for those who wish to enjoy beautiful views of the bay. Campeche was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.

Arrive at the Hotel Baluartes Campeche, check-in, have dinner and take an evening walk around Campeche.


Day 6 - Birding the Edzná Ruins, Xpujil – In the morning you will depart for Edzná and Xpujil for a field trip to Edzná Ruins for birdwatching among the ruins and a site lecture.  Edzná Ruins: This is an important, though not well known, archaeological site southeast of Campeche. The name Edzná is thought by some to be derived from Itzná which means House of the Itzáes. The Mayan city first began as an agricultural settlement around 400 BC. Over the years, the city developed advanced methods of irrigation and water conservation which led to its agricultural success and population boom. Edzná experienced two major periods of economic growth and expansion, the last one ending around 150 AD. The Great Acropolis and Little Acropolis are the focal points of the site and include the Temple of the Five Levels. This impressive tiered pyramid was built in five stages and dominates the main area of the complex, overlooking the surrounding plazas and lesser buildings.

   adventure travel  mexico wild life

After lunch at local restaurant you will enjoy some birding on a local lagoon before transferring to Xpujil.  The name Xpujil means Place of the Cattails in the language of the Mayas. The site was officially discovered in 1938 by members of the fourth Carnegie Expedition to Campeche. The expedition’s success was accomplished with the help of a local scout who gathered information about different archaeological sites in the area by talking to chicle farmers. This interesting site is just a few miles west of the town of Xpujil, and is part of a larger group of ruins in an area called Rio Bec. Xpujil is unusual in that it has three towers instead of the usual two found in the Rio Bec area and it resembles the tall structures found in the Petén area of Guatemala. The highly ornamented towers have roof combs and false stairways with carved jaguar heads.

Later you will arrive in Xpujil, check-in at the Hotel Debliz Xpujil and have dinner.

Day 7 - Calakmul Biosphere Reserve – In the morning you will transfer to Calakmul for a birding field trip in Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and site lecture.  The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is home to many endangered mammals and an impressive 350 species of birds. It is part of the largest extension of tropical forest outside the Amazon basin. The top of the great pyramid in the archaeological complex offers a good vantage point to look for soaring raptors such as Hook-billed and Gray-headed Kites, Hawk-Eagles and the magnificent King Vulture, the symbol of Calakmul. Other possibilities are endemic species such as the Ocellated Turkey and Rose-throated Tanager, as well as rare and endangered birds such as Great Curassow and Crested Guan.  After lunch at a local restaurant you will return to Xpujil for some time at leisure.  (B,L,D)

Day 8 - Birding the Becan Ruins, Palenque – On this morning you will transfer to the ruins of Becan for a birding trip and site lecture. Becan was once the political, economic, and religious center of the area known today as Rio Bec. The ruins are situated about 4 miles west of the town of Xpuhil. One distinguishing characteristic of Becan is the presence of moats and protective walls around the city; a feature not commonly found in Mayan cities. The pyramids and temples in Becan were built in clusters around 3 main plazas, and also include a small but well preserved ball court. Some buildings still have remnants of the detailed facades that once graced their walls, giving us insight into what the city must have looked like in its heyday.

Afterwards you will transfer to Palenque with lunch en route to arrive in Palenque in the afternoon and check-in at
Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic. There you will have dinner and a lecture on Pacal's Tomb. (B,L,D)

    bird watching   adventure travel  adventure travel


Day 9 - Early Morning Birding, Palenque Ruins, Birding at Misol-Há Waterfalls – Today there will be early morning birding and breakfast at your hotel.  Then a field trip to Palenque with a site lecture.  Vast, mysterious and enchanting, the ruined city of Palenque is considered one of the loveliest archaeological sites in the world. It is nestled amidst steep and thickly forested hills, and frequently shrouded in lacy mist. Though much of the surrounding area has been cleared over the centuries for farming, Palenque still offers excellent birding opportunities with a host of additional species not to be found in the drier forests of Calakmul.   


Afterwards you will transfer to Misol-Há for lunch and an afternoon birding around the Misol-Há waterfall.  The beautiful waterfall of Misol-Há is located approximately 13 miles south of Palenque. Steady streams of water cascade from the cliff’s edge and spill into a deep pool 98 feet below. The craggy rock face, rushing water, and tropical vegetation help to conceal a deep cave that leads to a subterranean pool. The entrance to the cave, located behind the falls, can be reached by following a trail along the base of the cliff.

Accommodations will again be at the Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic.  


Day 10 - Palenque, Bonampak – Today it’s a full morning of birding in Palenque before transferring to Bonampak for exploring and birding the ruins and a site lecture on the history of the famous Bonampak murals.   The ruins of Bonampak were still being used for ceremonial purposes by Lacandón Indians when archaeologists explored the site in 1946. The city was built in the Early Classic Period and has a small plaza, surrounded by groups of smaller buildings. The most remarkable feature of this site is the presence of colorful frescoes depicting war and sacrificial ceremonies. These paintings were a shock to the academic world since until then most believed the Maya were peaceful people.  Then you will transfer to your hotel for check-in at the Cabañas Valle Escondido and dinner at hotel.  (B,L,D)



Day 11: Birding the Yaxchilán Ruins  - Today you will enjoy an early morning bird walk and breakfast at hotel.  Then you will transfer to the Usumacinta River for a boat ride to Yaxchilán with birding at the site. The ancient Mayan city hides in the midst of a lush rainforest on the banks of the Usumacinta River, and is only accessible by boat. Yaxchilán was once a powerful city in the region and controlled many lesser communities nearby. Its power and influence peaked during the long reign of Shield Jaguar II who ruled from the late 600’s to the mid 700’s. Yaxchilán is probably best known for the quality and beauty of the sculptures found throughout the city on stelae, altars, lintels and murals. A remarkable feature of many monument sculptures, depicting bloodletting rituals, is the presence of women as the main figures; something virtually unheard of in Mayan monument art. Upon your return trip up the river you will have lunch at a local restaurant and be transferred back to Palenque for check-in at your hotel and time at leisure. 

Day 12: Villahermosa, Birding the Usumacinta Marshes and Catazajá Coast – After an early morning bird walk and breakfast at the hotel you will transfer to Villahermosa for a birding field trip to Usumacinta marshes and the Catazajá coast.   The Usumacinta mangroves, and the flooded areas that surround them, are considered to be some of the most important wetlands in the country. The warm and humid climate, combined with rich soil and the availability of water (especially during the rainy summer months), all help to support a variety of plant and wildlife in the area. The wetlands are home to over 370 species of plants, 279 species of birds, 60 species of fish, 85 species of reptiles, 26 species of amphibians, and over 130 species of mammals. Ducks, waders, raptors and shorebirds are commonly seen in the area.

   playa del carmen      ecotourism

Returning to Villahermosa there will be lunch en route and arrival and check-in at the Hyatt Regency Villahermosa with relaxation time before your farewell dinner. (B,L,D)


Day 13: Depart from Villahermosa. (B)


Minimum 4 Persons

Estimated  2015 Tour Prices - Per person - Double Occupancy - Standard Accommodations

Four Persons - $3,600; Six Persons - $3.300; Eight Persons - $2,900

Single Supplement - $660


Estimated  2016 Tour Prices - Per person - Double Occupancy - Standard Accommodations

Four Persons - $3,780; Six Persons - $3.465; Eight Persons - $3,045

Single Supplement - $660


International airfares ARE NOT INCLUDED in any of our tour packages.

PLEASE NOTE - The Mayan Traveler tours are not "day tours" or "seat in bus" tours.  Our tours (other than Guaranteed Departure tours) are quality, escorted tours designed for a minimum of 4 persons.  We can accommodate smaller groups but the prices quoted on this site will not apply.  For example, if 2 two persons wish to travel we can accommodate but the total charge for the tour will be 1 1/2 times the published price, per person.  In other words, two persons can travel on their own tour but the charge will be as if three were traveling.  In that case the 4 person minimum requirement does not apply.

ALSO, our tours generally begin on the 1st through the 8th of each month.  Large groups or customized tours can begin any day.  Other exceptions would be for Holiday weekends, Spring break, etc. when travel schedules are dictated by the calendar.

Discounted United Airlines airfares are available with all our packages!


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This Tour Includes:  

·        Services of a professional birding guide.  

·        Hotels and lodges, hotel taxes service charges, and tips for baggage handling.

·        Breakfasts (B), Lunches (L) and Dinners (D) as detailed in the tour itinerary.

·        Carefully maintained air-conditioned motor coach; maximum 10 tour members per vehicle; experienced driver. 

·        All entrance fees to parks and archaeological sites are included in the program.

·        Complete program of sightseeing and cultural events as described.  

Please Note:  

·        Other accommodations could be substituted for like kind and quality based upon availability.

The Mayan Traveler/Tropical Travel
P.O. Box 132739
Panther Creek Station
The Woodlands TX  77393
1-888-The-Maya (1-888-843-6292) or 281-367-3386
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