Santiago Atitlán is located in the south-western bay of Lake Atitlán, on the foot of Tolimán Volcano, in the western highlands of Guatemala. Several hotels on the lake shore, facing the beautiful forested cone of San Pedro Volcano across the bay, provide comfortable accommodation for some days of birding in different habitats reachable within a short drive or boat ride.
Habitats include mid-elevation cloud forest, where CAYAYA BIRDING staff discovered Azure-rumped Tanager in 2014. Also Resplendent Quetzal, Blue-crowned Chlorophonia, Green-throated Mountain-gem, Highland Guan, Black Thrush, Blue-throated Motmot, and Black Hawk-Eagle can be observed there.
High-elevation cloud forest on the volcano slopes are home of Horned Guan, Garnet-throated Hummingbird, Amethyst-throated Hummingbird, Wine-throated Hummingbird, and Black-throated Jay, to name a few. Dry oak forest on the slopes around the lake harbors a small population of Belted Flycatcher. Also Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Slender Sheartail and Sparkling-tailed Woodstar can be seen here.
Scrub habitat and coffee plantations offer habitat for Rusty Sparrow, White-faced Ground-Sparrow, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Rufous Sabrewing, and Cabanis's Wren. The reed belt along the southern lake shore used to be the breeding habitat of the endemic Atitlan Grebe, considered extinct in the 1980ies. Depending on the influx of migratory waterbirds, several ducks (Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead) can be seen during the northern winter months. Ruddy Duck, Green Heron, Common Gallinule are residents. See also the list of waterbirds recorded in the bay of Santiago Atitlán during Christmas Bird Counts organized by CAYAYA BIRDING since 2007.
Santiago Atitlán and other villages on the lake shore with their vibrant Mayan culture are the perfect base for birding daytrips if your travel friend/spouse is not as eager on the birds as you are. Several options to learn about the local culture and religion, textiles, and art, as well as some sports activities such as kayaking and hiking provide a complementary program to the birding in Santiago Atitlán.
Access and accommodation: Santiago Atitlán is easily accessible on paved road from San Lucas Tolimán and by boat from all villages around the lake. Santiago Atitlán has a variety of hotels and restaurants.
When is the best time for a visit to Santiago Atitlán? Any time of the year.
How do you support conservation and development in Santiago Atitlán? With your entrance and guide fees you support the conservation of the municipal forests of Santiago Atitlán. Simply by being part of the small percentage of the tourists in Santiago Atitlán who watch birds, you help to raise the environmental awareness of the local population. The entire area of the Santiago Atitlán municipality is part of the Important Bird Area Atitlán ( IBA GT015), designated by BirdLife International. The identification of IBAs in Guatemala was coordinated by Knut Eisermann and Claudia Avendaño of CAYAYA BIRDING.