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February 19 -29, 2024
Chiapas, Mexico




Animism is an important feature of Maya culture, which is evidenced in their intricate temple facades, murals, textiles, handicrafts and codices. With a belief that fire, stones, water, plants and words are sentient, it's easy to understand why the Maya revered the animal kingdom as intrinsic to the Cosmos. The Maya, like many ancient cultures, divided the animals into different realms, including night sky, day sky, water, land, and supernatural.

Our exploration of Chiapas is unique because our focus will be endemic and migratory birds of 3 regions of this state.  The tour will be led by PhD ornithology candidate Adrian Ceja Madrigal and wildlife biologist Trecia Neal.  Highlights of the trip will include visiting three parks outside of San Cristobal de las Casas, with a side-trip to San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan to collect Maya textiles.  Our next region of exploration is the cloud forest of Montebello Lakes National Park, which was protected by UNESCO in 2009, and boasts 277 varieties of birds, 106 of which are endangered, and 27 which are endemic - including the elusive and rare to see Quetzal, which is the most sacred of birds in Maya culture.  While there, we will also visit the Chiflon Waterfalls, and ancient city of Chinkultic, which is surrounded by lush vegetation.  We will then head to Selva Lacandona, to embark on two short boat rides along the Usumacinta to reach the ancient cities of Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan, where we will bird watch in the mornings, with further exploration of the ruins before departing.  Other day trips include the famous city of Palenque, and the treasured murals of Bonampak.  This special birding experience will introduce guests to rare places and incredible memories, including educational lectures about the significance of birds in Maya textiles and cosmology, and endemic and migratory species of Chiapas.  



Limestone Lintel 24 at Yaxchilan (after 708 C.E. Late Classical Period) depicts Lady K'abal Xook (Itzamnaaj Bahlen III - wife of Bird-Jaguar) pulling a thorny rope through her tongue.  This lintel is now housed in the British Museum.  Photo Credit:  Anonymous



The Resplendent Quetzal is an elusive and endangered species that was considered the most sacred among the Maya.  A capital crime to kill, male Quetzals were revered for their iridescent and lustrous robe, which includes 12 green tail feathers that can grow up to 90 cm in length.


Male Quetzals grow their longest tail feathers during breeding season, which was when these precious birds were harvested for use on special ceremonial regalia only worn by Maya nobility, and decorated warriors.  Plucked, and then released, the feathers became an important part of the Maya economic system, and were traded into central Mexico, which also fed a larger trade-route all the way into the Mogollon Empire through Paquime and Cuarenta Casas, and into the Southwestern United States.  For the tribes of Mexico's Basin, and beyond, feathers that arrived from the cloud forests of the south, were highly prized.

Resplendent Quetzal

"Resplendant Quetzal" - Courtesy of Wix Images

Quetzalli is the Nahuatl name for Quetzals, and though much is written about the Aztec cult of Quetzalcoatl, it originally began in the Maya empire, where the Quetzal was known by another name - Kuk.  With long coverts that resembled a flying serpent when in mid-air, the Maya likened this bird to a feather serpent - or Kukulkan.

The Quetzal is a solitary bird and does not thrive in captivity.  These birds are not often seen in the wild, however dawn and dusk are the best opportunities to try for a rare sighting.  Quetzals are endangered due to a variety of factors that include logging, farming and land clearing.   To have our best chance at spotting a Quetzal in the wild, we have included two nights in the cloud forest of the UNESCO protected Montebello Lakes National Park.  Quetzals are known to live in the park and will give us our best chance to spot one of these mystical, elusive creatures.

As part of our efforts to assist endangered animals in Mexico, we will donate $500 MXN per guest to El Nido Aviario, located in Mexico State, which is the largest aviary in Latin America, and only one to be successful in reproduction efforts with captive quetzals.  Please contact us if you would like to make a private donation of greater value, so we can send you their information.

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"Adrian is the most qualified person as a bird watching guide that I know, he has a great experience and a very kind and respectful treatment with people and with any living being.  He resolves any doubt in a very friendly way, and makes you feel confident."


Arcelia Tavira

Regional Map



This tour starts in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas and ends in Villahermosa, Tabasco.  Please confirm your location with us, and we can assist you with transportation.  There are flights to both cities from Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City.  


Please email Jennifer at


Getting Here
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Day One: Monday February 19, 2024

Hotel: Magnolia Suites & Spa - San Cristobal de las Casas


There are plenty of flights into Tuxtla Gutierrez from Mexico City. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get an international flight into Tuxtla Butierrez from home. Please let Jennifer know your flight arrangements before making your flight reservations. We want to ensure that you have a relaxing trip. Also, please confirm your landing time with us, so we can arrange transportation for you. The taxi will cost approximately $1200 to San Cristobal de las Casas. We will make everyone aware of flight arrangements so that you can arrange to share a taxi with other guests if that would be helpful.



Day Two: Tuesday February 20, 2024

Hotel: Magnolia Suites & Spa - San Cristobal de las Casas


This morning we will depart the hotel at 6:45 AM to observe birds at the Grutas del Mamut. Grutas del mamut is a beautiful cave and park just outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. From here, we will visit El Arcotete ecological park, for more bird observations.


Following our birding experience, we will return to San Cristobal de las Casas for lunch, and a historical walking tour of this alluring and mystical city.


This evening, your host will offer a lecture that explores the significance of birds in Maya textiles and cosmology during dinner.


Day Three: Wednesday February 21, 2024

Hotel: Magnolia Suites & Spa - San Cristobal de las Casas


This morning we will depart the hotel at 7:45 AM for Orquideario Moxviquil, which is a botanical garden and park located outside of the city. While watching for birds we will see an array of incredible orchids. We will depart the garden for the famous Maya villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. Here, we will visit with back-strap weavers who create incredible textiles.


Day Four: Thursday February 22, 2024

Hotel: Cabanas Junkolal Tziscao

This morning we will depart the hotel at 7:00 AM for the UNESCO protected Montebello Lakes National Park. Though these are called lakes, these deep pools are actually “uvalas,” which are ancient cenotes that became lakes over time. Considered the bluest lakes in all of Mexico, this pine and oak cloud forest boasts 50 species of orchids, 93 types of mushrooms, 65 different mammals and 35 species of reptiles. This special habitat hosts at least 277 species of birds, including 106 that are endangered, 27 that are endemic, and one particularly elusive and sacred bird, the Quetzal. We cannot promise that we will be able to see the Quetzal, but our early departure this morning is our best effort for locating one of these stunning creatures. We will spend the morning here, exploring birds and enjoying the tranquility of nature. Following lunch, we will head to the ancient Maya city of Chinkultic, which is located in the park and is surrounded by lush vegetation.


Day Five: Friday February 23, 2024

Hotel: Cabanas Junkolal Tziscao


This morning we will rise early and head out to listen and watch for birds in a different area of the park. At 11 AM, we will head to the stunning Chiflon Waterfalls, for a relaxing hike and swim. There are five cascades here, each with their own name, and magnificent views. We will then head back to our hotel and enjoy a quiet evening.


Day Six: Saturday February 24 2024

Hotel: Finca Vallescondido, Selva Lacandona


This morning we will enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Departing our hotel at 9 AM, we will depart this region for Selva Lacandona.

Today is our longest drive and will take approximately 6 hours. We will stop to stretch our legs, have lunch, and bathroom breaks. Guests can catch up on rest, or enjoy the scenic drive.


Day Seven: Sunday February 25 2024

Hotel: Finca Vallescondido, Selva Lacandona

This morning we rise early and commute to the town of Arroyo Jerusalen, where we will board a small boat for a 35 mins ride along the Usumacinta River to the ancient site of Piedras Negras. Please make sure you bring your passport, as we will have a brief stop with a small customs office, for our day-entry into Guatemala. We will spend the early morning birding here, with time after for exploring the ruins. As Piedras Negras is located in such an unusual place, we are unlikely to meet many other groups here today. Because today is a full day-trip into a remote area, we will arrange to have a bag-breakfast and lunch, with a cooked dinner at the Finca, when we return. If you have any special dietary requests, please let us know when signing up for the trip.


Day Eight: Monday February 26, 2024

Hotel: Finca Vallescondido, Selva Lacandona

This morning we will enjoy breakfast at the Finca, then head out to the ancient ruins of Palenque. We will enjoy the ruins, and have lunch here before heading to Los Aluxes, which is a nearby park and zoo that cares for endangered animals.

We will return to the Finca on time for dinner.


Day Nine: Tuesday February 27, 2024

Hotel: Finca Vallescondido, Selva Lacandona

This morning we will depart very early for the town of Frontera Corazol, where we will board a boat and take our second boat ride on the Usumacinta River. Today we are destined for the ancient city of Yaxchilan, which was a rival city of Piedras Negras. Located about 24 KM’s upstream from Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan is on the Chiapas side of the river, so we are not required to clear customs. We will spend the early morning birding in the jungle among the ruins, then will return to Frontera Corozal for lunch. From there, we commute to the important ruins of Bonampak, where we will see some of the best preserved murals of the Maya. We will return to the Finca for dinner.


Day Ten: Wednesday February 28, 2024

Hotel: Finca Vallescondido, Selva Lacandona

This morning is our last day to observe birds, so we will depart early for nearby nature areas that are quiet. We will bird-watch until around 11 AM, then return to the Finca so guests can relax, re- pack, and process all that we have seen and done over the past week. If guests prefer to enjoy a day of rest, you may opt-out of bird watching this morning, and enjoy your last day relaxing.


Day Eleven: Thursday February 29, 2024

Hotel: N/A

This morning we will depart early for the city of Villahermosa, for returning flights to Mexico City and beyond. Please do not book your return flight until we have had a chance to discuss this tour with you. An international flight out of Villahermosa will require more time for check-in, than if you are flying domestic to Mexico City. We will assist you with return flight times once your tour is confirmed.


If you are especially interested in archaeology, history and indigenous narratives, you may want to opt to spend one night in Villahermosa, as an add-on for your tour. Parque la Venta is located


in the city, and has the best known examples of Olmec heads. The Olmec was an ancient culture that pre-dated the Maya. If you would like a guided tour of Parque la Venta, we can offer you a price-quote for this add-on. An alternative would be to do a self-guided tour to the park.




Note about Return Flights: CDMX is a huge airport with two terminals. If you have a connecting international flight, it is likely that you will have to commute from one terminal to the next. Please leave yourself enough time in CDMX airport, to get to your terminal and gate. If you prefer to stay in CDMX overnight, or for a few extra days, contact us for more information or suggestions!


Please Note: If you are joining this tour following our Sacred Migration Tour in Michoacan, there is one day of rest scheduled for the guides. Adrian, Trecia Jaime and Jennifer will fly to Tuxtla on Sunday February 18th, and commute to San Cristobal de las Casas. You are welcome to fly/commute with us, though we do not have any tours/events planned for the 19th or 20th.



Please email Jennifer at

Photo Galleries
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The birds of the highlands are special and quite different from most of the birds that we will see in the Lacandona Jungle.  Adrian Ceja Madrigal organized two photo-galleries of birds based on their regions.  Though we may not see all of these different bird species, we will be with guides who can help us identify what we see and hear!



These are some of the birds we may see while in the Lowlands of Chiapas



We will spend some time bird-watching at the ancient cities of Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan, and will also visit Chinkultic, Bonampak and the UNESCO protected archaeological site of Palenque.


We offer you a fantastic team for this tour, each offering unique knowledge about this region. Our guides have expertise in archaeology, ornithology, textiles, art and culture.  This tour will be an educational cultural experience and we will offer two lectures that will offer new insights into the species and sights we are surrounded by.

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Adrian Ceja Madrigal is a Biologist and Master of Science graduate of the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo (UMSNH), and PhD Candidate in Biological sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Adrian is currently developing his doctoral thesis, entitled "Ecology of Invasive Birds in Mexico," at the Functional Ecology Laboratory of the Institute for Research in Ecosystems and Sustainability (IIES) Morelia campus.    

Among the main objectives of Adrian's thesis, is the historical invasion processes of exotic birds at the national level, the factors of habitat structure related to their invasive success, and the potential effects of their presence on native bird communities in environments modified by human activities.  

In addition to studying birds, Adrian is very passionate about bird-watching.  His favourite hobby is going out to watch birds with friends and other bird enthusiasts, and he has truly enjoyed working as a birding guide with natioanl and foreign birdwatchers.

We first met Adrian in 2017, while seeking someone knowledgeable to lead a bird tour for 4 avid birders.  Recommended by the University as being a passionate birder, as a Masters Student with ample experience identifying birds in Guerrero, we met with Adrian and hired him the tour.  The guests returned from their excursion singing praises of the over 50 birds Adrian had been able to identify for them, while in the field.  Over the years, since then, Adrian has taken groups out on tour for us, and all have returned with praise about his excellence.  We are very honored to work with such a dedicated and passionate academic, and look forward to introducing him to new guests this February.  

Team Leaders
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Trecia was a biologist at Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta for thirty years, retiring in 2017. Her areas of expertise are ornithology, environmental education, and designing outdoor classrooms and wildlife gardens. Trecia has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in science education with an emphasis in animal behavior.  In 2015 Trecia received the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award for Georgia from the National Association of Biology Teachers in recognition of her career’s work in environmental education.

In 2003 Trecia went to Mexico for the first time and discovered    the   wonders   of   the   monarchs’   migratory phenomena that is currently endangered. She returned to Georgia and began learning as much as possible about the

much as possible about the problems that are affecting the monarch population. Trecia has served on the board of Monarch’s Across Georgia (MAG) since 2003 and served as co-chair from 2004-2007, and chair in 2008. Trecia currently serves as the chair of the Pollinator Habitat Certification committee for MAG.  This program has certified 338 gardens since the program started in 2005.

Trecia also served as the Mexico Book    Project    chair    from   2004 - 2012.   This  project raises money every year to purchase elementary-level books written in Spanish for students who are taking care of monarch butterflies in Mexico.  Angangueo resident and Journey North correspondent Estella Romero delivers these books along with an environmental lesson each year while she is also delivering the yearly Symbolic Monarchs that have made their migration from citizens all across the United States.


From 2004-2014, Trecia and colleagues offered weeklong trips to Mexico for teachers and the public to help educate individuals about the monarchs unique migratory phenomena, and ways that individuals can help support their migration.  In 2005 Trecia became a Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist for Dr. Chip Taylor at Monarch Watch and travels the state as a public speaker on this topic.

Upon retirement, Trecia formed Green Gardens Education and Designs LLC and is now using her expertise and talents to design wildlife gardens for homeowners to help transform their barren lawns to living landscapes full of pollinators, birds and wildlife. She is also in demand as a public speaker on a variety of topics that also includes monarchs, composting, vermicomposting, gardening for pollinators and birds, and the importance of native plants.  Trecia is also a member of the Ecological Landscape Alliance, The Homegrown National Park Network, and Grow Native.

Trecia was privileged to design a garden at the visitor’s center    in   Plains,   GA   for  First Lady  Rosalyn   Carter. This garden is registered on the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail. Trecia also taught a monarch tagging session in Plains, GA and was able to tag and release monarchs with both President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalyn Carter. Trecia is thrilled to report that one of the First Lady’s monarchs was later recovered in Mexico.

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Jaime Hernandez was born and raised in Patzcuaro, and has been a National Guide for many years.  For some, guiding is a job or a career, but for Jaime, it's a lifestyle.  Fluent in Spanish, English and proficient in P'urepecha, Jaime's fascination with culture and world history offers incredible insights into the impact of the world on Mexico, and Mexico on the world.  We truly appreciate Jaime's dedication to respecting traditional protocols when organizing tours that bring guests to local communities and families, as having an invitation sets a different understanding of indigenous communities, than simply arriving and intruding.  We are honoured to work with such an esteemed and knowledgeable guide and friend.  

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Jennifer Bjarnason was born on the West Coast of Canada, and has been living in Michoacan since 2016.  With 31 years experience working with indigenous artists from the Pacific Northwest Coast, Jennifer's background as an art dealer is what initially brought her to Michoacan, assisting a boutique hotel with art tours.  From there, as she continued to explore Mexico, Jennifer opened Soul of Mexico Tours and began leading groups on adventures, from day trips to a two week excursion that follows part of Mexico's incredible Silver Road.  Jennifer organizes most of our logistics, designs most of our tour content, creates parties, schedules lectures, personally selects wines, mezcals and beers for special events, and even makes sauces, baked goods and other special treats for our picnics.  She looks forward to hosting you!


Not all tours are meant for everyone!  Please take a moment to read through a few considerations, before committing to this tour!

Elevation:  If you suffer from COPD, are on oxygen, or suffer from altitude sickness, this may not be the right tour for you.  San Cristobal de las Casas is seated at approximately 2200 Meters (7200 Feet) above sea level.  


Early Mornings:  As the early bird gets the worm, we will be waking up very early on this tour, traveling with a breakfast-in-a-bag so we can reach our birding destinations by around 8 AM.  We will generally end our bird-watching tours at around 11 AM, and spend our afternoons eating, exploring textile towns and ancient ruins, or relaxing.

Boat Rides:  We will be embarking on two boat rides on the Usumacinta River.  Safe, and common for transport in this area, we understand that some guests may have a fear of water and should be aware of these two water-excursions.

Spiders, Scorpions, Snakes:  Though it isn't our intention to have any close-calls with anything venomous, the Lacandon Jungle is home to large tarantulas, scorpions and many species of snakes.  We ask guests to use precaution, and to always be aware of where you are stepping.

Special Clothing:  We recommend a wardrobe that is comprised of earth-tone colours, such as grey, green and brown.   The idea is to blend in with the environment.  As we will be in jungle, we also recommend long pants and sleeves, and sturdy foot ware with good ankle support.

Tour Considerations
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Our group of 12-14 guests will be on the road together for 10 days, so we just want to ask you to consider a few things.

Be Flexible:  Traffic jams or delays can happen anywhere.  Sometimes museums are closed without notice, and we will need to find a new activity.  We will always try our best to keep our schedule and activities fluid. 

Be Punctual:  We ask guests to be 10 mins early for departure times, so we can load the van and maintain our schedule as best as possible.


Switch Seating:  This isn't always necessary if guests are happy with their seating arrangement, but different seats offer different views. 

Read your Itinerary:  We will print itineraries for everyone, and ask you to please check it over at night, so you know what is happening the following day.  We will always discuss departure times for the following day, but it is helpful if guests pay attention to our schedule of events and activities.

Taking Photos:  If you are taking up-close photos of the locals, please ask permission.  This is especially important with indigenous peoples, and children.  Most often, you will be met with a warm smile.  The one exception is the church in Chamula, as it is forbidden to take photos inside of the church.

Sales People:  Please acknowledge sales people in the streets, even if you aren't interested in what they have on offer.  As guests, we must be mindful to show respect for the local people, including those who are homeless and asking for change.

Tipping:  Tipping is customary.  We have created a tipping guide you may download and print.

Important Information
Price and Inclusions


$62,000 MXN based on 10-12 Guests
Single Supplement:  $10,700 MXN
Friends may share a room, as the hotels offer two beds per room


10 Nights