Road Scholar : Home
Birding the Mayan Ruins of the Yucatan from the Caribbean to Palenque

Program Number: 3713RJ
Start and End Dates:
11/4/2014 - 11/16/2014; 1/12/2015 - 1/24/2015; 2/9/2015 - 2/21/2015; 3/2/2015 - 3/14/2015; 3/9/2015 - 3/21/2015; 11/3/2015 - 11/15/2015;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: Mexico
Price starting at: $2,885.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Birding Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 34; 12 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 11 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Salt; Low Fat; Gluten Free    

Combine exceptional birding with the exploration of four of the most fascinating cities in the Mayan world: Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Uxmal; Calakmul, and Palenque. With your binoculars, explore the environmentally diverse Yucatan and its 500-plus bird species. Immerse yourself in the history, tradition and ancient mysteries that define this fabled land.




Highlights

• Observe the spectacular ruins at Chichen Itza.
• Enjoy birding on the Rio Largatos Lagoon and the Usumacinta Marshes.
• Explore the 1.9 million-acre Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.



Activity Particulars

Hiking up to three miles daily. Uneven steps at some ruins.



So you can get the most out of your experience, all of our birding programs have a maximum participant-to-instructor ratio of 14:1.



Itinerary Summary

Arrival Cancun, 1 night; coach to Chichén Itzá, 2 nights; coach to Mérida, 1 night; coach to Campeche 1 night; coach to Xpujil, 2 nights; coach to Palenque, 2 nights; coach to Bonampak, 1 night; coach to Palenque, 1 night; coach to Villahermosa, 1 night, departure.



Arrival Cancun
1 night
Coach to Chichen Itza
2 nights

The Mayan city of Chichen Itza is a designated World Heritage Site for its revolutionary style of structures. The region also has a variety of tropical birds. Experts provide a bio-geographical overview of Yucatan flora and fauna and the importance of natural phenomena in the lives of the Ancient Maya.



Coach to Merida
1 night
Coach to Campeche
1 night
Coach to Xpujil
2 nights

In Merida, an expert describes the ecology of mangroves, marshes and bird conservation prior to a journey to Rio Lagartos to observe flamingos. Explore the ecology of Uxmal in search of endemics. Observe birds among the ruins of Edzna, Xpujil, and Becan and along the coast of Campeche.



Coach to Palenque
2 nights
Coach to Bonampak
1 night
Coach to Palenque
1 night

The 1.9 million-acre Calakmul Biosphere Reserve houses the largest pyramid in the Mayan world and an exceptional diversity of bird species. An expert lecture about Palenque precedes a guided introduction to this former Mayan city. Admire the unusual color frescoes at Bonampak and walk among the ruins of Yaxchilan to uncover its history and bird life. Explore the marshes, forests and river banks in search of the local species in these diverse habitats.



Coach to Villahermosa
1 night
Independent departure

Continue to explore the humid lowlands and the Usumacinta Marshes with its impressive numbers of water birds not found on the drier Yucatan Peninsula.




Mexico

The oldest of the land’s found by Europeans in the New World, Mexico has endured a rough history at the hands of Cortes and subsequent invaders. Despite a turbulent past, the country maintains its relaxed and inviting charm with a mix of modern and traditional from its industrious cities to its captivating wildernesses.



Accommodations
Cancun: Centrally located hotel. Chichen Itza: Resort hotel. Merida: Comfortable hotel. Campeche: Hotel near waterfront. Xpujil: Eco-friendly resort. Palenque: Charming hotel with thatched cabanas. Bonampak: Comfortable hotel. Villahermosa: Comfortable hotel.
Meals and Lodgings
   Courtyard Marriott Cancun
  Cancun, Mexico 1 night
   Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza
  Chichen Itza, Mexico 2 nights
   El Castellano Hotel - Merida
  Merida, Mexico 1 night
   Hotel Baluartes Campeche
  Campeche, Mexico 1 night
   Chicanna Ecovillage Resort
  Xpujil, Mexico 2 nights
   Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic
  Palenque, Mexico 2 nights
   Cabañas Valle Escondido
  Bonampak, Mexico 1 night
   Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic
  Palenque, Mexico 1 night
   Hyatt Regency Villahermosa
  Villahermosa, Mexico 1 night
 Courtyard Marriott Cancun
Type: Hotel
  Description: This new hotel provides guests with excellent service, spacious rooms and open public areas. One of the most important highlights of this property is its location, only 5 minutes from Cancun International Airport. Courtyard by Marriott Cancun offers a free shuttle to its beach club, and also to Cancun's downtown area.
  Contact info: Bvl. Luis Donaldo Colosio Km. 12.5 Lte. 1 SMZA.301
Quintana Roo,   Mexico
phone: +52 -998-2872200
web: http://www.marriott.com
  Room amenities: High speed internet access, desk, a large LCD TV, and air-conditioning.
  Facility amenities: The hotel has an excellent restaurant serving a variety of delicious dishes. El Henequen resembles an old elegant ''Hacienda'' from the Yucatan Peninsula. The hotel also features a swimming pool.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Subject to availability. Please contact your program provider, Holbrook Travel, at 1-800-866-7111 or roadscholarprograms@holbrooktravel.com for information on availability and rates.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM

 Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza
Type: Resort
  Description: Mayaland was the first hotel built at Chichen Itza (in 1923) and, with its superb location amidst the temples, the first within an ancient site in the world. In its way, it's as much a landmark as the pyramids that tower above it. Mayaland is a creation of Old Yucatan, built and operated by its original owners and their descendants in a style reminiscent of the hacienda nobility of a century ago. Its air of genteel hospitality and old-fashioned charm is a legacy enhanced by the addition of every amenity. The grounds are alive with birdsong and butterflies, and all the exotic fruits and flowers of tropical Yucatan. Over 100 acres of gardens surround the main house. The main building was designed by Sylvanus G. Morley, the head of the Carnegie expedition that rebuilt Chichen Itza in the 1920's. Its Hacienda style main corridor faces the Mayan Observatory. The Mayaland Hotel is an experience in itself; one that will enrich your stay at Chichen Itza.
  Contact info: Near Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza,   Mexico
phone: +8002354079
web: www.mayaland.com/mayaland.php
  Room amenities: Spacious air-conditioned rooms with ceiling fans, satellite TV, mini bars, bathroom hand-tiled in ceramic, marble and stone, tubs, breezy private balconies.
  Facility amenities: Pools, four restaurants, convention hall, masseuse, craft shop, tennis courts, interconnected paths, over five kilometers of trails, golf cart service.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 El Castellano Hotel - Merida
Type: Hotel
  Description: The El Castellano Hotel is just two blocks from the main square of Merida. Within walking distance is the 16th-century Cathedral, the Casa de Montejo, once the home of Francisco de Montejo, the Spanish knight who founded the city in 1542, and Government House, an elegant building famous for its collection of murals by Yucatecan painter Fernando Castro Pacheco. Also within walking distance: the site of the Church of the Third Order, the University of the Yucatán which dates from 1618, Peon Contreras Theater and Santa Lucía Park.
  Contact info: Calle 57 No. 513 entre Celle 62 y 64, Centro
Merida, Yucatan,  CP97000 Mexico
phone: +8778527676
web: www.elcastellano.com
  Room amenities: Central air-conditioning, Electronic safety deposit box, Cable TV, Bathroom with tub (except in single), Electronic locks, Hair dryer, Coffee machine, Telephone with voice mail, Wi-Fi Connection, Mini-bar, Ironing board.
  Facility amenities: Swimming pool, restaurant serving Yucatecan cuisine and International favorites, lobby bar, convention facilities, a Business Center, wireless Internet.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Baluartes Campeche
Type: Hotel
  Description: Hotel is located across the street from the malecon (waterfront) and 2 blocks from Campeche's historic center.
  Contact info: Av. 16 de Septiembre # 128
Campeche,  24000 Mexico
phone: +52 -981 8163911
web: www.baluartes.com.mx/eng/main.htm
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, cable TV, telephone,
  Facility amenities: Pool, restaurant, bar, coffee shop, conference room, and gift shop.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Chicanna Ecovillage Resort
Type: Resort
  Description: Eco-friendly property located approximately 5 miles from the town of Xpuhil. The accommodations are carefully designed to make use of natural methods of ventilation, making air conditioning obsolete. Solar power is used to heat water for the resort and its guests. Attractive gardens and trails offer guests a tranquil setting in which to enjoy their downtime between excursions to nearby archaeological sites.
  Contact info: Carretera Escarcega-Chetumal Km 144
Xpujil,   Mexico
phone: +52 (981) 8119192
web: www.chicannaecovillageresort.com
  Room amenities: Private bathrooms with hot and cold water, ceiling fan, and a balcony with garden view.
  Facility amenities: Two restaurants, swimming pool, gardens, trails, and internet access.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic
Type: Hotel
  Description: This charming hotel is perched on a forested hillside, off the main road to the Palenque ruins and a short drive from town. Thatched cabañas have spacious rooms with high ceilings and covered patios with hammocks. Lush and colorful tropical vegetation surround the buildings--instilling a sense of privacy and peacefulness.
  Contact info: Km 2.8 Carretera a las Ruinas
Palenque,  29960 Mexico
phone: +9163451693
web: www.hotellaaldea.net
  Room amenities: Rooms have AC, private baths, coffee makers and terraces.
  Facility amenities: Hotel amenities include medical services, swimming pool, laundry service, internet access, tour desk, and a ballroom.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Cabañas Valle Escondido
Type: Hotel
  Contact info: 000000000
Piedras Negras,   Mexico
phone: +00000000000
  Room amenities: Double occupancy rooms with private baths.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Hyatt Regency Villahermosa
Type: Hotel
  Description: Only ten minutes from central Villahermosa and 20 minutes from Villahermosa Airport, the hotel is directly across from Tomás Garrido Park and near La Venta Park Museum.
  Contact info: Ave. Juarez #106, Col. Linda Vista
Villahermosa,  86040 Mexico
phone: +52 993 310 1234
web: villahermosa.regency.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/
  Room amenities: Separate sitting area Enhanced work desk lighting Marble bath Iron/ironing board 24-hour room service Coffee maker Cable/satellite TV channels Individual air conditioning control In-room safe Morning newspaper Telephone Internet
  Facility amenities: Gardens, pool, conference center, spa, sports bar
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights after: Prices subject to change Additional nights subject to hotel availability.


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
All-day arrivals at the Cancun International Airport in Cancun, Mexico. Hotel check-in begins at 3 p.m. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott Cancun that night.
  End of Program:
Departures from the Carlos Rovirosa Pérez International Airport in Villahermosa, Mexico. Hotel check-out by 11 a.m. You will be staying at Hyatt Regency Villahermosa the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. Tourist card required--cost is normally included in the international tickets. For more information, please contact the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, DC Tel: (202) 728-1600 or www.embassyofmexico.org
  Parking availability:
NA
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Cancun
  Transportation to site: The Courtyard Marriot Cancun offers a complimentary airport shuttle service from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. To request a pick-up, participants must contact the hotel at (998) 287-2200 or from any Telmex public phone call 01800 0203373. Taxi services and shuttle vans are available at the airport for the transfer to the hotel. A taxi kiosk is available in the arrivals hall of the airport where travelers may purchase private or group transfer tickets to area hotels. For more information please visit the Cancun International Airport's website: www.cancun-airport.com.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Villahermosa
  Transportation from site: Taxis are available for hire at the hotel. Participants planning on using this service should ask for assistance at the hotel's front desk.
Equipment Requirements: Scopes are recommended but not required. We recommend wide angle binoculars, something within the range of 7x35, 8x40 or even 10x50 with good light gathering characteristics. Although light and comfortable, pocket binoculars don't work as well on low light conditions.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Depart the U.S./Arrivals in Cancun, Mexico.
(Monday, January 12)
   
 Arrive To: Arrive at the Cancun International Airport in Cancun, Mexico.

Transfer to the hotel and check-in, followed by time at leisure.

Please note that this is an international travel day; no meals or program activities are scheduled on this day. Hotel check-in usually begins at 3PM.

Group transfers will be arranged based on flight times. We will have the information available approximately 5 weeks before departure. If your arrival time is not the same as group arrivals, you can use the hotel's shuttle service from the airport.
   
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott Cancun

Day 2: Chichen Itza -
Birding at Punta Laguna Nature Reserve

(Tuesday, January 13)

Note: Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Bus drive from Cancun to Punta Laguna Nature Reserve takes approximately 1 to 1.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Program orientation.

Meet your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session at the hotel. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have.

This morning, transfer to Punta Laguna Nature Reserve (also known as Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh) for birding on forest trails.

Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh (meaning House of the Spider Monkey and Puma) is the crowning achievement of Punta Laguna’s community-based efforts to protect and preserve the forest and archaeological sites in the area. The reserve, a designated RAMSAR site, covers an area of 5,367 hectares that encompasses sub-evergreen forest, flooded forest, lagoons, archaeological sites, and cenotes. Although the nature sanctuary is best known for protecting hundreds of black-handed spider monkeys and a lesser number of howler monkeys, it also provides a safe haven for all nature of native wildlife and flora. Bird species found at this site include Keel-billed Toucans, Collared Aracaris, White-fronted Amazons, Yellow-lored Parrot (endemic), Black-and-white Owls (rare), Ocellated Turkeys, Great Curassows, and Turquoise-browed Motmots.  Migrants common to the area include American Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, Hooded Warblers, and Black-and-white Warblers.

Depart for Chichen Itza.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Arrive at hotel and check-in.
Enjoy birding around the hotel garden and trails.

Pre-dinner lecture: Overview of the Maya Civilization.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Chichen Itza -
Birding Boat Ride in Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve.

(Wednesday, January 14)

Note: Elevation at Rio Lagartos: Sea level. Bus drive from Chichen Itza to Rio Lagartos takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Early morning departure for Rio Lagartos area.

Boxed breakfast at the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve.
 Morning: Field trip to the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. Birdwatch during a boat ride in the reserve's wetlands. Be on the look-out for American Flamingos, Muscovy Ducks, Wood Storks, and Peregrine Falcons.

This important RAMSAR site is located approximately 167 miles from Merida. 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: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Return to the hotel late afternoon.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Mayaland - Chichen Itza
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Merida -
Birding at Chichen Itza Ruins/Swimming in a Cenote.

(Thursday, January 15)

Note: Elevation at Chichen Itza: 88 ft. Bus drive from Chichen Itza to Ikil cenote takes approximately 5 minutes. Ride from Ikil cenote to Merida takes approximately 1.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Early morning birding.

Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Field trip to the Chichen Itza ruins and site lecture.

The once powerful city of Chichen Itza is located in the north-central region of the Yucatan Peninsula. It centers upon two unusually large cenotes, the Xtoloc that provided water for the city and the Sacred Cenote used for religious practices.

The forests in and around the impressive archaeological complex are home to a variety of wildlife. Target species include the Yucatan Jay, Rose-throated Becard, Masked Tityra, Black-crowned Tityra, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Boat-billed flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Scrub Euphonia, Yellow-throated Euphonia, and Social Flycatcher. Endemic bird species include the Yucatan Woodpecker and the Yucatan Parrot. This is also a good area to spot migrant songbirds that winter in the region.

Continue your field trip with a visit to Cenote Ikil for swimming and a site lecture. Site Lecture: Cenotes and the Spiritual Life of the Mayas.

While here, take the opportunity to look for White-fronted Parrots, Cave Swallows, Grey-breasted Martins, and Masked Tityras--species known to frequent the woodlands and fields surrounding Ikil.

 Lunch: Lunch at the cenote.
 Afternoon: Time at leisure.

Transfer to Merida.

One of Mexico's most hospitable and nostalgic colonial cities, Merida 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. Merida is an ideal focal point from which to access birding sites in the area. Endemic birds include the Yucatan Wren, Yucatan Bobwhite, Mexican Sheartail, Caribbean Flamingos and White Pelicans.

Arrive at the hotel and check-in.

Lecture: Introduction to Birding in the Yucatan.

 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: El Castellano Hotel - Merida
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Campeche -
Birding Uxmal Ruins/Exploring Campeche.

(Friday, January 16)

Note: Elevation at Uxmal: 186 ft. Bus drive from Merida to Uxmal takes approximately 1 hour. Drive from Uxmal to Campeche takes approximately 2 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Field trip to Uxmal.

Uxmal, located in the Puuc region of Yucatan was one of the largest Mayan cities in the Classic Period between 600-1000 A.D. During this period, it was the capital of a vast territory on the peninsula. Uxmal's architecture was executed in the Puuc style, with elaborate and finely hewn stone mosaics that can be seen gracing many of the buildings. Notable buildings include the famous Pyramid of the Wizard, the Quandrangle of Nuns, and the House of the Turtles. Since water is scarce in the area, the Mayas designed a series of limestone-lined reservoirs and cisterns to catch water during the dry season. Images of the rain god Chac feature prominently at Uxmal.

Here we hope to spot some endemic species such as the Yucatan Flycatcher, White-browed Wren, Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow, and the colorful Gray-throated Chat.

 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Transfer to Campeche.

The city of Campeche is located on the southeastern part of the Yucatan 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 Canpech or Kimpech). It was the most important port in the Yucatan until the mid 1800's and was one of the largest and most important cities of the peninsula (second to Merida). 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 Jose 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 and check-in.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
 Evening: Enrichment activity: Evening walk around Campeche.
   
Accommodations: Hotel Baluartes Campeche
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Xpujil -
Birding the Edzna Ruins.

(Saturday, January 17)

Note: Elevation at Xpujil: 750 ft, Elevation at Edzna: 90 ft. Drive from Campeche to Edzna takes approximately 40 minutes. Remaining drive totals 3.5 hours with several stops in between.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Depart for Edzna and Xpujil.
Field trip to Edzna Ruins: Birdwatching among the ruins and site lecture.

This isolated archaeological site was once an influential city along Mayan trade routes. Located southeast of Campeche, it was lost in the surrounding forests until Nazario Quintana Bello rediscovered the ruins in 1927. The Mayan city was founded as an agricultural settlement around 400 BC. Over the years, the city developed advanced methods of irrigation and water conservation, which led to agricultural success and a population boom. The Great Acropolis and Little Acropolis are the focal points of the site. The Temple of the Five Levels, an impressive tiered pyramid built in five stages, dominates the Great Acropolis. Carved stelae dating as far back as 4 BC have been found here.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: After lunch, enjoy some birding on a local lagoon before transfering 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 Peten area of Guatemala. The highly ornamented towers have roof combs and false stairways with carved jaguar heads.

Arrive in Xpujil and check-in at the hotel.

Before getting ready for dinner, enjoy some birding on the hotel grounds. Keep your eyes open for Crested Guanas and Great Curassows.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Chicanna Ecovillage Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Xpujil -
Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.

(Sunday, January 18)

Note: Elevation at Calakmul Biosphere Reserve: Sea level. Bus drive from Chicanna Ecovillage Resort to Calakmul takes approximately 2 hours. Remaining drive totals 2 hours with stops in between.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Morning transfer to Calakmul.
Birding field trip in Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and site lecture on the architecture of the ruins.

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.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Return to Xpujil.

Time at leisure.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Chicanna Ecovillage Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Palenque -
Birding in the Becan Ruins.

(Monday, January 19)

Note: Elevation at Becan: 900 ft. Bus drive from Chicanna Ecovillage to Becan takes approximately 2 hours. Remaining drive time is 4.5 hours with stops in between.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Becan.
Birding field trip in the Becan ruins 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.

Transfer to Palenque.
 Lunch: Lunch en route.
 Afternoon: Arrive in Palenque and check-in at the hotel.
Lecture: Pacal's Tomb.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Palenque -
Early Morning Birding/Palenque Ruins/Birding at Misol-Há Waterfalls.

(Tuesday, January 20)

Note: Elevation at Palenque: 500 ft. Bus drive from Palenque to Misol- Há takes approximately 30 minutes.



   
 Breakfast: Early morning birding.

Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: 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. Here we will search for Keel-billed Toucans, Bat Falcons, Green Honeycreepers, Red-lored Parrots, Montezuma Oropendulas, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds, Masked Tityras, Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, Lineated Woodpeckers, Pale-billed Woodpeckers, and Barred Falcons.

Transfer to Misol-Ha.
 Lunch: Lunch at Misol-Há.
 Afternoon: After lunch, enjoy 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.

Return to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Bonampak -
Birding in Palenque/Bonampak Ruins.

(Wednesday, January 21)

Note: Elevation at Bonampak: 1,020 ft. Bus drive from Palenque to Bonampak takes approximately 2 hours. Bus drive from Bonampak to Valle Escondido takes approximately 45 minutes.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Begin transfer to Bonampak.
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Arrive to Bonampak.

Field trip: exploring and birding Bonampak Ruins. Site lecture: The History of the Pack Murals.

Look for Gray-headed Kites, White-wiskered Puffbirds, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatchers, and Cinnamon Becards.

The ruins of Bonampak were still being used for ceremonial purposes by Lacandon 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.

Transfer to hotel and check-in.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Cabañas Valle Escondido
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Palenque -
Birding in the Ruins of Yaxchilan.

(Thursday, January 22)

Note: Elevation at Yaxchilan: 435 ft. Bus drive from Valle Escondido to Yaxchilan takes approximately 1.5 hours. Bus drive from Yaxchilan to Palenque takes approximately 2.5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Early morning bird walk.
Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Boat ride to Yaxchilan 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. Yaxchilan was once a powerful city in the region and controlled many lesser communities nearby. It 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.

Target bird species include Rufous-breasted Spinetails, Striped Cuckoos, Great Black-Hawks, White Hawks, and Double-toothed Kites.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Transfer to Palenque.

Arrive in Palenque and check-in at hotel.

Time at leisure.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel.
   
Accommodations: Hotel La Aldea del Halach Huinic
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Villahermosa -
Birding the Usamacinta Marshes and Catazajá Coast.

(Friday, January 23)

Note: Elevation at Villahermosa: Sea level. Bus drive from Palenque to Villahermosa takes approximately 2 hours.



   
 Breakfast: Early morning bird walk.
Breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Villahermosa.
Birding field trip to Usamacinta Marshes and Catajaza 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.

Birds of interest in this area include Aplomado Falcons, White-tailed Hawks, Black-collared Hawks, Jabiru, Blue-winged Teals, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.
 Lunch: Lunch en route.
 Afternoon: Arrive in Villahermosa and check-in at the hotel.

Time at leisure.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner.
   
Accommodations: Hyatt Regency Villahermosa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Depart from Villahermosa.
Arrive in the U.S.

(Saturday, January 24)

Note: Bus drive from the hotel to the airport takes approximately 15 minutes.



   
 Depart From: Transfer to the Carlos Rovirosa Perez International Airport in Villahermosa for flights to the U.S.

Note: Participants can keep their hotel rooms until check-out time on this day. Except for breakfast, all other meals are on your own on this day.

This concludes the program. We hope you enjoyed your Road Scholar adventure! When you get home, remember to stay in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network; share memories, pictures, and comments about your recent travels.
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel (depending on flight departure time).
   
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


Birder's Mexico


Author: Roland H. Wauer


Description: A personal, informative account of travels in Mexico. It's a wonderful intro-duction to the natural history of this diverse country, including the northern deserts, Baja California, Oaxaca, Palenque and the Yucatan.



Birds of Mexico & Central America, Princeton Illustrated Checklists


Author: Ber Van Perlo


Description: An admirably compact, comprehensive guide featuring color plates.



A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America


Author: Stephen Howell, Sophie Webb


Description: Serious birders will want this definitive guide to the 1,070 bird species. It may be awkward to carry but it covers, in detail, all the birds you will see in the region.



Moon Handbook Yucatan Peninsula


Author: Lisa and Gary Prado Chandler


Description: A compact, comprehensive travel guide with an excellent overview of the natu-ral history and culture of the region, including Yucatan but also Chiapas, Ta-basco, Campeche and Quintana Roo.



South Mexico Map


Author: ITMB


Description: A double-sided map covering Mexico from Mexico City to Merida at a scale of 1:1:350,000.



Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish


Author: Joseph Keenan


Description: Idioms, common mistakes in word usage, and other helpful advice on tackling spoken Spanish. You'll need some foundation to take full advantage of this book – but even a complete novice will appreciate the author's playful sense of humor.



Lonely Planet Yucatan


Author: Ray Bartlett & Daniel Schechter


Archaeological Guide to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula


Author: Joyce Kelly


Lost Cities of the Maya


Author: Claude Baudez, Sydney Picasso


Description: This lavish little pocket encyclopedia of archaeological discovery features hundreds of color photographs and illustrations, including Catherwood's original engravings.



Maya Art and Architecture


Author: Mary Ellen Miller


Description: An illustrated overview of the art and architecture of the Maya, making use of the latest discoveries at Tikal, Copan and Palenque to demonstrate the range of Maya artistic influence. With 200 illustrations, 50 in color, including site plans, maps, strikingly rendered reconstructions and color photographs of key temples and buildings.



Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide


Author: Louise H. Emmons & François Feer


Description: This beautifully illustrated field guide contains all you need to know about rainforest mammals in Central and South America. It has color plates, range maps and detailed descriptions of each animal, including information about their biology, behavior and natural habitats.



The American Egypt: A Record of Travel in the Yucatan


Author: Channing Arnold & F. J. Frost


Time Among the Maya, Travels in Belize, Guatemala, & Mexico


Author: Ronald Wright


Tropical Nature


Author: Adrian Forsyth, Ken Miyata


Description: A lively, lucid portrait of the tropics as seen by two uncommonly observant and thoughtful field biologists. Its 17 marvelous essays introduce the habitats, ecology, plants and animals of the Central and South American rainforest





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