The Maya Biosphere Reserve
This reserve is located in the municipal districts of Flores,
La Libertad, Melchor de Mencos, San Andres and San Jose of
the Department of Peten. It covers approximately the northern
half of this Department above parallel 17, and has international
boundaries with Mexico to the west and north, and with Belize
to the east.
The site of the Reserve was the settlement of the classical
Maya culture and it contains an enormous number of very important
archaeological sites, such as El Mirador, El Zotz, Piedras
Negras, Tikal and Uaxactun.
The Sierra de las Minas Reserve
In the eastern part of Guatemala in the Sierra de las Minas
mountain range, in the Departments of El Progreso, Baja Verapaz,
Alta Verapaz, Zacapa, and Izabal. This is a mountainous region,
as indicated by its name, rising from 150 to more than 3,000
meters above sea level. It is the most important cloud forest
reserve in the country, but it also includes tropical and
conifer forests due to its size and variety in altitudes.
Among its tree species, the Sierra de las Minas has fir, cedar,
oak, liquidambar, and pine. The conservation of its forests
has made it into a refuge for major mammals (jaguars, pumas
and deer) and threatened birds, such as the quetzal and the
horned guan. It is also the only place where the harpy eagle
has been found in Guatemala in recent years.
It contains K’ekchi, Pokomchi and Ladino communities.
As regards biology, the Sierra de las Minas is of great importance
because of its great diversity of ecosystems and species.
Recent studies indicate the presence of species which have
not yet been or recorded. It is a refuge for many endangered
The Cerro Cahui Natural Biotope
This biotope is located in the Department of Peten, on the
eastern shore of Lake Peten Itza, 32 kilometers from the city
of Flores. This is one of the smallest protected areas in
Peten measuring only 650 hectares which contain a hill with
altitudes of from 110 to 300 meters above sea level. Because
of its location next to Lake Peten Itza it has unique ecological
characteristics. This biotope covers the lake shore, ponds
and a mature forest, and provides a rich array of plants and
animals. As the it was partially exploited in the past and
then allowed to recover, one here one can learn about the
regeneration process of the regeneration of a tropical forest.
The Natural Reserve of San Buenaventura
The Nature Reserve occupies half the valley of San Buenaventura
in Panajachel, on the shores of Lake Atitlán It has
more than 100 hectares of native forest. Its goal is the conservation
of tine natural surroundings in the Lake Atitlán Basin.
The Nature Reserve is committed to biodiversity with the certainty
that humans are as rich and diverse as their environment.
This privately funded project intends to be an economically
viable alternative to the traditional uses of land and natural
resources in the area.
Its achievements already include the planting of more than
180,000 trees in the valley of San Buenaventura, the installation
of efficient wood burning stoves in the neighboring communities,
garbage recycling, and the use of solar energy and biodigestors.
At present the Reserve has the following facilities:
1. Nature Trails with signs offer self-guided walks through
characteristic ecosystems of the North Shore, using a highly
informative 12 page guide, printed both In Spanish and English.
2. Enclosed Butterfly Preserve with
approximately 5,625 cubic meters (170,000 cu. ft.) of flight
space, a 2,500 cu. Ft. breeding laboratory for pupae and chrysalis
with information on the butterflies life cycle more than 2,000
plants and approximately 500 live specimens of nearly 25 species
of native Guatemalan butterflies.
The Butterfly Preserve illustrates the importance of these
insects in nature and allows us to explore the relationship
that humans have with their environment. The management of
large populations of these insects will also allow their reintroduction
in the area.
3. A Bird Refuge that at present has temporary trails for
visitor to enter the area which will be developed into a formal,
protected bird refuge over the next 2 years. Planting for
bird sustenance will include an estimated 600 native fruit
tress and thousands of native flowering and seed plants. This
refuge will contain elevated walkways, tree platforms and
suspensions bridges in order to allow the visitor traffic
views of the area and its animal life without unduly intruding
These measures should attract native and migrating birds while
creating conditions for visitors and scholars to observe the
birds without disturbing them. Completion dates for both the
planting and the trail/platform/bridge systems is October
4. Orchid Garden Within the Butterfly Preserve with, at present,
some 50 species of the more than 500 species native to Guatemala
Chocon Machacas Reserve &
On the northern shore of the Río Dulce, in the area
known as El Golfete, in the Department of Izabal. Its 7,600
hectares include mature forests on dry land, flooded forests,
mangroveswamps, canals and lagoons. This biotope has estuarine
ecosystems, which are the habitat of many aquatic species
of flora and fauna. Red mangroves, the acutus crocodile, the
manatee and the nutria are some of its most outstanding species.
The lagoons between the mangrove swamps are particularly beautiful.
was declared a protected area to conserve the endangered manatee
and because its estuarine ecosystems are an important refuge
for aquatic fauna.
Polochic River Delta
The Polochic River forms a delta where it flows into Lake
Izabal and creates a swampy region containing fauna especially
adapted to the area. This site is a refuge for manatees and
The bird population is particularly varied and abundant, and
even more so during bird migration seasons. It is an excellent
place for bird watchers.
This is the second largest sweet water wetlands area in Guatemala.
It is of international importance because it is a station
for migratory birds and forms an ecological corridor between
the Sierra de las Minas, the Sierra de Santa Cruz and the
reproduction zone for Lake Izabal’s fisheries resources.
San Carlos University, in its interest to preserve the quetzal’s
natural environment, established the Mario Dary
Rivera Nature Reserve (Biotopo del Quetzal),
located 160 kilometers from Guatemala City, in the northern
highlands. It is easily accessed by paved road.
Even though sighting a quetzal is a rare event, the area is
a paradise not to be missed. Tourists will be transported
to a magic world of tumbling waterfalls, babbling brooks,
fresh fragrant ferns, and ancient trees which harbor a variety
of toucans, owls, hummingbirds, bluejays and hundreds of different
varieties of orchids and exotic flowers.
There are different paths to choose from, depending on how
far the visitor wants to go. Information about the Reserve
and a detailed guide to the park is available at the entrance.
The quetzal preservation sanctuary has two trails that one
can climb (they are steep, but easy to follow): a short and
a long one. In addition to the opportunity of catching a glimpse
of a quetzal, the vegetation along these trails is more than
spectacular. Birds of paradise and orchids are at home here.
The Semuc Champey National Monument
In the Municipal District of Lanquin in the Department of
Alta Verapaz, on the Cahabon River. This site, surrounded
by a rain forest, consists of many pools set in limestone,
whose waters cascade down the different levels.
The colors of the waters vary from emerald green to turquoise.
The scenery is spectacular. Although the forest consists mostly
of broadleaf trees, pine of the caribea genus is also abundant.
Monterrico Natural Reserve
This area, which is located in Taxisco, Santa Rosa, is approximately
115 kilometers from the capital. It was created to foment
the reproduction and conservation of the marine turtle, the
crocodile, the green iguanas and the mangle forest. The reserve
includes an estuary and marine coast with hot, dry subtropical
climate. The turtle area is located near the beach where the
eggs of the Baul and Parlamas turtles are protected.