Draped over the rugged tree-clad peaks of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve is a gorgeous and little-visited reserve spanning nearly 120,000 hectares (1,200 square kilometers) and ranging from lush tropical rainforest to cool cloud forest. The wide variety of microclimates and landscape translates into a staggering array of flora and fauna.
It’s a bird-watcher’s paradise, with close to 400 species of birds, including three of the rarest in Latin America — Horned Guan, Azure-rumped Tanager, and the long-tailed Resplendent Quetzal. The park contains over 2,300 varieties of flowers, plants, and trees; hundreds of butterfly and amphibian species; plus spider monkeys, tapir, and five species of wildcat, including the jaguar (though spotting its tracks is much more likely than the cat itself).
The best time to visit El Triunfo is during the dry months, from January to May.
Entry to El Triunfo is strictly controlled; all visits must be with an organized tour. Typical excursions begin with transport from Tuxtla Gutiérrez  to Jaltenango (aka Ángel Albino Corzo), where travelers stay the night in a basic hotel. The following morning, visitors are transported by four-wheel-drive truck to Finca Prusia, a coffee-producing village on the edge of El Triunfo, where there’s usually an opportunity to tour the fields and processing facilities. Later, travelers set off on a tough 14-kilometer (9.3-mile) hike, mostly uphill, to Campamento El Triunfo, a basic lodge with dorm rooms and running water. (Mules carry all the baggage and supplies, fortunately.)
Visitors on 3- or 4-night trips remain based here, making hikes and bird-watching trips into the reserve, by day and even at night, always led by expert birders or naturalists. (There is also a network of well-maintained trails for visitors to explore on their own.) Visitors on longer trips — including 10-day expeditions ending at the Pacific Ocean — continue to the more rustic camps of Cañada Honda and El Limonar.
El Triunfo’s ecotourism program, Fondo de Conservación El Triunfo (FONCET, San Cristóbal 8, Fracc. Residencial La Hacienda, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, tel. 961/125-1122, www.fondoeltriunfo.org ), is managed by the NGO Ecobiósfera S.C. (San Cristóbal 8, Fracc. Residencial La Hacienda, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, tel. 961/125-1177, www.ecobiosfera.org.mx ). It offers four-day excursions into the reserve for US$650 per person or US$335 per person for FONCET members (membership is US$99 per year).
Trips typically take place in March and April, and include transportation to and from Tuxtla Gutiérrez , mules and porters, and guide services, plus meals and accommodations. See the Ecobiósfera website for scheduled trips; reserve at least two weeks in advance.
The Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance (MEA, toll-free U.S. tel. 800/682-0584, www.travelwithmea.org ) also offers all-inclusive tours of El Triunfo, including a 10-day excursion (US$3,178–3,428 per person, six people minimum) that ends at the Reserva Natural La Encrucijada . Be sure to double-check the details of the trip before you book; at the time of research, MEA’s itinerary included a hotel in Tuxtla  that is no longer in operation.