In what is considered as the most colorful migrations, monarch butterflies migrate every winter from the wilderness of Canada and the northern states of U.S to central Mexico.
Between November and March, is the monarch butterfly season in Mexico, where people from allover the world flock to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary to observe these beautiful bugs.
Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries
The states of Mexico and Michoacan are the core butterfly zones. From November to March, sanctuaries in these states are open for visitors.
El Rosario and Chincua are sanctuaries are located in Michoacan and the sanctuaries of the state of Mexico are Herradura, La Mesa and Cerro Pelon in Donate Guerra.
The most popular sanctuary is El Rosario, which is accessible from the Mexican towns of Angangueo and Ocampo.
Touring the sanctuary
The trip to the sanctuary is a two to three hours hike through the mountainous forest. After buying the ticket, you should hire a guide well informed about the terrains of the sanctuary.
At the first part of trek, tourist will encounter thousands of dead monarch spread across the forest floor. The main butterfly colony is further up the mountain in the interior of the forest. You will be greeted by hundreds of butterflies flying all over the forest and more of them clinging to the branches of the trees.
As the sun rises up the sky and the daytime temperature increases, the monarchs leave the trees in search for nectar and dew. On cloudy days, monarchs prefer to rest on the branches of the oyamel trees, which often breaks down under the pressure of the bugs.
Best time to visit the monarch butterfly sanctuary
Although butterflies start arriving in Mexico from December, but the peak butterfly season is between February and early March. If you want to avoid too much crowd, explore the sanctuary during midweek.
Buses ply everyday between Mexico City and Angangueo.
Besides watching the monarch butterflies, this is also a great place for hiking and biking. Towards the end of the butterfly season, neighboring towns of Angangueo, Zitacuaro and Ocampo host a number of regional, musical and dance festivals.