Mexico is a country today well commuted and theoretically you can get to the Monarch Butterflies from any point in our geography; But the most efficient plan is to stay overnight in a hotel closer to the sanctuaries in towns like Angangueo, Zitacuaro or Morelia.
Morelia is a World Heritage city, by UNESCO, one of the ten Mexico has, and one of the 190 cities in the world with this designation, out of the thousands of cities created by mankind. This Convention of UN has determined that is a city so unique in its universal values that deserves to belong to the best of the human culture. Therefore, if you come, let´s say from SMA, you can take two birds with one stone: go from here to the Monarchs and take the day you arrive to walk Morelia.
Besides, near Morelia there are the beautiful areas of Patzcuaro and Cuitzeo, designated by the federal mexican authorities as Pueblos Mágicos, (Magic Towns). Uruapan is aswell very close. This could be any day after your visit to the Monarchs.
Being based in Morelia, less than 4 hours bus drive down to the south from San Miguel de Allende, means our tours start close to the sanctuaries. We recommend to come to the city overnight, and then go to the Monarchs. You can go directly from San Miguel de Allende, but it is a very long day tour sometimes up to five hours each way.
From San Miguel de Allende to Morelia there’s every day one bus running. Departure at 7:45 am, and arrives to Morelia at 11:30 am. Bus line name is Primera Plus. Costs approx 150 pesos. And from Morelia to San Miguel de Allende there´s one that leaves at around 5:15 pm arriving there around 9 pm. If you need to get earlier you can get a bus from Morelia to Celaya and there get another bus to SMA, they are running from Celaya constantly in one or the other direction. Taxi in Morelia from buses central to downtown cost 35 to 40 pesos, and takes some 15-20 minutes.
If you’re coming to Morelia from Mexico City, make sure to get the bus in Central de Autobuses Observatorio. This is the western station and the buses will take the shortest way to Morelia.
From Patzcuaro to the Monarchs is too long, it´s 4 hours each way, 8 total in a day trip, if there´s no traffic and no stops. It´s not convenient for you to hire a guide that drives you 8 hours and guides you another 4 hours in the sanctuaries, including lunch time: he/she will be too tired by the end of the day and that´s risky for your own safety. This is one of the main reasons why people prefers to come to Morelia and departure from here.
If you need guidance on your hotels, please let us know and we will happily forward you details of some highly recommended options for you.
In the other hand if you need a private tour to the Monarchs, please, let us know aswell.
This varies between the different sanctuaries:
- Rosario doesn´t accept horses.
- Chincua Sanctuary and Cerro Pelon Sanctuary they do.
But frankly speaking horses must be secondary for this tour. More important are the butterflies after a nice walk.
If you chose to ride horses within your trip you must understand that if you’re not experienced with riding then you’ll suffer from your legs, above all in the Cerro Pelon sanctuary as the terrain in this sanctuary is really a very difficult horse climbing. In Cerro Pelon sanctuary you start climbing this monstrous mountain from very low. Here the only road leads to the village Macheros which is far down from the sanctuaries in the first months of the season.
In Rosario and Chincua sanctuaries, the roads allow cars to take people up at least 3/4 of the big mountains and that is of a big help at around 10 thousand feet elevation. They charge in Chincua around 100 or 200 pesos for the round trip, and some 150 pesos in Cerro Pelon, plus a tip for the hire of the horses
Yes there are, but by these days arrival is just beginning and the nuclei of butterflies in between the trees are yet very unstable. That´s the reason why biologists in charge of the sanctuaries, in coordination with the owners of the woods, authorize tourists visits from November 15th to 20th on, depending on the year.
Earliest we have gone is November 4th of 2006, and found several trees already covered with the butterflies. Nevertheless, by this days they are very dynamic, and they move constantly erasing rapidly the nucleus or so called colonies. But speaking of Nature, nothing gives you the warranty that it should be like this again next year.
That´s a one million dollars question. Every year predators and cold weather kill millions of them. That´s their Nature. Think of this: one female lays 450 eggs as average. In order to keep the level of total population only one survives until complete their circle: 449 die in all the different stages of their development: egg, larva, pupa and adult. And in this late stage, only stronger survive in the cold of our mountains. Finding millions of them died in our woods yearly, is natural. And “per se“ something we, humans, are not use to. Therefore, our astonishment. This doesn’t mean they have an ensured existence: humans threat them in many ways: world pollution, logging, etc.
In the other hand, when you follow the statistics of scientists you´ll notice that every year the population numbers change sometimes dramatically, and then in the next years they increase. That´s something not easy to determine the causes of it, but Science is on its way. So far, one thing is for sure: significant variation of numbers year after year. Please, read again point D.
Both hikes take right now between half and one hour. Both steep. Both rocky but small and on the ground: but it´s not a walk on a dry lava bed. Regular tenis shoes or walking shoes will be perfect. Usually in Chincua Monarchs go further away meanwhile in Rosario they come closer to entrance (at least that´s been the behave last years). But take in mind that they could change.
When we went to the Rosario area, I don’t remember too much of a walk. There was one once we entered the actual butterfly area. We had an elderly woman who sat on a bench, while we walked up, but she saw tons of butterflies. Is that correct?
Yes, there are times when the butterflies come down by the thousands to the people right down to the parking areas and even lower. But there are times when they instead of taking this slope, they take the opposite one, in which case you can see them only if you climb. What makes them fly in the opposite direction? Winds, temperature, humidity and other natural factors. Can we predict their movement one or two days in advance? Totally unpredictable. Something important is to remember, as a repetitive visitor to this wonder, that your moment with the butterflies, your visit to them, is not but an instant of a complex process that takes months, and in your next visit you wont see necessarily the same you saw the first one. Therefore, we recommend to go there, with the open mind that this time the butterflies might play with a different stratagem, and you could be forced to modify your own strategy.