Mariposa Monarca – An epic butterfly migration spanning 5000 kms

Picture close to a billion Monarch butterflies, migrating from as far as Canada and the USA, all the way down to Mexico.  Then imagine tree branches getting bent due to the weight of thousands of butterflies clustering on the tree. There is a 590 sq. km area near the border between the Mexican states of ‘Michoacan’ and ‘Mexico state’ where you can see this happen. Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve is its official name and the Monarch butterflies migrate there every year to escape the cold and harsh winter in the north. After this mammoth journey, during which 2 generations of the Monarch butterfly born and die (it means that some of the butterflies will travel but never reach their destination in their lifetime!), the Monarch butterflies cluster in a very small fraction of the total reserve area. This clustering leads to trees turning orange in colour (monarch butterflies are orange). This is one of those places which you have to visit once in your lifetime (info on wikipedia, unesco) The pictures below provide a glimpse of a trip from the city of Morelia to this amazing natural wonder in the state of Michoacan, Mexico:

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             (If you are lucky, you may see something like this)

(Image Source: http://www.ofertasdeviajesmexico.com/es/cont/promociones/Mariposa_Monarca.php)

We started early in the morning, driving to the Aporo municipality in eastern Michoacan. Within a few minutes of the start, we were in Mexican countryside. The toll roads were very good indeed. A road trip through rural Mexico is an experience in itself.

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After 3.5 hours, we passed through the town of Aporo and reached the Mariposa Monarca reserve.

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The entrance of the reserve has some restaurants where you can eat lunch (more on this below). You can also get a horse and a guide for the hike as you walk towards the hiking path.

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There are sign boards and information boards at regular intervals on the hiking path. Some of these are really interesting, as they talk about the ecology and the monarch butterflies.

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As you approach the viewing area, you can start to see monarch butterflies flying near the hiking path.

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After an hour or so, you reach the viewing point. Here you will see butterflies on the branches of trees and also flying around. The most surreal moment happens when the butterflies are all clustered on a tree branch and then the sun shines, which in turn causes these butterflies to fly out all at once.

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After returning from the viewing point, we went back to the entrance of the reserve park. Here, there are roofed structures, which serve as restaurants for visitors. It is not the most fancy establishment by any means (we are deep in rural Mexico after all). However, there were two very kind ladies, who cooked us some quesadillas, guacamole, beans and rice. It is a simple yet satisfying meal to cap a memorable outing.

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map

         (Map of the route from Morelia to the Monarca Reserve)

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Items: Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve at Angangueo/Sierra Chincua

Price: Around 35 pesos for guide only or ₹166. With horse price will be around 100 pesos or ₹475

Location: Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico (map link)

Telephone: +(52) 715-120-53 78, +(52) 715-123-7325, +(52) 715-103-8499

Type: Nature/UNESCO World Heritage Site

How to get there: By Road – You have to either arrange transportation from Morelia tourism office, purchase a tour, or drive yourself. Takes a good 3+ hours from Morelia.

Language: Mainly Spanish, some people may speak little English.

Notes: Best time to visit is January to early February. Once at the reserve, the hike to the viewing area can take 1 hour or more. The path of the hike is dusty and a lot of dirt gets kicked up in the air by horses going up and down. Plan accordingly. If you are vegetarian, then you will have to find lunch at the base/starting point. You can get a meal like the picture I posted above.

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4 thoughts on “Mariposa Monarca – An epic butterfly migration spanning 5000 kms

  1. The butterfly migration is spectacular! There’s a place like this up in Northern California (I’m in So Cal) and I’ve always wanted to visit it. So hopefully I will see something similar to the first picture in your post someday.

    1. Thanks. Is the place in northern cali that you are referring to Santa Cruz or Monterey? There are a bunch in SoCal, near San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Have you been to those?

      1. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to any of the butterfly migration places. But the one I was referring to was the Monterey one. Thanks for letting me know about the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo ones, I will have to go someday.

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