Mexico’s migrating monarch mutterflies is a miraculous event that happens not only in Michoacán, but just outside Valle de Bravo in Estado de Mexico too! A visit to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries of Mexico should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
The migration of the monarch butterfly is something that I have been wanting to see for a long time; and for some reason, I thought the only place to witness the phenomenon was in the State of Michoacán. After some planning to check it off my travel list this winter, I realized there was a Santuario Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary) at Piedra Herrada near Valle de Bravo, only about an hour drive away from where we live in Mexico City!
There are actually several Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves in Mexico, all designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In case you don’t know, the reason the monarch migration is so spectacular is because between late October-ish and March, millions of these butterflies come to Mexico every year from Canada– and it’s not the one, same butterfly that makes the roundtrip– it is a span of four generations! The first three generations only live weeks, and the last generation (which is the one that is in Mexico) sustain six+ months. No one is sure how the last generation of butterflies know the way to navigate to the exact same place every year, but they somehow make it! You can read more about it here.
Anyways, Eddy and I actually visited the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary two times on two different weekends. The first weekend we went, it was cloudy and the sun wasn’t reaching the butterflies. Without sun, the butterflies do not produce enough energy to fly around and all you see is millions of butterflies clumped to a tree, appearing like some sort of hive. Still cool, but not the awe-inspiring experience I was hoping for. I always read that if you visited these places, you’d be surrounded by millions of butterflies fluttering around like in the fairytales, hues of oranges filling the trees and just a whirlwind of nature at its finest — that’s the experience I wanted! The second weekend, we made sure not to visit the monarch butterflies until the sun was warm and shining. Let me tell you, it was like a completely different trip. There were butterflies EVERYWHERE — check the video below.. you can even hear them!
Some notes if you visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary at Piedra Herrada: Piedra Herrada is in Estado de Mexico (Mexico State), a short drive from Valle de Bravo. There is a small entrance fee to enter the park and it is mandatory that a guide accompanies you. The butterflies are at a very high altitude, and it is quite a trek uphill to get to them. If you are not used to moderate activity in high altitudes, I wouldn’t recommend walking –there are plenty of horses you can rent to ride the way up. The cost to rent the horse is 200 pesos per person. The horses cannot take you all the way up (don’t want them stompin’ on the flutterflies!), and there is one last very steep climb that lasts about 5 minutes until you reach your destination, come prepared!