Kingdom of the Monarchs
Witness Mexico's amazing migration of millions of butterflies!
Mexico: Drink It In
One of the world's most astounding wildlife events occurs each year in Mexico's Central Highlands, featuring the most delicate of creatures. As we enter a grove of fir trees on a remote mountaintop, the trunks and branches appear to be blanketed with rusty autumn leaves. A closer look reveals they’re quivering. Then, as the sun emerges from behind a cloud to warm them, hundreds of thousands of monarch butterflies take to the sky. Experience this moving phenomenon with expert interpretation from Mexico’s premier naturalist guides.
Travel Curator’s Insights:
- • Enter the remote fir forests of Mexico's Central Highlands, where millions of monarchs roost and breed each winter.
• Ride small Mexican horses provided by the local community (and led by your own caballero, so no prior horseback experience is necessary).
• Explore traditional Mexican mountain villages and visit an authentic market, witnessing the benefits of butterfly ecotourism for local people.
From $4,795 per person
Policies and protocols provided before you book.
Dec 3-8, 2023
Dec 4-9, 2023
Dec 10-15, 2023
Dec 11-16, 2023
Jan 7-12, 2023
Jan 8-13, 2023
Ask us for later dates.
Dec 2023, Jan - March 2024
Hover here for specific dates
Trip Sustainability Awards
Fantastic advances in minimizing carbon footprints at locations.
On the East African Energy Renewal Board
Runs local educational facilities for children.
Day 1: Mexico City, Mexico
Our monarch butterfly tour begins on arrival in Mexico City, with a transfer from the airport to our downtown hotel in the upscale Polanco district. Gather this evening for a welcome dinner with our Expedition Leader, followed by an orientation to the wonders that lie ahead. One of the world’s most astounding natural events occurs each year in North America, featuring one of its most unlikely creatures: the delicate monarch butterfly. Every autumn, tens of millions of monarchs set flight on a remarkable 3,000-mile journey from the northeastern U.S. and Canada to their ancestral wintering grounds in the volcanic mountains of central Mexico. The location of their breeding grounds remained a mystery until 1977, and how an infant generation of butterflies finds it anew each year is still an enigma. Filled with anticipation, we look forward to tomorrow's journey into the mysterious kingdom of the monarchs.
Accommodation: Camino Real Hotel
Day 2: Angangueo—El Rosario Sanctuary
Leaving Mexico City, we drive into the Central Highlands past vistas of the snowcapped Nevado de Toluca volcano, bound for the small mountain town of Angangueo. Once a copper and silver mining town, today it thrives on butterfly tourism and local agriculture. The village is very picturesque, a tumble of pastel buildings set along narrow cobblestone streets that hug the steep mountain slopes. Enjoy a hearty lunch of homemade Mexican fare before making our first foray into the monarch kingdom at El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary, one of several sanctuaries within the 129,000-acre Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
Accommodation: Hotel La Margarita (or similar)
Day 3: Angangueo—Chincua Sanctuary
At Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary, another magical encounter with the monarchs awaits. Riding horses along the established trail most of the way, we hike in the last bit to reach the mariposas. Sometimes the stream along the forest floor appears to flow orange, covered completely by butterflies as they descend to drink. As Mexican butterfly conservationist Carlos Gottfried said, "When you stand in a monarch sanctuary, your soul is shaken, and your life is changed."
During our visit, we hear about efforts to preserve this fragile forest ecosystem that is the key to the monarchs' survival, learning about what WWF–Mexico is doing in conjunction with local communities to protect the butterflies' habitat. Our visit is one way to assist, demonstrating to the local people that ecotourism can be a more viable and sustainable source of economic sustenance than logging. Later this afternoon, there's time to discover more of the village of Angangueo, known for its magnificent murals celebrating the importance of monarchs to the community.
Accommodation: Hotel La Margarita (or similar)
Day 4: Angangueo—El Rosario Sanctuary / Valle de Bravo
This morning we return to El Rosario to observe the butterflies in the early morning light. In contrast to our previous afternoon visit, we'll witness the monarchs as they awaken for the day, hoping the sun will shine and warm their wings, prompting lively activity. As the butterflies take flight, we may see them float down to drink nectar from flowers or even alight on an arm or shoulder. The largest of the monarch sanctuaries in the region, El Rosario offers the best opportunity to view large numbers of monarchs in one location. After lunch in Angangueo, we travel to Valle de Bravo and the vacation resort of Avandaro, which means "dream place" in the Tarascan Indian language. Set on a lush hillside overlooking the valley, the hotel offers a relaxing setting in which to enjoy the fresh air and panoramic views from your casita, and perhaps a dip in the pool.
Accommodation: Hotel Avandaro
Day 5: Valle de Bravo / Toluca / Mexico City
We take a short hike to Bridal Veil Waterfall before driving to the nearby resort town of Valle de Bravo on tranquil Lake Avandaro. White stucco houses with red tile roofs are covered in bougainvillea, while brilliant flowers in the Plaza Independencia attract a host of birds. Have lunch overlooking the lake and join your Expedition Leader on a walk through the colonial town center and its busy market-a meeting point for locals and visitors alike.
This afternoon we begin our return journey to Mexico City, stopping en route in Toluca, originally a 13th-century indigenous settlement, to visit Cosmovitral Botanical Garden. The building's interior, which houses 500 plant species from Mexico and around the world, glows with the ethereal light of stained-glass panels created by Tolucan artist Leopoldo Flores. Say farewell over a classic Mexican feast before returning to the capital this evening for a late check-in at our hotel.
Accommodation: Camino Real Hotel
Day 6: Mexico City / Depart
Our monarch butterfly tour concludes with a transfer to the airport for flights home, or on to Puerto Vallarta for our Humpback Whale Extension.
Activity Level: Visiting the butterfly sanctuaries requires walking for approximately two miles at a time at altitudes up to 10,660 feet, on very steep inclines and sometimes over rough, rocky terrain, in some cases walking up and down over 600 steps to reach the butterflies. The physical exertion involved can be considered strenuous for people who are less active. Horses are available to ride for some portions of certain trails at the sanctuaries, though trails are narrow and rugged, and riders must be alert to maintaining balance. Due to the small stature of the horses that are local to the Mexican highlands, the maximum rider weight each horse can carry is 260 pounds. Travelers concerned with their physical capabilities should contact our office for further details on the exact physical requirements of this trip, as well as their personal physician for an appraisal of their suitability for the demands of this itinerary.
Important Information About This Trip: The monarch butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico's Central Highlands are a marvel no nature lover should miss!
Observing millions of monarchs clustering and moving together is a wondrous experience. This trip can be more strenuous than most, however, so please read carefully the section on Physical Requirements above.
What a spectacle! Surely this is one of the most visually stunning adventures one can have. This one's a big YES from me.
Joy Martinello, Founder
What’s Included & Cancellation Policy: