|from $2,995* per person||6 Days||January-March
Exertion level: 3
|Operator: Natural Habitat Adventures
15 people max
Walk with our renowned Expedition Leaders to remote forest groves where millions of brilliant monarchs congregate for the winter
Listen for the sound of butterfly wings as thousands take flight together in a swirl of orange
Support conservation and traditional culture through eco-tourism in the village of Angangueo
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, up to 300 million 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. Until recently, the location of their breeding grounds remained a mystery. How an infant generation of butterflies finds it anew each year is still an enigma. Join our small group to experience this moving phenomenon, enhanced by Mexico’s premier naturalist guides.
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- This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.
- May accommodate certain types of disabilities. Contact the operator for more information.
Day 1: Mexico City, Mexico
Arrive in Mexico City and meet for an orientation dinner.
Day 2: El Rosario / Angangueo
The urban landscape gives way to the fresh air and forests of the highlands, where the snow-capped volcano of Xinantécatl stands sentinel. Our destination is the mountain community of Angangueo, a traditional village of tile roofs, cobblestone lanes and cornfields clinging to steep hillsides. This afternoon we visit El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary, our first entry into the monarch kingdom. As we arrive in an open-back truck, a few butterflies are flitting about, a hint of the wonders that await. Ascending the trail through the forest, hummingbirds and red warblers accompany us until we reach the heart of the monarchs’ resting place. What we find is an almost surreal sight. Millions of butterflies cover the tall oyamel fir trees in a delicate, quivering black and orange blanket. Boughs bend beneath their numbers, though each weighs less than half an ounce. As the sun warms their parchment-thin wings, the butterflies take to the air in a whirling cloud of color and, yes, sound. Mexico’s sanctuaries are the only place in the world where you can actually hear butterflies’ wings beating. The beauty of the butterflies is so ethereal that many Mexicans still hold the Aztec belief that the souls of the dead are reborn as monarchs.
Day 3: Chincua / Angangueo
We drive to Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary for another magical encounter with the monarchs. Riding horses most of the way, we hike the last bit to the mariposas. Sometimes the forest floor is carpeted in patches of orange as the butterflies descend to drink. We learn of efforts to preserve the fragile ecosystem that are key to their survival. Our visit is one way to assist, demonstrating to the local people that ecotourism can be as viable a source of economic sustenance as logging.
Day 4: Valle de Bravo
Valle de Bravo is an inviting Mexican resort town with colorful markets, rivers and a tranquil lake. White stucco houses with red-tile roofs are covered in bougainvillea, while brilliant flowers in the Plaza Independencia attract a multitude of birds. After visiting this magical town, we relax in luxury in the neighboring hamlet of Avándaro. (Avándaro means “dream place” in the Tarascan Indian language.)
Day 5: Piedra Herrada Sanctuary / Toluca / Mexico City
Our last butterfly encounter is at Piedra Herrada, the newest sanctuary. We again ride horses and hike through dense forest to the roosting areas. On our return to Mexico City, we stop in Toluca, originally a 13th century Indian settlement, where we’ll visit the Cosmovitral botanical gardens, aglow with stained-glass panels created by a Tolucan artist. Our trip concludes with a Mexican farewell feast at a fine restaurant.
Day 6: Return Home
Transfer to the airport for flights home or to Puerto Vallarta for the Humpback Whale Extension, or remain in Mexico City for the Pyramids Extension.
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