Epic Encounters with Mexico's Monarch Butterflies at Piedra Herrada Sanctuary
Piedra Herrada Reserve
The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Mexico’s top ecotourism destinations. There are several sanctuaries open to visitors across two Mexican states – Michoacán and Mexico. Piedra Herrada is the easiest monarch sanctuary to access from Mexico City and only a 2-hr drive from the Santa Fe district along the state highway, not toll road.
The aggregation of millions of monarchs in Mexico remains one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles on the planet. When masses of butterflies are in flight, it sounds like rain falling. Their cumulative weight can bend branches of oyamel firs.
What To Know Before You Go:
• The best time for viewing is from January to late February.
• To avoid crowds, consider going on Monday, Tuesday, or Friday.
• The butterflies become more active as temperatures rise during the day. Sunny days are better for viewing mass flights.
• Be prepared for a moderately challenging hike. The terrain is steep, uneven, and at high elevation. Piedra Herrada’s parking lot is at 9350 ft (2850 m) and you’ll go up from there.
• Horses are available for rent. You’ll still have a short hike. The horses can’t go all the way to the monarch congregation sites. When hiring a horse, you’re employing a local ejido resident adding more economic benefit to the local community.
• You must hire a local guide from a neighboring ejido to accompany you to the butterflies. The ejido guides don’t speak English. If you don’t speak Spanish, consider hiring a second professional guide to add to the experience.
• Valle de Bravo, one of Mexico’s a Pueblos Magicos (“Magical Towns”) is only 30 minutes away. It’s a great place to spend a night. It also provides access to El Capulin, another monarch sanctuary.
Thinking of a trip?
If you’re thinking of a trip, we’re happy to help with travel planning logistics. We have several sample itineraries to help start the process.