Monarch butterflies can be born at four different points of the year; March/April, May/June, July/August and September/October. However, it’s worth noting that only the fourth ‘batch’ of monarchs will be lucky enough to live more than two weeks. It’s that group of butterflies that you’ll be admiring if you stop by one of Mexico’s famed Monarch Butterfly reserves between November and March.
This natural spectacle can be enjoyed for approximately five months of the year in Mexico, from late October until March, as the butterflies bed down for the winter in some of Michoacán’s high altitude areas. Carpets of orange and black swamp the evergreens in the butterfly reserve, their vast quantity and undeniably exquisite beauty seeming almost unreal. However, while many people assume you can only see monarch butterflies in Michoacán, they also set up shop in certain areas of Mexico State.
It’s estimated that a potential one billion butterflies make this 2,500-mile journey year on year to enjoy their winter months in the treetops of Michoacán. They’re so numerous that the tree branches playing host to the bundles of butterflies often bend and snap under the weight, and the slightest gust of wind can cause thousands of butterflies to take flight.
If you want to see them this winter, we recommend heading to one of the principal Monarch Butterfly Reserves; Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca. This vast protected area has four principal access points, of which El Rosario is undoubtedly the best known. For visitors wishing to head to this most traversed view point, the nearby towns of Ocampo or Angangueo are recommended for overnight lodging. The other three areas, which offer similarly spectacular although arguably less crowded vistas, are Sierra Chincua, Cerro Pellon and Piedra Herrada, the former of which is best for those who aren’t up to hiking a long way to see the butterflies.
If you’d prefer to see them in the State of Mexico though, the Santuario Ejido El Capulin is an excellent option, as is Santuario La Mesa. Alternatively, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to head to the aforementioned Angangueo in February. This is when the town plays host to a Festival de la Mariposa Monarca, which aims to raise awareness about the animals.