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The Travel Well Guide
Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries
City: Angangueo State: Michoacán Country: Mexico
The Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve is located mostly in the eastern part of the state of Michoacán with some being in the western part of the State of Mexico in the central Mexican highlands. The Reserve was created to protect the wintering habitat of the monarch butterfly and contains over 56,000 hectares of land. Each November, as the North j American summer ends, hundreds of millions of Monarch butterflies stream south en masse to the mountains of Michoacan, west of Mexico City. They fill the sky with a blizzard of orange and black, and settle in such dense clusters that trees sag beneath their weight. Their destination is the group of Oyamel fir forests where, at around 3,040 m (10,000 ft), they depend on a unique microclimate to overwinter. But the area is notorious for its poverty, and the surviving forests remain under relentless threat from legal and illegal logging. Only j gradually are the local cooperatives coming to understand that eco-tourism can provide them with a viable alternative income, and to support the three main Bio-Reserves of El Rosario, El Capulin, and Piedra Herrada The awesome spectacle of up to 250 million Monarchs is not i necessarily a wilderness adventure. The butterflies share the small pueblos and mountain villages with the farmers, schoolchildren and storekeepers who live in the forests, as well as eco-tourists. They settle everywhere, on corn-cribs, prams and street signs - even on the twin cathedrals of Angangueo, the town whose steep valley and winding cobblestone lanes mark the centre of Monarch country. But j you'll see them at their most dazzlingly prolific within the official sanctuaries. At El Rosario they carpet the forest floor in search of water, and you must step gingerly to avoid them. A sign enjoins you j to Guarda Silencio: the same sign you see in Mexican churches, j And it's true that the butterfly groves inspire holy awe. Sometimes, local guides feel this so strongly that they put logs across the forest j trails to discourage too many visitors from exploring the groves' heart. No matter - everywhere inside the sanctuaries you will encounter rivers of butterflies streaming around you, and even stand inside their kaleidoscope of flashing brilliance.
Climate | When to Visit
Visit during: November to April
Directions | How to Reach
By car/bus from Mexico City (4hrs) W to Zitacuaro, then N to Angangueo; then by local taxi with a guide, or a tough hike N to El Rosario.
miscellaneous | Important Information
Don't miss the classic Mexican countryside and the colonial town of valle de Bravo. Take good walking shoes or boots, however you get there.