Las Mariposas de Michoacan

I’m continuing working my through my list of some of the most amazing travel experiences I’ve had that I would suggest you add to your bucket list.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 suggestions for your travel bucket list:

  • Kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico
  • Desert safari off-roading, camel riding, and dinner show in Dubai, UAE
  • The Grand Canyon in the USA
  • Superman zip-lining in the cloud forests of Costa Rica
  • Machu Picchu in Peru
  • Ruins of the city of Ephesus in Turkey
  • Helmet diving in the Caribbean
  • Crossing the Andes
  • Sailing from Colombia to Panama through the Sand Blas islands

Today’s post will be about seeing the millions of monarch butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico. I’ve written about this before, but here’s the info again in case you missed it the first time.

All of the monarch butterflies in North American migrate south to Mexico to wait out the cold season in this one area, Michoacan. That means that if you visit at the right time of year you can walk into the woods where they congregate and witness literally millions of butterflies flying all around you. It’s an incredible experience. The butterflies are only in Michoacan from October to March, so be sure to visit during this time period if you want to see them.

Take a look at this video of the preserve and if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, the info on how to get there is below.

It’s super easy to get to the butterfly preserves from Mexico City, though it will probably be helpful if you speak some Spanish. I took a bus from Mexico City to a city called Zitacuaro and from there to a town called Ocampo. Altogether the buses cost about $15 USD one way. In Ocampo, which is a tiny little town, I was only able to find one hotel called Hotel San Carlos. It was basic but clean and the lady who helped was wonderful. The hotel for one night cost roughly $20 USD. It’s best to go up to Ocampo the day before, spend the night, and then head up to the preserve in the morning (around 8am or 9am). You don’t want to go too early because it’s cold in the morning so the butterflies are not that active, but you also don’t want to go too late or the preserve will start to get crowded. You can take a taxi or a group van up to the preserve from Ocampo. A taxi will run you just under $10 USD, the van will be less than 2 bucks (even with the surcharge you’ll get for not being Mexican).

Once at the preserve, I opted to ride horses up to the actual butterfly area. The price is about $6.25 USD but this is a one-way fee so be sure to double whatever price they tell you. I loved riding up to the butterfly area but if you’ve never ridden a horse before I wouldn’t suggest making this your first try. The horses have saddles, but the reins aren’t full reins, they’re strings, and if you’re too short for the stirrups (like me) they won’t adjust them for you so you end up bouncing around quite a bit. It’s also a pretty steep climb and the horses sometimes stumble a bit.

You ride the horses about 3/4 of the way up and then you have to get off and walk the rest of the way with a guide. You’re not allowed to enter the woods without a guide but they’re just there to make sure you don’t wander off where you’re not supposed to be, not to give any information about the preserve or the butterflies, so try to do some research before you get there. Once you get to the observation spot you’re allowed to stay as long as you wish but you have to remain quiet in the area so as not to disturb the butterflies. Trust me, you can get lost in the fluttering for more time than you think. Whenever you’re ready to go you just grab your guide and head back down where you can grab another cab or van back to Ocampo.

We had dinner in Ocampo before turning in the day we got there and then had breakfast and lunch there the next day before heading home. The total for the three meals was maybe $10 or $15 USD per person and they were big, tasty meals made by someone’s mom or grandmother. That means all told the entire adventure cost less than $100 and was absolutely well worth it.