Mexico Family Travel

4 Best Michoacan Butterfly Tours For Seeing Monarch Butterflies of Mexico

February 29, 2024

Mexico is full of amazing natural wonders to see. For families looking for unique travel experiences, booking Michoacan butterfly tours to see the monarch butterflies of Mexico is an absolute must.

In the forests of Michoacan state, every year during the months of November through March, families will be able to see trees (from the tree trunks to the treetops!) covered with the monarch butterflies of Mexico. Seeing these monarchs on your Michoacan butterfly tours is truly an amazing sight. The Mexico butterfly migration needs to be on everyone's bucket list!

Our family witnessed the butterflies migration to Mexico in real life in 2019, when we had a monarch butterfly migration Mexico excursion to the forests of Michoacan. What an experience! We were surrounded by butterflies, and were awed by the power of nature. 

Image of monarch butterflies of Mexico sitting on top of moss
Monarch butterflies of Mexico at a monarch sanctuary Mexico (photo by Astrid Vinje)

If you’re itching to have a similar awe-inspiring moment on your next trip to Mexico, then read on to find the best tours to see the monarchs in Mexico.

This article was originally published on August 1, 2021.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means this blog will receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase something. However, this will not result in any extra costs to you.

Best time to see monarch butterflies of Mexico

The best time to see monarch butterflies of Mexico is in the winter. While the exact dates vary, you can generally plan to see them between November to March.

Monarchs have a life cycle of 6 to 8 weeks. During this time, they grow from an egg to a caterpillar, and then to a chrysalis. After these 3 phases, they finally become a butterfly.

Monarch butterfly on a flower at a monarch sanctuary Mexico forest

The monarch butterflies of Mexico congregate in the state of Michoacan. They come from the northeastern United States and Canada, over 3,000 miles away. The butterflies travel to Mexico during the North American winter months. 

After that, the monarch butterflies live the rest of their days in Mexico. Their children also live their whole entire lives in Mexico. And in the spring, their grandchildren make the migration back up to northeastern North America. 

The following winter, the great-grandchildren of these butterflies of Mexico, return to Michoacan, a journey that their ancestors took, many generations before them!

Where to stay for Michoacan butterfly tours

The best place to see monarch butterflies in Mexico is at a monarch butterfly sanctuary. There are two large sanctuaries within the state of Michoacan: El Rosario and Sierra Chincua.

Outside of the state of Michoacan, you can find monarch butterflies at Piedra Herrada and Machero, but these sanctuaries are much smaller compared to the Michoacan sanctuaries.

Street view of the town of Angangueo, Mexico. Cars parked on a cobblestone street in front of colorful buildings.
The town of Angangueo (photo by Astrid Vinje)

The towns closest to the Michoacan monarch butterfly sanctuaries are Ocampo and Angangueo. You'll find a few lodging options in or around these towns. But be aware, the number of lodging options is limited.

Alternatively, you can look a little farther away from the monarch butterfly sanctuary, to cities like Zitacuaro, San Felipe, or even Hidalgo. You'll have more access to restaurants and convenience stores if you stay in one of these cities. But the downside is it will take you longer to get to the monarch butterflies sanctuary.

Here are three hotels you can book for your Michoacan butterfly tours.

Hotel Villa Monarca

Located in the town of San Felipe, Hotel Villa Monarca is about a fifteen minute drive to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. This is a fairly convenient option for lodging for your Michoacan butterfly tours.

Families have the option of choosing rooms that can sleep 4 people or villas that can sleep 4-6 people. Rooms and villas come with free WiFi and room service. Rollaway beds are available for an extra fee.

The property has a pool, though it will likely be too cold to swim if you're visiting in the winter months. And there is free self parking on site. There is also a restaurant at the property that offers cooked-to-order breakfasts for 175 pesos (roughly $8.75 USD) per person.

Ex-Hacienda El Molino

For larger families, an option for lodging during your Michoacan butterfly tours is Ex-Hacienda El Molino, located in Hidalgo. This hotel offers a family room that can accommodate up to 8 people. Rooms are equipped with free WiFi and limited room service.

The property offers free continental breakfasts on weekends. There are outdoor pools as well as a playground on the property. However, in the winter months, you likely won't be able to use those facilities as it will be too cold. Ex-Hacienda El Molino also has a garden and picnic area.

Hotel El Conquistador Monarca

Located in Zitacuaro, Hotel El Conquistador Monarca is only a 9 minute drive from the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. This is a convenient location for families to stay for your Michoacan butterfly tours. However, the rooms are pretty basic, even though they do offer free WiFi.

Hotel El Conquistador Monarca has a gym and restaurant on-site, and also free self parking onsite. The hotel is also located close to San Felipe de Los Alzati Archeological Zone, about a 16 minute drive away.

Use this map to find more lodging options for your Michoacan butterfly tours

Michoacan butterfly tours to book for the monarch butterfly sanctuary

While you can certainly see the monarch butterflies of Mexico on your own, one of the best ways to experience the monarch butterfly migration is to book a guided tour. You'll be able to learn much more from taking Michoacan butterfly tours than if you visited on your own.

Visiting the monarch butterflies of Mexico with kids (photo by Astrid Vinje)

There are plenty of Michoacan butterfly tours available that leave from Mexico City. However, you'll need to keep in mind that these Michoacan butterfly tours will typically take a full day, at least 12 hours.

A less tiring option, especially if you have kids, is to take a weekend trip to Michoacan state and find Michoacan butterfly tours that are more locally based, such as from the city of Morelia.

Here are my top recommendations for tours to book.

1. Monarch Butterfly Tour (Departing from Morelia)

This tour is offered by Yei Tours and starts off in Morelia, the capital city of Michoacan state. A private guide will take you to either El Rosario or Sierra Chincua. Admission to these sanctuaries are included.

Monarch butterflies of Mexico at the butterfly sanctuary (photo by Astrid Vinje)

2. Monarch Butterfly Private Tour (Morelia) 

This private tour is offered by Alfredo Tour Guide. Like the first tour on this list, this tour picks up in Morelia and will take you to either El Rosario or Sierra Chincua. A private guide and admission to the sanctuaries are included.

A monarch butterfly rests on moss (photo by Astrid Vinje)

3. Butterfly Monarch Tour from Mexico City 

If you don’t have room in your Mexico itinerary for a multi-day trip to Michoacan state, consider taking a day trip from Mexico City. This full day tour offered by Paseos Turisticos takes you from Mexico City to Sierra Chincua and back. Note that departure time is early, around 6am, and you will likely get back to Mexico City in the evening.

Riding horses at Sierra Chincua (photo by Astrid Vinje)

4. Monarch Butterfly Tour from Mexico City

This is another monarch butterfly Mexico tour that takes you from Mexico City to monarch butterfly biosphere reserve, Sierra Chincua. Offered by Escapadas Edomex, the tour also includes a pre-Hispanic gastronomic workshop. Departure time is 6:30am, and return is 6:30pm.

Butterflies filling the trees at Sierra Chincua (photo by Astrid Vinje)

Tips for visiting the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary

The area where the monarch butterflies typically migrate is called the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 100 kilometers from Mexico City, in the state of Michoacan. The biosphere reserve covers an area of over 56,000 hectares.

A butterfly at the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary (photo by Astrid Vinje)

The best time to visit these sanctuaries and see the monarch butterflies of Mexico is during the winter, from January to March. However, even in November you can still see a good number of monarch butterflies. If you book your Michoacan butterfly tours at the beginning of the season, there will be fewer tourists there!

If you're planning to see the monarch butterflies of Mexico on your own, the easiest way to get to the monarch butterfly sanctuary for your Michoacan butterfly tours is to drive there by car. From San Miguel de Allende, for example, it will take about four hours to drive to get to the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary. 

For more trip planning tips, take a look at these helpful Mexico travel tips

Things to do at the butterfly sanctuary

For those who don't want to book one of the guided Michoacan butterfly tours and prefer to explore the butterfly sanctuaries on their own, there are two main sanctuaries in Michoacan where you can see the monarch butterflies of Mexico: El Roasario (near Ocampo) and Sierra Chincua (near Angangueo). 

A sign at the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary

While El Rosario is the more popular of the sanctuaries, with its wide paths and paved steps, Sierra Chincua is also a good place to visit. The hike is not as steep, and walking along the path feels more like being out in nature.

Entrance to either of these sanctuaries will cost around 80 pesos. If you have a car, you will also need to pay extra to park the car. The best time to go to these sanctuaries is in the morning, between 9am to 10am.

If you're visiting the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary on your own, you’ll be assigned a guide. Having a guide is mandatory, and it’s advisable to hire one as they are very knowledgeable about the area. Your guide will be able to lead you to where the butterflies are. 

Read below to see what else you can do during your visit to the monarch butterflies of Mexico.

For more ideas of things to do in Mexico, take a look at our 10 day Mexico itinerary.

1. Ride horses

If your kids love animals, consider riding a horse up the mountain. In both sanctuaries, renting a horse to ride costs 100 pesos per horse. This is a much more relaxing way to get up the mountain, and the horses are led by guides who ascend the mountain at a leisurely pace. 

Riding horses up on your Michoacan butterfly tours

After seeing monarch butterflies at the top of the mountain, you can opt to ride a horse on the way down, which costs an additional 100 pesos. Or if you want, you can hike down the mountain.

2. Take a hike

Michoacan state is a mountainous state in Mexico. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve sits in a very mountainous area. An active way to see the monarch butterflies of Mexico during your Michoacan butterfly tours is to hike up to the top of the mountains where the butterfly sanctuaries are located. 

Hiking to see butterflies during our Michoacan butterfly tours (photo by Astrid Vinje)

The hike will take about an hour, or longer if your kids like to take breaks like ours do. However, you’ll see butterflies along the way, and once you get to the top, you’ll be amazed at the number of butterflies you’ll see!

3. Sample local food

You'll certainly work up an appetite during your Michoacan butterfly tours. Fortunately, there are dozens of food stalls located near the entrance of both El Rosario and Sierra Chincua. Many of these food stalls serve regional Michoacan cuisine, at a fairly decent price, so it’s a great chance to sample local food. 

Taking a lunch break after seeing the monarch butterflies of Mexico (photo by Astrid Vinje)

In the afternoon, the monarch butterflies of Mexico come down from the mountain and fly around the field. This is a good opportunity to get some lunch and see the butterflies while you eat. It truly is a magical experience!

4. Explore archaeological sites

One way to supplement your Michoacan butterfly tours experience is to throw in some history. Nearby to the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary is Zona Arqueologica de Zirahuato. This archaeological site is open every day from 9am to 6pm. 

A view of Michoacan during Michoacan butterfly tours
The view from the top during Michoacan butterfly tours (photo by Astrid Vinje)

Entrance to the site is 55 pesos. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, after seeing monarch butterflies in the morning.

Explore other places to visit in Central Mexico here.

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    Resources for learning more monarch butterflies of Mexico facts

    During your Michoacan butterfly tours, you'll have a chance to learn some more fascinating monarch butterflies of Mexico facts.

    Monarch butterflies in Mexico filling the trees (photo by Astrid Vinje)

    But if you want to learn before you visit Mexico, read these books with your kids to learn about the monarch butterflies:

    Monarch Butterflies: Explore the Life Journey of One of the Winged Wonders of the World

    National Geographic Readers: Great Migrations Butterflies

    When Butterflies Cross the Sky: The Monarch Butterfly Migration (Extraordinary Migrations)

    Taking Michoacan butterfly tours: a once in a lifetime experience!

    Seeing monarch butterflies and witnessing the butterfly migration is truly a unique, once in a lifetime experience. Children and adults, alike, can truly learn a lot from the experience. And what better way to get the most out of your experience than by booking one of these Michoacan butterfly tours?

    Have you taken Michoacan butterfly tours with your kids? Head to our Facebook page and share your photos of seeing monarch butterflies of Mexico!

    Michoacan Butterfly Tours: 4 Fun Ways To See The Monarch Butterflies of Mexico | Mexico Family Travel

Pinterest image of a monarch butterfly on top of moss and leaves, with text overlay

    Curious to learn about other natural wonders of Mexico? Take a look at the marine life you can see and explore during a trip to Cozumel with kids.

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