Mexico Family Travel

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

August 1, 2021
Astrid Vinje

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

In the forests of Michoacan state, during the months of November through March, families will be able to see trees covered with the monarch butterflies of Mexico. Seeing these butterflies on your Michoacan butterfly tours is truly an amazing sight!


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Image of monarch butterflies of Mexico sitting on top of moss
Monarch butterflies of Mexico

Table of Contents

The story of the monarch butterflies of Mexico

During your Michoacan butterfly tours, you'll have a chance to learn the fascinating story of the monarch butterflies of Mexico. These creatures have a life cycle of six to eight weeks. During this time, they grow from an egg to a caterpillar, and then to a chrysalis. After these three phases, they finally become a butterfly. 

Yet even with such a short life span, they are able to make a long journey to migrate to a place they have never known.

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

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, it is their grandchildren that make the migration back up to northeastern North America. 

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

Monarch butterfly on a flower

Doing Michoacan butterfly tours to visit the monarch butterfly sanctuary

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about 100 kilometers from Mexico City, in the state of Michoacan. It covers an area of over 56,000 hectares. The two sanctuaries that are open to the public are El Rosario, located near the town of Ocampo, and Sierra Chincua, located near the town of Angangueo.

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 looking for ideas of things to do in Mexico, take a look at these ideas for a 10 day Mexico itinerary.

Visiting the monarch butterflies of Mexico with kids

Where to stay during your Michoacan butterfly tours

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

Around the monarch butterfly sanctuary, you'll find some hotel options in the nearby towns. There are some limited options for lodging in Angangueo. This is one of the closest towns for seeing monarch butterflies in this area.

Alternatively, you can look a little farther away, 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 sanctuary.

Take a look at these hotels you can book during your Michoacan butterfly tours to see the monarch butterflies:

Hotel Villa Monarca

Ex-Hacienda El Molino

Hotel El Conquistador Monarca

Street view of the town of Angangueo, Mexico. Cars parked on a cobblestone street in front of colorful buildings.
The town of Angangueo

Getting to the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary

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, you can rent a car through. It will take about four hours to drive to get to the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary. 

If you don't want to drive yourself to the butterfly sanctuary, you can book Michoacan butterfly tours that include transport to see the monarch butterflies in Mexico.

From Mexico City, you can book one of these Michoacan butterfly tours. The tours typically last 12 hours or more:

Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Private Tour from Mexico City by Trip to Mexico

Private Tour to Monarch Butterfly Reserve & Angangueo by Vibe Adventures

Butterfly Monarch Tour from Mexico City by Paseos Turisticos

Alternatively, you can book this monarch Mexico tour from the city of Morelia:

Monarch Butterfly Tour (Departing from Morelia) by Yei Tours

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

A butterfly at the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary

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 and Sierra Chincua. 

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.

A sign at the monarch butterflies of Mexico sanctuary

1. 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. 

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!

2. 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. 

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.

Riding horses up on your Michoacan butterfly tours

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. 

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. 

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.

A view of Michoacan during Michoacan butterfly tours
The view from the top during Michoacan butterfly tours

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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