February 8, 2017

The Mexico Butterfly Migration - A truly magical experience

It took us roughly 11,900 steps uphill to find them.  The last 1,700 of these steps were made in silence as we honored the large sign that politely asked for "Silencio, por favor".  We didn't quite know what to expect but we were rife with anticipation and determined to find them.  At the top of the mountain, there they were...the Butterflies.

Each year millions of monarch butterflies (mariposas monarca) make a hefty trek, to the tune of about 2,500 miles, from Canada to the midlands of Mexico. How they find the same spot to huddle up each year from early November to mid March remains a mystery. 

So when we set out to see these winged beauties, I imagined a large open field or maybe an enormous cage-like sanctuary with butterflies filling the air.  What we found was much more interesting and extraordinary.   

For starters...this experience requires an uphill mountain ascent.  It took us a little more than an hour by foot, horseback is an option as well. Hundreds of people of all ages joined the expedition...some of the more courageous in high heels, I might add.

When we arrived at the nesting spot - nothing to see here!  We were surrounded by huge evergreen trees covered with drooping branches and dead leaves. Not a single winged creature in flight.  I finally turned to my friends and offered 10 pesos to the first person to spot a butterfly as we started to think this adventure was a bust.  A trail guide nearby witnessed this exchange and gave us the silent, "just be patient", gesture with her hands...and so we waited.  

But as we waited, we looked closer and realized these huge trees with weighted, bending branches were actually covered with colossal clusters of butterflies. In the cold, they nestled together, in their grey withered leaf disguise.

After 20 minutes, the sun came out, the butterflies warmed up...and the trees turned to beautiful monarch brown...

And then they took to flight...

We were fortunate to see these beautiful creatures take to the skies.  Many a butterfly-seeker have made the trek on a coldish day, only to see drooping branches of dead leaves.  

The Monarch Butterfly Dress by Luly Yang Couture  Source Link
(Stunning fashion, particularly The Monarch Look collection)

If you are considering exploring the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, or enjoying the blog, please share a question or comment below!


  1. Ann,
    Where is the Butterfly Reserve?

    1. Thank you for following Margo! The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve spans about 200 miles and is located roughly 62 miles northwest of Mexico City. We were at the Piedra Herrada sanctuary close to Valle de Bravo (another great town to visit!).

  2. Hi Ann-
    Did you go with a guide? Curious to know as we would like to plan a trip!
    Ps Love the dress!

  3. Gracias Jana! We did not have a guide - and it appeared that most people were also "guide less". We happened to find one at the top of the mountain who could answer our questions. I suggest no guide...and try the horses, without heels!

  4. As always love to read your blog Anita!
    Austin also enjoyed a little dance ......"it's all about the butterfly.........."

    1. Gracias amiga! So glad I could bring some joy to sweet Austin!!


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