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The monarch butterfly recovers from last winter seasons

This winter time 2015-2016 shows a record number of insects compared to last year, which can be “a... read more

Reviewed 25 April 2018

Also... the view was awesome... the amount of butterflies were by millions... even though they... read more

Reviewed 22 April 2018
San Diego, California
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7 - 12 of 54 reviews
Reviewed 5 March 2017

The winter refuge of the monarch butterfly in central Mexico is a real wonder of nature. The butterflies that leave Canada & the United States mountain areas in the fall, come & hide in the woods of “El Rosario” sanctuary (Michoacan, Mexico), to hibernate from late November to March. Once in Mexico, they reproduce a new generation of butterflies that will continue the millennial migration flight to North America; when the spring begins.

Date of experience: February 2017
Thank Alfredo-Tourguide
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 February 2017

The reserve is managed extremely well, and the butterflies protected, great way to keep nature alive

Date of experience: February 2017
Thank 323eduardo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 February 2017

I'd wanted to see the monarch butterfly migration for as long as I could remember, and finally managed it in the 2nd week of December 2015, at the end of a 6-week trip around Mexico. I arrived by bus from Morelia (changed at Hidalgo), and stayed in the Hotel Margharita, booked by telephone the day before. It's clean, there was hot water and the wi-fi worked - but the room was a wee bit sad, and it's relatively expensive (most hostels I've stayed in are way better and cheaper). The hotel is happily almost next door to a small comida, where the service and breakfast was excellent (cooked out back on an open fire).
I've seen other comments about altitude fatigue - but I'd been up north and then in Patzcuaro and must have been acclimatised, since I didn't notice anything. The evening I arrived I walked up to the plaza, had some excellent tacos for dinner, and asked about the local bus to Sierra Chincua. It got me there about 10, too late, so I asked the cooks if they could recommend a local driver who could take me to the Sierra Chincua the next day, as early as possible (Sunday, I wanted to get there before the day trippers). They called Miguel, we agreed a price and arranged for him to come and pick me up at the hotel at 8.30. We arrived at the entrance around 9 - before that they won't let you on the mountain, - the sky was as blue as it could be, the dew was still on the grass, the morning cold was gone. We started to see the first butterflies already around the entrance area. It would have been nice to walk, but slower, so I went up the first part on one of the sturdy little ponies with Donahì, my 15-year old guide. We left the horses about half way up, started up the path, turned a corner and almost walked into an area as big as my garden that was bathed in sunlight and completely covered in orange and black butterflies. Donahi was astounded, said she'd never seen so many on the ground at that point so close to the path - but then an elderly woman in a heavy shawl came down a trail through the trees and said that when the weather was clear it was always like this, but only for as long as the sun's rays reached that clearing, and Donahì hadn't been up here this early before. For the rest of the way we had to be careful not to step on the creatures (drinking) on the ground, and they were flitting around us constantly. At the highest view point, butterflies against the sky for as far as the eye could see, the only noise was the beating of tiny wings, like a breeze ruflling a curtain of new leaves.
We started to walk back down about 11 and were met with a sizeable crowd of mostly mexican daytrippers on their way up, being a bit loud, and very few butterflies, so I think it pays to go as early as possible, at least on a Saturday or a Sunday, and I was happy that I'd been alone with just Donahì - no noise to disturb the butterflies or the peace of the forest.
The local guides are all volunteers, the only money they make is from tips; Donahì's still at school, she works weekends because she's trying to save enough money to be able to pay for nursing college, but was doubtful about ever being able to make it. So if you liked your guide, be generous :).
I had considered going on an organised trip from Morelia or Mexico City, but I'm glad I did it this way, and glad I wento Sierra Chincua - apart from the butterflies, the forest is beautiful and the views across the plain with its volcanoes is one of the most beautiful in Mexico.
Thank you Homero Aridjis and the Grupo de Cien

Date of experience: December 2016
3  Thank F0xTales
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 January 2017 via mobile

Reading Trip Advisor and other sources before going to Mexico I was extremely confused about the conflicting information about Monarch sanctuaries. My impression now is that context is everything, so let me introduce ourselves. I am a 64-year-old woman who can easily walk 8 miles in a day but hills and stairs are hard because of bad arthritis in one knee. My partner is a 69-year-old woman who plays tennis four days a week but can be limited by her asthma
December 2016, after a week at the beach in Mexico we spent three days in Patzcuaro at 7000 feet. We then went to Angangueo Michoacán which is at 8400 feet and we really felt the altitude. I thought we were going to have to give up on seeing the butterflies because they are found at 10-11,000 feet and even at 8400 feet we could barely walk uphill to a restaurant. We had bad headaches but took Naprosyn and drank a lot of water and the next morning we felt better. I would highly recommend going the night before you plan to see the butterflies so that you can acclimate.

There are three major Monarch sanctuaries in the area bordering the states of Mexico and Michoacán . The regional tourist office in Patzcuaro did not recommend we stay in Angangueo because she said the road there was very curvy and it was too far from the Rosario monarch sanctuary, but we think we made the right choice staying there. Sierra Chinqua reservoir sanctuary is a small one 8 km from Angangueo and Rosario Sanctuary is 12 km. I normally get pretty carsick but did not have a problem with the roads to Angangueo or to the sanctuary. The advantage of Sierra Chinqua is that you can park at a higher altitude and so there's less of a climb to see the butterflies but according to everybody we talked to there, it's a much smaller place with many fewer butterflies. Rosario is larger; there are three different colonies of butterflies there but the tours only go to one colony.

If you have a car it is probably pretty simple to get to Angangueo. For us, we took a taxi from Patzcuaro to Morelia to save time. It cost less than $40 US. We then took a bus to Zitacuaro which was very cheap and fairly slow. From Zitacuaro we took another cab to Angangueo but you can get shared vans or wait for a bus.
Using online resources we chose a hotel called Don Gabino Plaza which we thought implied that it was near the Plaza in Angangueo. To the contrary it is at the very bottom of the town which is built on a steep hill. The plaza, churches, and a passable restaurant, are all at the top of the hill. The hotel receptionist told us it would take 10 minutes to walk uphill but in our state of altitude intolerance it took us 30 minutes. Limited places to eat in town and the restaurant at the hotel was closed because the cook was sick. Don Bruno is supposed to be the better/best hotel in town. No reason to go to Angangueo unless you are going to see the butterflies.

The hotel recommended a guide which we did but it's not necessary. Oscar was a nice youngish man who speaks English. The advantage for us was being picked up at the hotel rather than getting back to the top of the hill to find a bus/van to the Sanctuary, having total control of timing, and being sure someone would help us if we couldn't make the climb. He was also good company. After a bit of negotiation we agreed to pay him $35 and I tipped another 5$ (800 pesos) which was worth it to us. He later took us back to the hotel to get our bags and then dropped us off at the restaurant (Archangeles?? I can't remember) at the top of the hill before we took a bus to Mexico City.

You want to go to the sanctuary earlyish so you see the sleeping butterflies wake up and start to fly around. Oscar determined the timing based on weather predictions. We were lucky to catch 60 minutes of sun when they woke up and started flying around, then the clouds came overhead and they literally went back to the tree and went back to sleep. The walk down hill was mostly on wide stairs and pretty easy. My arthritic knee was OK.

When we arrived at the sanctuary we were short of breath on the walk from the car to the ticket counter which did not bode well. I decided to get over my fear of horses and heights and we rode 2/3 of the way up. You walk up a couple stairs to a platform to mount the horse and a man guides the horse all the way up. (This was through deep mud). I was scared if I looked up or down so I stared at the horse's mane the whole way and it was OK. MUCH better than trying to do the climb. I am pretty sure we wouldn't have made it.

We had been warned that tourism is killing the butterflies. Butterflies can't hear so unlike bird watching I did not worry that we were bothering them. The sanctuary blocks the path (with ropes and rangers) so that viewers are limited and cannot access areas where butterflies are down on the ground. Of the tens of thousands of butterflies we saw, maybe 3 descended to the area where we were standing. We saw one dead butterfly on the path. The trees are covered with sleeping butterflies and the longer you watch the more you can actually distinguish the butterflies from the vegetation. It was awesome and we are thrilled that we did not get scared off by all the warnings. It's a lot of work to get there, but worth it.

Date of experience: December 2016
9  Thank katec391
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 December 2016

It is quite complicated and time-consuming to get there. Even if you take an organized tour from SMA or Morelia it is still a very long day. We stayed overnight in Angangueo, which was a great decision. The area itself is spectacular, you have time to enjoy and trek in the mountains and arrive to the El Rosario sanctuary around noon-time. There is no use arriving to the place itself before that, since the butterflies are still asleep and waiting for the sun to be up. The best time to see the phenomenon is between 12 - 2 pm. It is a relatively easy walk up - just do it slowly and stop for reading the (Spanish) very informative signs on the way up.
It will take your breath away. Only make sure it is a sunny day - otherwise you will be disappointed.

Date of experience: December 2016
1  Thank 70ava
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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