Finding the Monarch Butterflies of Central Mexico

The monarch migration is one of the greatest in the world. Learn about where to find them in the mountains of central Mexico. 

10 Jul 2019

From the wildebeest and zebra crossing the plains of East Africa to the caribou trekking Alaska’s rugged terrains, there are many great migrations that take place throughout the world, but none as surprising and beautiful as that of the monarch butterflies. Below you can learn about the majestic creatures and where to find them during their migration to Mexico.

About the monarch butterflies

The iconic monarch butterfly migration is quite puzzling given that no one creature survives the circular journey from Canada to Mexico and back again. The marvel of the migration is that it takes place over multiple (butterfly) generations. Three generations of spring born butterflies fly north to Canada. The fourth ‘super-generation’ is then born, living eight to ten times longer than their predecessors; these are the same resilient butterflies that make the 3,000-mile trek south of the border to central Mexico, endure the winter, lay their eggs, and make a part of the trip back north, only to have the hatchlings carry on the trajectory.

finding the monarch butterflies in the forests of central mexico

When to go

Beginning their journey in mid-October, the butterflies arrive in the forest-covered mountains of central Mexico in mid-November. The season peak is between mid-December and late February when the butterflies are found in their largest numbers. Be sure to visit the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve at the warmest time of the day, from noon to mid-afternoon, given the sun entices the monarchs out of the oyamel fir trees and into a fluttering frenzy of orange and black. 

finding the monarch butterflies in the forests of central mexico

Where to go

As mentioned above, the butterflies are found in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve stretching across the Mexican states of the State of Mexico and Michoacán. In 2008, the 350 square mile reserve was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

finding the monarch butterflies in the forests of central mexico

There are five sanctuaries that are open to the public: El Rosario & Sierra Chincua (Michoacán) and Ejido El Capulín, Piedra Herrada & La Mesa (State of Mexico). All of them require a hike and/or horseback ride ranging anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours depending on the sanctuary. Weekends can be extremely crowded during high season, so try on a weekday if possible.


Observing this natural phenomenon is also an excuse to get to know some of the nearby towns and cities. Discover the colonial city of Morelia, the capital of Michoacán, for a cultured experience or the lakefront pueblo mágico of Valle de Bravo in the State of Mexico, famous for its outdoor activities, especially paragliding. In Michoacán, the pueblo mágicos of Angangueo and El Oro are two other worthy options for day trips and sightseeing.

finding the monarch butterflies in the forests of central mexico


It is important to note that the state of Michoacán figures on the US State Department’s “do not travel” list. That said, many people have had perfectly safe experiences — approach travel plans mindfully.

Where to stay 

To make the most out of your time in the area, stay in Valle de Bravo at Hotel Rodavento. Opened since the end of 2003, this hotel embodies the spirit of the town: a boutique hotel that offers various extreme sport options. It is located on 15 hectares of forest, and its 30 rooms are spread throughout the pine trees. This location is ideal for couples and young families.

finding the monarch butterflies in the forests of central mexico

Hotel Rodavento

The same hotel group as Hotel Rodavento recently opened another hotel by the name of Cinco Rodavento — a contemporary boutique hotel located at the town center’s entrance. It is the self-proclaimed “new place to be” in Valle, with a casual restaurant, rooftop pool and bar, rustic-meets-chic rooms, and a small retail shop featuring Mexican designers.


Other articles that may interest you: 

Valle de Bravo: a Weekend Retreat from the City
Five “Magical Beaches” in Mexico
Five Romantic Destinations in Mexico You Can’t Miss
Chablé Maroma: the Riviera Maya’s Newest Getaway