Mexico | Migration of the Monarch Butterflies

Mexico | Migration of the Monarch Butterflies

About this trip

One of the most amazing phenomena in nature is the epic annual migration of eastern Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) southward from their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada to overwintering sites high in the mountains of central Mexico. Hundreds of millions of Monarchs fly up to 3000 miles to eventually reach the belt of high volcanic mountains which stretches across the southern end of the central Mexican plateau. At about a dozen isolated places within the high-altitude forests of this zone, Monarchs pass the winter in aggregations that can exceed 2 billion individual butterflies. Stand amid the fir-covered mountains and witness this awe-inspiring spectacle firsthand as the monarchs flutter, dip, and swoop overhead.

Highlights

  • Spend time exploring the city of Morelia and take in its rich culture and history.
  • Hike or ride horseback to three different monarch reserves, where millions of individual monarch butterflies gather.
  • Photograph the dramatic colors of the butterflies as they hang in clusters from the trees, drink from streams, feed on wildflowers, and soar in the air above.
  • Spend time exploring colonial Angangueo, which was once a mining town but now derives most of its livelihood from butterfly ecotourism and agriculture. 

Meet Your Leaders

Susan Meyers

After visiting the Mexican overwintering colonies with Dr. Bill Calvert in March 2003, Susan began volunteering with Monarchs Across Georgia (MAG), a committee of the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia. She facilitates educator workshops using the Monarchs & More curriculum and incorporates community science projects such as Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, Journey North tracking, Monarch Watch tagging, and Project Monarch Health. She administered MAG's Pollinator Habitat Restoration Grants (2012-2020) through the US Fish and Wildlife Service and was honored with a Conservation Partner Award for her work with monarchs. 

Organizing trips to the Mexican overwintering colonies since 2004, she initiated the Mexico Book Project, bringing books written in Spanish to schools near the sanctuaries. In 2018, Susan was selected to coordinate the Symbolic Monarch Migration, a 22-year-old program created by Journey North. This annual tri-national project mimics the monarchs’ journey by engaging thousands of youth from across the United States and Canada in creating paper butterflies to send to the students in Mexico. As real-life monarchs arrive in Mexico for the winter, these symbolic monarchs are delivered to schools surrounding the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. In the spring, as living monarchs return north so will the paper butterflies carrying messages from the students in Mexico.

 Susan received her BS in Microbiology and MS in Environmental Science from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne respectively. She retired in 2012 as an instructor from Stone Mountain Memorial Association where she taught K-12 students a variety of science-based lessons from geology to life cycles. Susan is also a Georgia Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, and certified Environmental Educator.

Kim Bailey

Working in the field of education for over 25 years, Kim has enjoyed a wide range of experiences including teaching middle school life science classes, leading wilderness adventure trips, directing outdoor environmental education programs, and training teachers and naturalists.  She has also volunteered for Master Gardeners, Master Pomologists, Georgia Native Plant Society, Monarch Across Georgia, Bee City USA, and National Wildlife Federation’s Habitat Stewards. She first visited the monarch overwintering sanctuaries in Mexico in 2002 and has since co-led many trips to the monarch biosphere region. Over the years, she became enamored with natural history of Michoacán as well as its many cultural and culinary delights.   

In 2014, Kim moved to family property located in the mountains of Western North Carolina and founded Milkweed Meadows Farm. Generations ago, the land was a working dairy farm.  Today, instead of producing milk, the farm grows milkweed, specialty fruits such as pawpaw and native passion fruit, pollinator-friendly potted plants, heirloom vegetable seeds, wildflower seeds, and cut flowers.  Kim not only enjoys gardening for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other wildlife at the farm, but loves sharing knowledge about creating pollinator habitats with others. She has a true passion for pollinators and is a frequent speaker at local and regional symposia, events, and schools. Educational programs and/or farm tours for groups are also regularly scheduled onsite at Milkweed Meadows.  

Kim holds a BS in Biology and Secondary Education and a MS in Curriculum and Instruction.  When not out digging in the dirt or selling plants at local farmers markets and garden festivals, she enjoys hiking local trails with her two Carolina dogs, trying out new recipes as part of an adventuresome cooking club, and attempting to fly fish. 
 

 

Morelia

Feb 15, 2025

Upon arrival at the airport you will be met and transferred to Hotel NaNa Vida located in the heart of the city near the Cathedral and Plaza de Armas. This evening the program officially starts with a Program Orientation by your guide. Please plan to arrive before 3:30pm.

Dinner included
Overnight at NaNa Vida Hotel

Morelia

Feb 16, 2025

After breakfast take a guided walking tour of Morelia. The city dates back to the 16th century and is a great example of urban planning that combines Spanish Renaissance and Mesoamerican architecture. Visit landmarks like the Clavijero Palace, the mile-long aqueduct, and the Tarascas Fountain while learning about the city's rich history. Enjoy lunch in historic downtown and then have time to explore a little more.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at NaNa Vida Hotel

Angangueo

Feb 17, 2025

After breakfast, depart for Sierra Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary. En route, pickup boxed lunches from Lupita's. After the 2.5 hour drive, enter the sanctuary and hike up the mountain to about 10,000 feet. Horses will be available to rent for a portion of the trail. The cost is about 1200 Mexican pesos each way, cash only. Some walking will be required but can be completed at your own pace. Once you reach the site where the Monarch colony is located, you will have the afternoon to enjoy and photograph the spectacular colony. Please note that there are no restrooms in the reserve and they are located at the bottom of the mountain. There will be time to visit small shops and cafes located at the entrance area. In the late afternoon, travel to Hotel Don Bruno in Angangueo where you will have free time to enjoy the hotel gardens, walk, and photograph the interesting scenes and people of the town.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Don Bruno

Cerro Pelon

Feb 18, 2025

This morning check out of the hotel to visit the Monarch site of El Rosario. Estela Romero will join us this morning and there will be a stop at a local school for a visit of approximately 1 hour. After the school visit, we will continue to El Rosario; this large overwintering colony normally contains well over 100 million adult Monarchs and has an excellent trail system winding through the fir-covered slopes on which the colony is located. Additionally, there is a nearby stream where the butterflies may fly at midday to drink water. At this time of year, they may take flight for an hour or more to find water, nectar, etc., before returning to their roost on the tree limbs or trunks. The hike to reach the colony may again reach up to 10,000 feet and will require hiking up the mountain. The hike will be at your own pace and birding can be done along the way. A portion of the hike can again be done by horseback rental. Once at the site, the day will be spent enjoying the colony with a boxed lunch to be eaten at your leisure. Restrooms are located at the bottom of the mountain and not in the reserve. In the late afternoon, we will bid Estela farewell in Ocampo and continue to the Cerro Pelon Butterfly B&B near the entrance to the Cerro Pelon Butterfly Sanctuary.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Cerro Pelon Butterfly B&B

Cerro Pelon

Feb 19, 2025

After breakfast, visit the Cerro Pelón reserve. This visit will be a little more challenging than the previous days with a steeper hike and altitudes starting at about 10,400 feet. Horses are included due to trail conditions. Depending on the location of the colony, a 30-minute steep uphill hike might follow the horse ride. Cerro Pelón is the least-known monarch reserve, and because of the rougher conditions it is the least visited, resulting in a more intimate experience. As in the past visits, you will take a boxed lunch and there will be no bathrooms in the reserve.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Cerro Pelon Butterfly B&B

Morelia

Feb 20, 2025

This morning, return to Morelia, arriving in the afternoon. Have boxed lunch from Cerro Pelon B&B or stop at El Titanic en route. After lunch, check into Hotel Casino, an 18th century mansion located in the heart of downtown near the Cathedral of Morelia. The remainder of the afternoon will be free to explore, go shopping or take stroll through the Plaza de Armas. This evening farewell dinner at the hotel.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hotel Casino

Feb 21, 2025

Transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Breakfast- included