Kingdom of the Monarchs - Mexico's butterfly migration
Hear the hum of wings in the silent forest
Every autumn, tens of millions of monarchs set flight on a remarkable 3,000-mile journey from the northeastern U.S. and Canada to their ancestral wintering grounds in the volcanic mountains of central Mexico. Astonishingly, Monarch butterflies use the very same trees each year yet every year the butterflies are different individuals of a new infant generation and no one is quite certain how the knowledge is passed from one generation to the next. The migration has been dubbed "one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world".
This itinerary showcases the mass of butterflies in their natural environment. Beginning in Mexico city you’ll gather in the upscale Polanco district for a welcome dinner with expedition leaders, before heading to the Central Highlands with dramatic vistas of the snowcapped Nevado de Toluca volcano en route. Here you will stay in the pretty mountain village of Angangueo where you can freely wander the cobblestone streets of pastel coloured buildings.
With Angangueo as your base you will experience the wonder of the butterfly migration, riding small Mexican horses provided by the local community, to ascend through the forest with hummingbirds and red warblers accompanying you. Millions of butterflies cover the oyamel fir trees in a delicate, quivering blanket of black and orange, at first glance resembling autumn leaves. Boughs bend beneath their numbers, though each butterfly weighs less than half an ounce. When the sun warms their parchment-thin wings, they take to the air in a whirling cloud of color—so many that the air hums with their movement. Mexico's sanctuaries are the only place in the world where you can actually hear butterflies' wings beating. The beauty of the butterflies is so ethereal that many Mexicans still hold the Aztec belief that the souls of the dead are reborn as Monarchs.
During your stay you will also enjoy talks from conservation experts who are working in tandem with the WWF and the community to preserve the Monarchs, guided forest walks, stunning birdlife and hikes to remote waterfalls. There will be time to wander the colonial resort town of Valle de Bravo on tranquil Lake Avandaro where white stucco houses are covered in bougainvillea and a bustling market provides an excellent stop for souvenir shopping. Returning to Mexico city you’ll stop en route in Toluca, originally a 13th-century Indian settlement, to visit the Cosmovitral Botanical Garden. The building here houses 500 plant species from Mexico and around the world and glows in the light of stained-glass panels created by Tolucan artist Leopoldo Flores.
This journey immerses you into the astonishing Monarch butterfly migration. Combining this breathtaking experience with time spent in charming, rural Mexico discovering its warm locals, vibrant birdlife and natural beauty, it is a wonderfully rounded itinerary which showcases the best of Mexico’s natural beauty.
Why we like it
A staggering spectacle of nature
The hum of a million butterfly wings
pretty mountain village of Angangueo
Horseriding through the forest accompanied by warblers and hummingbirds