Discover the Colonial jewel of Mexico and witness the natural phenomenon of the monarch butterfly migration.
Every winter, millions and perhaps more than a billion monarch butterflies arrive in the forests of Michoacán. Although it is unclear how these magnificent creatures find their way to unseen, somehow favored, patches of rural Mexico, these spectacular gatherings have generated tremendous interest from ecologists, naturalists, and conservationists the world over. The journey detailed below affords travelers the extraordinary experiences of joining the monarchs at Mexico´s butterfly reserves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and additionally of learning about a variety of historical and cultural features that are unique to the region. As the sun illuminates the millions of orange and black wings, you’ll quickly understand why this is a trip of a lifetime.
Explore the beautiful cities of Morelia, Patzcuaro, and San Miguel de Allende, venture to outlying areas, and witness the work of local artisans and pre-Hispanic engineers. Patzcuaro is a cultural and artisan center for the State of Michoacan that is sure to take your breath away. San Miguel de Allende, one of the world’s most beautiful cities, will surprise you with its vivid streets, unique markets, and distinguished art galleries. Delight yourself in the world-class culinary delights throughout the city and the burgeoning wine scene in the countryside.
Beyond the protected butterfly forests, expert guides will help travelers gain insight into the complex character of Michoacán.
El Rosario Sanctuary – Be amazed by the wintering grounds, a sanctuary to millions of monarch butterflies
Butterfly Biosphere Reserves – Visit other gorgeous butterfly reserves to which monarchs migrate each year
Morelia – Tour Michoacán’s UNESCO World Heritage City and its beautifully maintained and restored Colonial architecture
Patzcuaro – Visit this Magic Town, in the charming highlands of Michoacán, and its lake district with surrounding artisan communities and local Purepecha people with their traditional food and customs
Santa Clara del Cobre – Discover the hidden charms in this Magic Town which has many fascinating copper workshops
San Miguel de Allende – Visit this stunning Colonial city recently recognized as the “Best City in the World” and experience a unique chef-guided culinary tour
Day 1: Arrival to Morelia, City Tour and Transfer To Pátzcuaro
After you pass through customs at Morelia International Airport, your guide will welcome you to one of Mexico’s most endearing urban centers, the capital of Michoacán. Time permitting (flights arrive around 2 pm at least) you will enjoy a privately guided tour of some of the outlying areas of Morelia, visiting the beautiful historic center and seeing masterfully restored 17th and 18th century Colonial mansions and the most important highlights of the city. You may enjoy lunch at one of the many fine restaurants in the city center before the journey continues towards Pátzcuaro (1 hr drive), your home for the next two nights. At arrival, check into your lovely hotel located right at the Central Plaza and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure.
Overnight: Casa de La Real Aduana
Day 2: Private Full Day Excursion of Pátzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan and Santa Clara del Cobre
After breakfast, you will meet your expert guide in the hotel lobby for a private excursion into the atmospheric Purepecha highlands. Today you will discover one of the lesser-visited archaeological zones in Mexico, the lakeside Tarascan site of Tzintzuntzan, to marvel at the unique oval-shaped Yácata temples. You will also travel to Santa Clara del Cobre, a designated Magic Town and former copper mining community where artisanal methods continue to thrive. You will observe copper-smithing and see exquisitely crafted pieces that have gained local artists recognition as far away as New York, Paris, and London.
You will then explore Santa Clara del Cobre with a behind-the-scenes look at one of the region’s famed copper workshops. While the mines are now closed, copper crafting continues. Watch families of three or four generations as they work on their art with an almost unbelievable amount of skill. You will visit the central plaza, named after Vasco de Quiroga, the Spaniard in charge of building the town after the Spanish conquest. You will wander the cobblestone streets, taking in its colonial and indigenous feel as your guide shares the history of this stunning town. You will enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Pátzcuaro’s shining waters and the rocky island of Janitzio. In the colonial village of Pátzcuaro, be sure to try some of the local Tarascan specialties before returning to your charming hotel where you have the rest of the day at leisure.
Overnight: Casa de La Real Aduana
Day 3: Morning at leisure in Pátzcuaro and Private Transfer Zitácuaro via Cuitzeo
After breakfast in Pátzcuaro, you will journey toward the rugged and verdant winter home of the brilliantly-colored monarch butterflies. Spend the night among pine and fruit trees, outside the reserve before two days of exploration among the migrating monarchs.
En route to Zitácuaro, we will stop in Cuitzeo to explore this charming town of narrow streets and buildings of white facades and tile roofs. Here you will also get to discover the former Santa María Magdalena monastery, a 16th century complex located in the main plaza. The area also offers bird watching opportunities during the winter period.
Overnight: Rancho San Cayetano
Day 4: El Rosario Butterfly Biosphere Reserves
After a hotel breakfast, your guide will drive you approximately 35 minutes to the first sanctuary. Upon arrival at El Rosario, you will leave the vehicle behind for a one hour walk along a groomed but, at times, fairly steep trail into the fir tree forest favored by the butterflies. As you continue along the path, note how the forest thickens on approach to the destination you share today with more than 60 million butterflies, which congregate in the forest after eight months and four generations of migration.
The sun warms and lights their wings to reward visitors with a unique and remarkable display of light and color. Your expert guide will ensure you experience this unparalleled and mysterious phenomenon as more than simply an extraordinary spectacle; we pause to discuss ecology, natural history, and conservation issues in the sanctuary.
Please note: the reserve altitudes vary from 8,000 to 10,000 ft above sea level and these encounters require the ability to walk for more than an hour along a steep incline that can be considered moderately strenuous.
Overnight: Rancho San Cayetano
Day 5: Sierra Chincua Butterfly Biosphere Reserves and Transfer to Morelia
After breakfast and hotel check out, you will board your private vehicle. Your time among the monarchs continues with a visit to another major sanctuary ground, the Sierra Chincua Monach Butterfly Reserve. Surrounded by clusters of exquisite butterflies, you will get a glimpse at the epic life cycle of this insect civilization. It’s amazing to think that the monarch barely weighs one gram, and yet, its role as a pollinator has a profound effect on the eco-system. After the monarch experience, the journey continues towards Morelia (3 hr drive) for your overnight stay. Estimated arrival time at 6 pm.
Overnight: Casa Grande Hotel Boutique
Day 6: Private Transfer From Morelia to San Miguel de Allende/ Evening Private Tour and Deluxe Wine Pairing at Dos Buhos Vineyard
After breakfast and hotel check out, we will depart from Morelia towards San Miguel de Allende (2:30 hrs). On arrival, check into your beautiful hotel, spend time relaxing on the property or exploring the town on your own, before meeting your guide for this evening experience.
At 5:30 pm (schedule may change according to daylight saving time) you will meet your guide for a private tour and deluxe wine pairing experience at Dos Buhos Vineyard (3 to 3:30 hrs duration)
Delve into the world of local wine with a night visit to Dos Buhos boutique winery, located just outside of San Miguel de Allende. Your evening will include a tour of the property and the winemaking facilities before the chance to enjoy a pairing of five wines and a light gourmet dinner.
Day 6: Mercado a Mercado, a Culinary Walking Excursion from Traditional to Contemporary Food Markets
Mexico is known for its open markets with its endless stalls offering Mexican culture and cuisine. San Miguel de Allende, a small colonial town with a cosmopolitan and international slant, has both a traditional market as well as a new concept market housing all the local, sustainable and organic fair that the region has to offer.
This tour will take us from the traditional market to the new organic market. We’ll first try boiled fresh chickpeas and fresh tamales and learn about dried chilies. Then walk thru the heart of town to the new market with a few sweet and savory tasting stops along the way including the churro factory, a local wine shop, and an artisan chocolate shop. At our destination, we will enjoy a cheese tasting crafted by some of the best cheese makers in the area.
You can then choose a meal at any one of the many options available such as the organic salad bar replete with fresh veggies harvested that day or the creperia selling exquisite crepes made with mesquite and amaranth flours. Tour includes: All tasting items except for final meal choice
Please note the walking distance from for this experience is approximately two miles. A private transportation service can be optionally arranged, under request.
Day 7: Departure from San Miguel De Allende
After breakfast in San Miguel, your driver will meet you for a private transfer to Leon Guanajuato or Queretaro Airport for your flight back home.
***Optionally you may also enjoy adding a beach extension to Los Cabos or Riviera Maya, flying directly from Leon airport to San Jose del Cabo or from Queretaro Airport to Cancun. ***
This trip can be customized for a private journey November through March.
Our custom-tailored journeys start from $800 USD per day for two travelers. Contact us today to discuss your travel desires and design a personalized proposal with exact pricing.
Please note, our pricing guideline is a starting from price and is not necessarily applicable to the suggested hotels contained within the suggested itineraries on this web site. Itineraries are customized before final pricing.