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Valle de Bravo: Home of the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

By Daniel Alcalá |

Monarch butterflies are part of the Mexican natural royal landscape. Have you seen them?


Each year, from November to March, millions of Monarch butterflies fly to Mexico from the north of the United States and southern Canada. They travel for 2,000 to 4,500 kilometers (3,200 to 7,200 miles) to find shelter from the cold winter in the states of Michoacán and Mexico, where they find the optimal conditions for their survival: fresh weather, clouds and fog that guarantee their water supplies and trees that protect them from hailstones.


In Mexico, there are several sanctuaries dedicated to this species and that conform the Monarch Butterfly Ecological Reserve. And actually, all of them have been granted the title of World Heritage by the UNESCO. One of the most popular is located in Piedra Herrada, 1 hr. 45 mins. away from Mexico City, by car. Landowners work there not only as safe keepers and administrators but also as tour guides.

The sanctuary is found on a mountaintop, so you’ll have to hike along a stretch muddy and rocky trail to get there. Since the ascent has an approximate duration of 45 minutes, you’ll have to be in good shape to reach the top; although, if you prefer, you can rent a horse and ride all the way up.

As you climb, the butterflies will announce your arrival because you’ll find them fluttering near the summit. You should know that the amount of butterflies you see will depend on the hour at which you arrive, particularly because they take flight when the temperature rises. For this reason, the best time to find them dancing in the air is at noon. Actually, you’ll find so many of them hovering over you and resting on the oyameles (a type of fir), that the sky will appear to be a gigantic orange and black umbrella.


Bear in mind that these dames of royalty are not fond of being disturbed, so silence in their presence is of essence. However, as a bonus for you, the quiet environment will infuse you with peace honoring the epithet of “sanctuary”. As a consequence, you’ll bond with nature as you are filled with the sense of time standing still.


After establishing a harmonious bond with the Monarch butterflies and the mountain, you’ll have to climb down, so hold on to your horse reins or tie your shoelaces and get ready. Once at the base of the mountain you’ll have deliciousquesadillas (corn tortilla filled with melted cheese) waiting for you, as well as refreshing cucumbers sprinkled with chili powder and drizzled with lemon juice, and other tasty snacks that will help you recover your energy. Afterwards, if you’re still hungry, you can find numerous restaurants at the town called Valle de Bravo.