VIDEO: Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan

Useful vocabulary for this episode:

  • ¿Listos? = Ready?
  • ¡Comencemos! = Let’s get started!
  • Mariposas Monarcas = Monarch Butterflies
  • Otoño = Fall
  • Coche = Car
  • Hermoso = Beautiful
  • Plomo = Lead
  • Plata = Silver
  • Febrero= February
  • Acceso al internet = Internet access
  • ¿Está rico? = Is it good?
  • ¡Llegamos! = We arrived!
  • Cerro = Hill
  • Caminata = Hiking
  • El último escalón = The final step
  • Cada año = each year
  • Huevos = Eggs
  • Ciclo = Cycle
  • Cuando hay sol, la mariposa sí vuela = when it's sunny, butterflies do fly.
  • ¡Tienes que conocerlo! = You have to come see it!

In this post we are going to give you all the details of our trip to Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico where we visited one of the Sanctuaries for the monarch butterflies in the Mexican bio-reserve. A truly amazing experience you can't miss if you are in the country during the winter.

Migration of the Monarch Butterflies

Cada año = Every year, at the beginning of otoño = fall, populations of Monarch butterflies from southern Canada and the US migrate to central Mexico where they have created a second home of their own. Here, in the Bio-reserve of the monarch butterflies, they get to escape brutal winters and reproduce.

When Spring arrives, in March, butterflies start their way back up North in a trip that lasts between three and four months, arriving to the US and Canada in July. One butterfly can’t complete the entire round trip on its own, so female butterflies leave the Mexican bio-reserve bearing the next generation. They lay huevos = eggs on their way back up North and die shortly after that. This cycle is repeated and newer generations get to finish the trip their parents, grandparents and great grandparents started.

The last generation of the cycle lays eggs back in the US and Canada. It is this new generation of butterflies that is in charge of starting the ciclo = cycle again and making the journey back to Mexico in the Fall. It is estimated that at least four generations of monarch butterflies are involved in the annual cycle!

Mineral de Angangueo, Michoacan

We rented a coche = car at the International airport in Guadalajara and started the adventure in the morning. It took us about four and a half hours to get to our destination and we got to see many towns on the way. When you are getting closer to the bio-reserve, the surroundings change drastically. The breeze gets cooler, and the peculiar, fresh, organic smell of the thick woods invites you to breath in and relax in this remote natural area. We decided to stay in Mineral de Angangueo, Michoacán. A town which grew substantially in the 18th century when large plomo = lead and plata = silver deposits were discovered in the surrounding mountains.

This rustic town owes about a quarter of its economy to tourism for the Monarch Butterflies, and pictures of the monarchs decorate everything there, from street decor to allyway murals. Angangueo is situated a half hour drive below a prominent sanctuary for the Monarchs. People come from all over the world to visit the sanctuary but not everyone stays in Angangueo. We were there in Febrero = February and were surprised by how few tourists we saw, even though this is the best month to see the butterflies.

Accommodation in Mineral de Angangueo, Michoacan

We didn’t book any hotel prior to our arrival to the town. We figured that if we left plenty early and arrived to Mineral de Angangueo by around 3pm we would be able to find a place to stay and we were right! Once we got there, we drove around the town for a few minutes and found the ”Posada El Paso de la Monarca”. Here, for 10usd per night, you get a small room with a basic shower and bathroom, towels, the password for the wifi (which never worked for us), two beds, and tons of blankets. It gets so, very, miserably cold at night in Angangueo in the winter! The two nights we spent there we found out that it was even colder there than it was in Minnesota, where we used to live! Make sure you bring warm clothes.

The whole area of Mineral de Angangueo remains rural and acceso = access al internet is sparse. This is the main reason why many hotels don't have a website or even a phone to take reservations.

Food in Mineral de Angangueo, Michoacan

There aren’t many restaurants in town but we found one that was really good. It is called “Los Arcos” and it is located right across from the main plaza. In this restaurant they serve a variety of traditional Mexican food such as chilaquiles, filetes empanizados, quesadillas, mole, and Jim’s favorite, chiles rellenos.

All over the town you can find convenience stores where they have tons of snacks and pretty much anything else you may need. In this town there is also a market, a bar, pharmacy stores, a hospital, bakeries, and food trucks around the main plaza.

El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

The Sanctuary El Rosario is about 30 minutes away from Angangueo and it is located in a rural community also called El Rosario. Going there, we saw quite a few locals walking from Angangueo toward the sanctuary and we also saw a few taxis driving people up the mountain. The roads are very bumpy going up the hill. We immediately regretted renting such a small vehicle. If you rent a car to go see the monarchs and don’t mind spending a little extra, we recommend you get a more powerful car.

When you get to the sanctuary, you have to pay $30 pesos for parking and you will be bombarded by children asking for money. Sadly, we were approached by at least 10 kids who would repeat “Pa’ un chesco!”or “¿Me da pa’ un chesco?” = Would you give me money to buy a soda?. A few of them offered to take care of our car. Others even sang a quick song and then tried to charge us for listening. [Note: the word “chesco” is slang for soda, and not generally used in polite conversation.]

Entrance to the sanctuary is $50 pesos for adults and $40 for children. They have guides who walk with you up the cerro = hill and give you detailed information about the monarchs and their habitat. Alberto, our guide was very helpful and answered all of our questions.

On the way up the hill, we encountered tons of wildflowers and a natural stream that runs down the bioreserve. And after 620 steps and another fifteen minutes of caminata = hiking along a dirt trail we were there! We got to experience one of nature’s most spectacular events. A barrage of butterflies welcomed us in their sanctuary.

Tips for your Trip to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

The best time of the year to visit the monarch butterflies in the Mexican bio-reserve is in the month of February. And the best time of the day to go will be at around noon since it is then when the sun is shining the most and butterflies go look for food and water.

If you go to the sanctuary on a cloudy day, try to go back when it is warmer and sunnier. We were lucky to visit the sanctuary again the next day and we were surprised to see so many more butterflies flying around on the second day when it was significantly warmer.

Another tip we want to give you is to protect yourself from the sun. We didn’t think of bringing sunscreen but Jim got sunburnt after going to the sanctuary on the first day. We looked around stores and couldn't find any sunscreen, so make sure you are prepared.

A Trip That Will Give You Butterflies

We had so much fun going to Angangueo, Michoacán and it was very interesting to learn about and see so many monarch butterflies in one spot. The natural beauty of the area is truly breathtaking, and a joy for any outdoor enthusiast. ¡Tienes que conocerlo! = You have to check it out!

We hope you enjoyed this episode and learned some useful Spanish vocabulary with us. Watch the video and share it with someone who might be interested in learning about monarch butterflies. Have you visited the Bioreserve for the monarch butterflies in Mexico? Let us know in the comments! ¡Nos vemos pronto!

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Monarch-Butterfly-Sanctuary-Michoacan

May Larios

May Larios García is a Mexican English and Spanish teacher who grew up in a small town in the state of Colima, Mexico. She graduated from the School of Foreign Languages in Colima in 2010. She has been teaching English and Spanish as a Foreign and Second Language since the age of 18. She has worked with students of all ages and hopes to be able to keep helping others learn around the world.

    May enjoys visiting new places, meeting new people, and she can't wait to show you all the awesome places where Spanish is spoken. When she is not working, you can find her in the kitchen creating vegan recipes, sharing laughs with her friends, or at the closest tiangüis or mercado looking for the freshest produce.