Accompanied by local conservationists and expert wildlife biologists, join us for a living lesson on the ecology and conservation of one of North America’s most iconic species: the monarch butterfly. Each year as winter gives way to spring, monarchs leave the safety of their wintering grounds in central Mexico and fly north to places such as Texas or Louisiana. They mate, lay eggs on milkweed plants, and die. The caterpillars hatch, form a chrysalis, and emerge as butterflies, ready to continue journeying north. It takes four or five generations before monarch butterflies arrive in the northeastern U.S. and Canada by summertime, each hatching, living, and dying in just six or seven weeks. Then, the last generation—a single “super generation” of butterflies—flies 3,000 miles back to Mexico, where they spend the winter in the very same forests inhabited by their great, great, great, great (you get the idea) grandparents just one year earlier. Nobody really knows why the monarchs migrate this way, or how they know where to go—but one thing we do know is that the best place to witness this grand spectacle of nature is at the start of the journey, among the “sacred” oyamel fir trees of Central Mexico.
It’s an entomological adventure, the Atlas Obscura way.
For flights in and out of Mexico City International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez), you should plan to arrive by 4 p.m. on February 12 and depart anytime on February 17. We're happy to book you extra nights at the group's hotel and provide suggestions for things to do and see in the city on your own if you'd like to extend your visit.
We recommend you have a medium fitness level to fully participate in this trip. Be prepared to walk between 3 to 6 cumulative miles per day, both in the city and in rural areas, and to ride horses on several days. Please contact us directly if you have further questions about the health and fitness level we recommend for this trip.
The International Ecotourism Society has formally defined ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” In other words, it is an effort to combine sustainable travel with ecosystem-level conservation and the explicit recognition of and respect for the rights of indigenous people. That’s why ecotourism is more than just “nature tourism." It has the explicit goal of benefiting local communities both environmentally and economically. By providing financial incentives through tourism, these communities can become empowered to fight against poverty. By achieving more sustainable economic development, such communities can better resist exploitative industries such as mining, agriculture, ranching, or logging. Ecotourism has also motivated the traditional tourism industry in general to move toward more “green” or sustainable practices.
Yes! Thousands of tourists visit the monarch butterfly sanctuaries each year. In addition to working with local drivers and guides (who know the area intimately), we stay on federal toll roads and highways wherever possible (as recommended by the U.S. State Department) and avoid long drives after dark.