Mexico's Great Monarch Butterfly Migration - February 12, 2020 - Atlas Obscura Trips
Photo Credit: Phil Torres
Photo Credit: Phil Torres
Photo Credit: Phil Torres
Photo Credit: Phil Torres

Mexico's Great Monarch Butterfly Migration

from $2,625 USD per person for 6 days, 5 nights
See Dates and Prices
  • Max Group Size: 14
  • Moderate
  • Outdoor Expedition

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.

Highlights
  • Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
  • El Rosario, Sierra Chincua, and Piedra Herrada butterfly sanctuaries
  • Presentations by wildlife experts
  • Lakeside relaxation in Valle de Bravo

Itinerary

Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.

Trip Leaders

Phil Torres
Phil Torres has been bitten by an anaconda, tackled a tiger shark, and gotten lost in a forest full of quicksand… all in the name of science. As a researcher and science communicator, he spent two years living in the Amazon and has worked in Mongolia, Venezuela, Sweden, the Bahamas, the Arctic, and the bottom of the ocean. He is the creator and host of The Jungle Diaries and has hosted more than 70 episodes of TechKnow on Al Jazeera. He also hosts Ready, Set, Pet on The CW network and Big Metal Bird for United Airlines. Phil has made several significant discoveries as a field biologist in South America, including the decoy spider, a thieving butterfly, and silkhenge; this research and wildlife photography has been featured by National Geographic, Wired, and the BBC. He’s been leading wildlife trips with Atlas Obscura since 2017.
Becky Friesen
Becky is a field biologist from Alberta, Canada. She has worked on research projects across the Americas, from studying hummingbird foraging behavior in the Rocky Mountains to monitoring frog populations in the cloud forests of Honduras to trapping butterflies in Peru's Amazon rainforest. In 2019 Becky obtained her Masters in Forest Science from the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León in northeast Mexico where she studied butterfly response to forest fire in an area that sits along the migration pathway of monarch butterflies. She is passionate about conservation and loves to travel, meet new people and talk about wildlife!
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Seeing so many butterflies in one place is extraordinary! Sitting quietly and waiting for the butterflies to warm up was my favorite experience. Watching them transform from drab butterfly pine cones to a beautiful whirlwind of orange in the morning sun is an unforgettable experience. The delicate rustle of thousands of wings, like a gentle breeze through the treetops, heightened the sense of wonder.
—Jennifer C. (February 2018)

Additional Info

Arrival & Departure

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.

Activity Level

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.

Dates and Prices

Feb 12–Feb 17, 2020
Shared Room
$2,625 USD per person
Single Room
$3,115 USD per person
The total cost of this trip is $2,625. A $500 deposit is required to hold your space. The deposit is non-refundable after three days. The final payment of $2,125 will be due by November 14, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the trip’s Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $490 will be due at the time of the final payment.
Included
  • Five nights of hotel accommodation.
  • All meals and transportation during the trip, including by private bus.
  • The company of expert guides in the fields of biology, conservation, science journalism, and sustainable development.
  • Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
Excluded
  • Transportation and flights to and from Mexico City.
  • Airport transfers.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • If applicable, applying for a Mexican visa (not required for U.S. citizens).

Additional Dates

Trip FAQ

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.