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The Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Valle de Bravo Mexico

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If you want to visit a place where millions of Monarca butterflies gather in a spectacular colorful dance, read this post. I talk about one of the places you can see in Mexico, Piedra Herrada close to Valle de Bravo.


During one of my trips around Mexico, I decided to visit some of the Mexican landmarks and the Mariposa Monarca butterfly was one of them.

There are different places where to visit the Mariposa Monarca, but I was told by a trustworthy friend that the best Sanctuary was in Piedra Herrada, located between Toluca and Valle de Bravo.

Considering that I already visited Valle de Bravo I was keener on staying in Toluca and visiting from there. However, I realized that the last time I was in Valle de Bravo I didn’t make time to properly visit this pretty town, so I thought why not going back? And so I did.

I spent three weeks there and made it my goal to experience all the things to do in Valle de Bravo in Mexico State including, of course, visiting the Mariposa Monarca Sanctuary.

And in this post I will tell you how to do it too.

mariposa monarca sanctuary 1

The Mariposas Monarcas in Valle de Bravo Mexico

There are definitely different places where you can see the Mariposas Monarcas in Mexico, and you can find more about it on the UNESCO site . I can only speak for the Mariposas Monarcas in Valle de Bravo because that’s where I went to see them.

When to see the Mariposa Monarca in Mexico

The Mariposas Monarcas migrate from Canada to the Mexican forests around Michoacan and the Estado de Mexico. They travel for two months following the winds toward their winter home in Mexico where they get around December and stay until mid March.

Here they find a warm place where to mate and when they are ready the male die there while the female flies back to Canada to deposit the eggs and then she dies as well. Oh nature!

You can recognize males from females because the formers have a brighter color and two black dots on the lower section of their beautiful wings while females are paler and have no dots.

butterfly on wood

In December they tend to stay on the upper part of the sanctuary (at the entrance) where they stay on trees one close to the other to find a shelter from the cold. Once the temperatures get warmer they come down to the river eating from the Oyamel tree sucking its resin and drinking in the stream of waters. They also fly around all over the place but the most impressive part is to see them one close to the other by the water, or on threes. Such a show.

If you prefer to see them by the trees you should go in December or any cloudy day. If you like to see them by the river and flying around in the sun you should visit around February and early March.

The guides told me that by mid-march they are starting to fly back to Canada (or die, for the males), so don’t risk it.

butterflies horizontal

How to get to the Mariposa Monarca Sanctuary in Valle de Bravo

To get to the Mariposas Monarca sanctuary, if you don’t have your own car, the only way is to get a taxi. Go on Calle Nicolas Bravo and Rincon San Vincente, and you will find free taxi driving around. Wave and ask for a price. There is no fixed price to the Sanctuary. So negotiate what is good for you. Keep in mind that they will ask you more than regular fares because you are a foreigner. If you don’t think it’s the right price or you don’t like the taxi driver just say no and wait for another one.

I paid 200 MXN one way and asked him to come back in two hours to pick me up. The drive is around 30 minutes so I thought it was a fair price, but you may probably find a lower rate. When I asked at the café where I used to go I was told that 120 MXN would be a fair rate. However, I didn’t negotiate because it was an old man and seemed humble and kind. But I considered the tip included so I didn’t give him extra money like I normally do.

I was told that there are taxis colectivos (shared) but then I found out they get to Los Saucos, a place that is 10 minutes drive from the Sanctuary. So I thought it was worth the private taxi especially in these pandemic times.

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How to visit the Mariposa Monarca Sanctuary and prices

The taxi driver will know where to take you. So once you arrive in the parking lot you will be welcomed by the guides who must go with you at least in the first leg of the walk then you can stay there as long as you want without the guide.

So, here is how it works. You have two options:

Going up to the actual entrance to the Sanctuary

The guide will take you up to the sanctuary along a trail which is around a 1-hour walk to go and 1 hour to go back. In the Sanctuary you will see butterflies flying around trees and on them but at a distance. The costs are 350 MXN for the guide (one-time rate no matter how many people) and 100 MXN per person for the entrance. If you want a horse is another 350 MXN per horse. It’s 1 hr to go 1 hr to go back and only 30 minutes in the sanctuary. You are not allowed to stay longer.

vertical mariposa monarca

Going down the river to see the Monarca Butterfly

This is the best solution for me. It’s only 10 minutes walk down the river where you see hundreds of butterflies drinking and flying around. That’s where the shows happen.

The guide comes with you and it’s included in the price it’s 250 per group, so I was alone and I paid that money. Once the guide takes you down and shows you the way, she/he gives you some info on the Monarca Butterfly which is what I am writing here and then you can stay in the forest as long as you want. Just try not to get lost 🙂

I stayed by the river for a couple of hours which was enough to enjoy nature and get beaten by a wasp. But hey! it’s all part of the adventure.

Let me know how your experience was and if you went to see the butterflies somewhere else in Mexico please do share!

The Monarca Butterfly Sanctuary on the map

Monarca buttefly sanctuary map
Click on the picture to see the map Photo courtesy Google Maps

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