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Between November and March, millions of monarch butterflies arrive to the Michoacán sanctuaries, offering visitors with one of the most majestic natural spectacles in the country. However, these mountains still offer magnificent getaway opportunities all year long. You can take a tour through the Magical Mining Towns of Tlalpujahua and Angangueo or the historical town of Zitácuaro; you can enjoy new experiences in the local dams and you can relax at the thermal waters at Los Azufres natural spa.

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October

The monarchs arrive in Mexico. After crossing the US from north to south, the swarms of butterflies continue their way to the sacred fir forests of central Mexico, their winter home.

Throughout the month of October, the butterflies take over the Mexican skies during the last stage of their autumnal migration. The first ones to arrive settle in the sacred fir forests of central Mexico, in a protected area. The laggards, perhaps those who travel from farther away, continue to arrive throughout the whole month, completing their journey of thousands of kilometers. It is now time for them to feed, as they will need energy reserves to survive the harsh winter before them.

November

Butterfly colonies in the sanctuaries. The monarchs form large colonies that will remain together until spring. The sanctuaries open at the end of the month, allowing controlled visits into this natural wonder.

The butterflies settle in their winter home, the sacred fir forests of central Mexico located within the Biosphere Reserve, at more than 3,000 meters of altitude. Although the Reserve covers more than 50 thousand hectares, butterflies form their colonies in just a few hectares, gathering there by millions. The Reserve establishes the visiting routes depending on the location of the colonies and, at the end of the month, sets the sanctuaries opening date.

December

The clusters. The monarchs are now settled into colonies and, as the days shorten and the temperatures decrease, they begin to form clusters in order to preserve the heat and stay alive during the winter harshness.

At lower elevations it is still possible to see some butterflies activity during this month. In the Reserve, where colonies are formed in the forests, at higher altitudes, once the butterflies begin to feel the rigors of the winter weather, they gather into huge clusters of up to a thousand specimens, their survival strategy for the winter. Butterflies cover trunks and branches, and clusters hang from the sacred firs. The forest is their sole protection from storms, snowfalls, frosts and strong winds. Therefore, it is vital to keep their ecosystem intact.

January

Hibernation. Butterflies create clusters to protect themselves from low temperatures. They remain in lethargy, with their biological activity to a minimum. Surviving the winter frosts is the most important thing now.

Monarch butterflies are adapted to cold climates and can withstand the subzero temperatures which are common to these forests. This month is critical for their survival. In order to withstand the cold, butterflies hibernate, that is, they reduce their vital functions to the minimum, and gather in clusters of up to a thousand specimens hanging from the sacred fir trees. A particularly strong frost, rain or wind can easily undo these clusters. The butterflies that fall, being in state of lethargy, are unable to take flight again and they die. There have been such harsh winters that millions of monarchs have died from the cold.

February

The awakening. The first sun rays announce the imminent arrival of spring and awaken the butterflies from their lethargy. In sudden frenzy, the monarchs star moving and abandon their clusters to look for water and nectar.

In February the days become longer and in the middle of the day the temperature begins to rise. When the monarch butterflies start feeling the heat in their bodies, they begin to wake up and recover their vital functions. As the month moves forward, the butterflies leave their clusters and begin looking for water and food. In the warm hours of the day, when the sun still shines, the forests fill with swarms of fluttering butterflies, looking for streams and flowers in order to drink their nectar. It is time to regain strength to undertake the return trip.

March

The departure towards the north. After mating, monarch butterflies begin their spring migration. The orange swarms of butterflies fly towards the south of the USA, where they will finally lay their eggs.

 These are the so called Methuselah generation of butterflies. Ever since they left their chrysalis in August they began an epic journey in the world of insects: they traveled almost 5,000 km., from the US and Canada to Michoacan, there, they hibernated for two months and now they must begin their return trip. Between February and March, their sexual organs will reach maturity and, before flying north, they must mate. The male butterflies die, and the females travel back, towards the south of the US. In March it is very common to find huge swarms of butterflies in the lower lands of the sacred fir forests, as they fly northwards, crossing the country.

Where and when can I see the butterflies?

You can see the monarchs in the sanctuaries of El Rosario and Sierra Chincua, next to the Magical Town of Angangueo. The sanctuaries are open to the public from mid-November to the end of March, which is when the butterflies arrive and hibernate in our forests.

What is all this talk about Methuselah?

According to the Bible, Methuselah lived 969 years. Monarch butterflies live in cycles of four generations. Three generations live a little over a month, and the fourth generation emigrates from the US and Canada to Mexico in the fall, and back in the spring. This generation lives eight months, and due to its longevity it is called the Methuselah butterfly.

Is it true that they are an endangered species?

Butterflies can die by millions if temperature drops too low, but the main threat to their lives is the constant depletion of their habitat. In the US, pesticides are killing off the milkweed, a plant monarchs depend on for their survival. In Mexico, at the El Rosario and Sierra Chincua sanctuaries, local residentes perform re-forestation activities every year in order to take care of the Monarch butterfly habitat.

Schedule

12 months, 12 ways to explore the Country of the Monarch Butterfly

JAN
FEB
MAR
APR
MAY
JUN
JUL
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SEP
OCT
NOV
DEC
January

Silence in the butterflies’ forests

Hundreds of millions of monarchs cover the forests of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. As soon as the sun begins to shine, they will wake up and start flying all over the place. Visit our sanctuaries at Sierra Chincua, El Rosario or Senguio and make some time to explore the picturesque Magical Town of Angangueo, and enjoy its spectacular views from its many viewpoints. This town shares a mining history with Tlalpujahua, another Magical Town. Why don’t you stay over the whole weekend and delve into our mining history?

February

Fly, monarch, fly

The sun comes out and millions of monarchs leave the unique clusters they have formed during the winter and fly all over the forest offering a majestic sight. February is an excellent time to visit our sanctuaries of Sierra Chincua, El Rosario or Senguio, located next to the beautiful Magical Town of Angangueo, with its tall bell towers crowning the landscape. If you plan on staying for the whole weekend, you can add to your program a visit to the renowned Agricultural Fair of Zitácuaro or a tour through another Magical Mining Town, Tlalpujahua, which this month celebrates its festive Mazahua Carnival.

March

Spend Holy Week touring through Magical Towns

The Monarch Butterfly Cultural Festival, which takes place when the monarchs are still flitting over the forests of Senguio, is the festive component to an otherwise solemn March. Don't miss the incredible effect of the sunlight over San Panchito on the 21st. Penance and religious fervor flood the streets of the Magical Towns of Tlalpujahua and Angangueo. During Holy Week, in Tlalpujahua, Procession’s of Christs arriving from nearby communities take over the town, as tradition dictates. Angangeo’s Holy Week also features colorful and traditional processions and culminates with the burning of Judas on Easter Sunday. Make the most of your trip and visit our picturesque Magical Mining Towns, which are well worth your time.

April

Touring through the Country of the Monarch Butterfly

The Route of the Magical Mining Towns includes the quarry streets of Tlalpujahua, the flowery balconies of Angangueo and the art nouveau of the town of El Oro, in the state of Mexico; all of which comes together with the local history of mines, riches and misfortunes. The inviting weather is ideal to take a stroll among the local architectural gems such as the Parish of San Pedro and San Pablo de Tlalpujahua or to climb to the highest viewpoints of Angangueo from where you can see the bell tower of the Temple of the Immaculate Conception. The Church of San Francisco, in Zitácuaro, is also worth visiting, as it is one of the first temples ever built in the region, and it captivated Charles of England himself.

May

Crosses, quarry and nature

Enjoy the Festive atmosphere in the Country of the Monarch Butterfly. The Magic Town of Tlalpujahua celebrates its famous Quarry Fair, which attracts thousands of buyers and curious passersby year after year. Our other Magical Hill Town, Angangueo, adorns its streets with charming and colorful sawdust mats for their traditional Fiesta de la Santa Cruz. As May’s heat increases we encourage you to enjoy a relaxing getaway with mud baths and fresh air at Los Azufres Spa or, if you prefer something more adventurous, experience an exciting weekend exploring our pyramids, dams and caves. Another option is to enjoy the famous thermal springs of Jungapeo.

June

The flight of the bird-men

Although the Papantla flyers are the best known, the same flying ritual declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is also celebrated in a small town of Michoacan called San Pedro Tarimbaro, on the Sunday following June 29. As you already are very close to Tlalpujahua, take the opportunity to spend the weekend touring the Magical Mining Towns Route, which will also take you to Angangueo and El Oro in the State of Mexico. Explore the galleries of the Dos Estrellas Mine or, if you enjoy nature more, you may visit the nearby dams and thermal waters of Los Azufres or Jungapeo. Do you dare?

July

Summer vacation

In July, the Country of the Monarch Butterfly is the perfect destination to enjoy with your family, with your friends or with your partner. Summer Vacation is finally here, and the weekends are full of laughter, barbecues and swimming in the pool At Jungapeo you can enjoy the thermal springs and at Los Azufres Natural Spa you can enjoy temazcales and mud baths or relax in the hot water pools. You can also visit our dams if you are looking for something more adventurous. Spas, hotels and cabins, suitable to all budgets, await you with open arms. Summer is also the perfect time to visit the Magical Mining Towns. On June 11th Angangueo celebrates Miner's Day, and on the 17th the Virgen del Carmen festivities take place in Tlalpujahua.

August

Fun on land and water and tasty mushrooms

Summer continues and so does adventure. The Las Presas Ecotourism Corridor offers plenty of activities, such as ATV tours and zip lining. Nearby you can find Los Azufres hot springs. Enjoy this comfortable spa and take care of your health or enjoy some quiet time with your family and get away from everything and enjoy the curative waters of Jungapeo. You can also visit the Tziranda Grottos or contemplate the magnificent views from the pyramids of San Felipe de los Alzati. When visiting Las Presas you must try their signature dish: the trout. Also during August, you can enjoy the Mushroom Fair at Senguio, a delightful event, suitable to even the most demanding palates, in which you can taste more than 18 different types of mushrooms. Bon appétit!

September

Month of the Independence

September is the perfect month to explore our Magical Mining Towns. In Tlalpujahua, a town of stone houses, tin tiles and infinite charm, you will fall in love with the baroque Temple of San Pedro and San Pablo presiding over the town from the heights. You will be overwhelmed by the rich mining history of the Dos Estrellas Mine and the Torre del Carmen (Del Carmen Tower). Do not forget to try their exquisite liquors and canned fruits. Nearby, you can find the village of El Oro where you will be amazed by the architectural contrasts. The Magical Mining Towns Route continues its way up to Angangueo, also rich in minerals and history, which has been witnessed, since its very apogee by the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Once you enjoy its panoramic viewpoints from above, you will not help but falling in love with this picturesque hill town nestled in the ravine, which already welcomes the first monarch butterflies. You can also take this opportunity to visit Zitácuaro during the Independence Festivities, since it is considered a three times heroic city, and stop by San Panchito, Zitácuaro's best kept secret. Viva Mexico!

October

Christmas Spheres and Nights of terror

The Magic Town of Tlalpujahua prepares itself for both terror and Christmas. The Feratum Terror Film Festival takes place in October, bringing together fantastic cinema fans from all over the country and adding new participants, year after year. This is a great month for Tlalpujahua, which begins with its famous Spheres Fair, open until December and attracting thousands of people eager to take a Christmas souvenir with them. Once you are here you must not forget to taste the local canned fruit, which competes with that from Angangueo, another Magical Mining Town that celebrates its patron saint, Simon, on October 28th.

November

The monarch butterfly is finally here!

November begins with the celebration of the Day of the Death, a very popular festivity in the Magic Town of Tlalpujahua, which also holds its popular Sphere Fair all throughout this same month. But this month is also the moment in which the beloved Monarch Butterflies finally arrive to Mexico. After a strenuous journey of more than 4,000 km from North America, the monarchs finally arrive to the Michoacán’s forests. Come visit the sanctuaries of Sierra Chincua, El Rosario or Senguio and behold how millions of butterflies settle in their new winter home, where they will hibernate until February. The sanctuaries are located only a few kilometers away from the Magical Town of Angangueo, also a mining town, as Tlalpujahua, which is well worth a visit. There you can take a stroll through its cobbled streets and under its balconies full of flowers. You should also try its delicious local gastronomy and its canned fruit during the Monarch Butterfly Cultural Festival.

December

Butterflies for Christmas

Millions of spheres already adorn the Christmas trees of the Mexican homes, but still some people come to visit the Tlalpujahua Sphere Fair to do some last minute shopping. Enjoy a perfect weekend getaway and make the most of this beautiful Magical Mining Town, taste its delicious sweets and liquors (who said shopping?) and visit also a nearby Magical Mining Town which has also a lot to celebrate: Angangueo. The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Immaculate Conception festivities take place in December in Angangeuo, but perhaps the town’s most charming feature is its view from the top of the mountain. In the sanctuaries of Sierra Chincua, El Rosario and Senguio, millions of monarch butterflies already prepare to hibernate by forming incredible clusters which cover in orange whole branches, trunks and trees. A Christmas gift from Mother Nature. Happy Holidays!

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The New Year begins

The celebration of The Lord of Mercy takes place this month in the towns of Eronguaricaro and Parangaricutiro. The latter is also famous for the Kurpites Festivity, in which masses of young people dance around dressed in colorful costumes and wearing stunning masks. If you happen to be in the area, visit the ruins of the ancient San Juan Parangaricutiro, today covered in lava. You can also visit the villages of the Purépecha Plateau, with their beautiful chapels of decorated coffered ceilings.

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Carnival days

Carnival is celebrated in several communities of the Purépecha Plateau, but the most colorful is probably that of Morelia with its “Torito de Petate Festival”, which takes places along the charming Fray Antonio de San Miguel Avenue, through which the people carry around a palm bull (or torito). Candlemas is also celebrated in February, mainly in the towns of OcumichoZacánCharapan and Cocucho. The regional artisans are renowned for the beauty of their crafts, so do not forget to visit their workshops and take some souvenirs with you.

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Devotion and handicrafts

Holy Week is a time for seclusion and religious fervor. The villagers of Tzintzuntzan dress like Romans looking through the streets for those villagers dressed like Christs.

In Pátzcuaro, the villagers walk the streets carrying impressive 16th century representations of Christ. Solemn processions roam the streets in Morelia. On Palm Sunday, the largest Handicraft Market in all Michoacán takes over Uruapan, with extraordinary artisans from all over Don Vasco’s Route as well as local traditional cooks. Do not forget to visit the nearby “Huatápera”, which nowadays hosts an indigenous museum.

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Exploring the Plateau

Villagers in Uruapan still practice the so-called “aguadoras” ritual, a tradition in which the Cupatitzio river is blessed so that the water never stops sprouting. This tradition is celebrated in the framework of the Palm Sunday festivities and during the unique Palm Sunday Handicraft Market. We recommend you to visit “La Huatápera”, and old chapel now hosting a museum. You should also visit the communities of the Purépecha Plateau, with their beautiful temples, their delicious dishes, and their stunning crafts.

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Morelia on everyone's lips

In May, Morelia becomes the most fashionable city in Michoacán, as the largest gastronomic event in the country, “Morelia in Boca”, brings together Mexico’s most gourmet travelers (hoping to taste some of the city’s best dishes). The Festival of the Historical Center also takes places in May, featuring all kinds of activities. Do not miss the lighting of the Cathedral and the magnificent video mapping show in the San Francisco convent, where you can also buy the best handicrafts in state.

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The longest day of the year

The summer solstice takes place in June 21st, and the communities of the Purépecha Plateau such as ZacánCocucho, and Charapan – famous for their beautiful barns or trojes— celebrate their festivities in honor of John the Baptist. In Charapan and Tingambato they also celebrate Saint Anthony’s day. In Tingambato, we recommend you to visit also the ruins of what once was a great ceremonial center, a perfect place to charge yourself with energy. In Morelia, the International Guitar Festival takes place in June. But if you want to buy the best guitars in town you better go all the way to Paracho.

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Copper sparkling in the sun

Santa Clara del Cobre, a beautiful Magical Town, celebrates the National Copper Fair honoring the village’s centuries-old tradition. Nearby, in the town of Zirahuén, you will find the Open Waters Great Challenge, a sporting event in a spectacular natural setting. The whole Purépecha Plateau, from Uruapan to towns such as Nurio, Angahuan and Tingambato, celebrates religious festivities in honor of Saint James the Great.

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Sweet strings and sweetest tastes

In August the air is filled with the sweetest sounds. Cellos are tuned all over Morelia, and in Paracho, the so called land of the luthier, guitar songs take over the streets, during the International Guitar Fair. It is also the time to relax, and what better way to do it than trying some local desserts, such as Morelia’s quince fruit cheeses or Pátzcuaro’s traditional ice-cream.

Explore the Country of the Monarch Butterfly

A Country filled with Magical Towns and enchanted places

A magical experience

Enjoy this gift of nature on your own or in group

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