Anyone can visit the monarch overwintering sites near Angangueo, Mexico (in the state of Michoacán). Transportation from Mexico City or Morelia to Angangueo (approximately 80 miles) is available. Many prefer to fly into Morelia. There, they rent a car to travel to the sanctuaries. An alternative is to take a local bus from Angangueo to the monarch colonies at El Rosario or Sierra Chincua. Another possibility is to take a tour - Monarch Watch does not endorse any of the organizations below; this information is simply provided for your convenience.
"Monarchs Across Georgia" tours are geared toward teachers; however, a local Master Gardener went with the group in 2007 and had a wonderful time. For details, contact contact Susan Meyers at email@example.com
or visit: http://monarchsacrossga.org/MAGEvents.htm
Tom Emmel (University of Florida) leads tour groups as well. Emmel is a professor of zoology and entomology at the University of Florida, director of the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory and doubles as curator of Natural Sciences and director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the Florida Museum of Natural History. For details, visit: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/butterflies/expeditions.htm
More tours can be found online by using words like monarch, butterfly, tours, Mexico in a search box. Tour dates and designs vary - here is a short list we found doing a quick search (we have no experience or affiliation with these groups).
Monarch Butterfly Kingdom Tour:
http://www.ecotravelmexico.com/monarch- ... ingdom.htm
Natural Habitat Adventures:
If you decide to go on your own, there are two hotels in Angangueo that we recommend. The first is the Hotel Don Bruno. This hotel has a beautiful garden in the center as you enter. To contact the Don Bruno, call 011-52-715-600-26 (also a fax number) and ask for Sheela or Engracea. The second hotel in Angangueo is the Hotel Margarita. You can contact them by calling 011-52-715-601-49 and asking for Simon. If you would like to stay in a beautiful resort and don't mind a forty-minute drive to Angangueo, we recommend staying at Rancho San Cayetano. This hotel is run by Pablo and Lisette Span. Their property is in a beautiful secluded area in Zitácuaro. You can contact Pablo or Lisette by phone at 011-52-715-153-1926 or fax at 011-52-715-153-7879.
Be aware that the overwintering sites do not open to the public until November 18th and they close around March 15th. Once you arrive at the sanctuary, expect to pay an entrance fee of about 15 pesos (about US$1.50), to hike up a long mountain trail. At elevations above 10,000 feet, you might find yourself making frequent stops to catch your breath! At Sierra Chincua, horses are available to ride up the mountain slopes, which makes it more accessible for those who are unable to make the hike. The trip is well worth the effort. The monarchs roosting in the mountains and flying overhead will take your breath away.
WWF-MX: Tourist Destinations in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
WWF-MX: Rules for Visiting the Monarch Sanctuaries
Here are some traveling hints to help you prepare for the trip:
• Wear layers of clothing. The temperature in the early morning hours can dip into the 30s and daylight temperatures can reach into the 80s. Solar radiation is intense, so remember to pack sunscreen and a hat to use during the day. Mexican hotels are not heated, so you should consider bringing a warm set of pajamas as well.
• Bring comfortable hiking shoes. The hike to the overwintering sites can be long and steep. Also, you must be able to comfortably walk several miles to see the butterflies.
• The road to the overwintering sites can be dusty and the transportation is usually open air, so you may want to bring along a handkerchief or dusk mask.
• Pack the appropriate film/camera for low light conditions because the monarchs will be under the forest canopy. Photographing them can be quite difficult and you will be asked not to use a flash, so be prepared.
• If you have a heart condition or a medical problem that interferes with your breathing (like asthma), make sure that you talk to your doctor before making the trip. You will be at elevations of 10,000 feet or more and breathing becomes difficult when you are not used to the lower level of oxygen at these heights. Again, you will need to be able to walk several miles comfortably.
• Vaccinations are not required to enter Mexico but The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends immunizations against yellow fever and hepatitis. Contact the CDC for current health information, especially if you will be visiting other areas of Mexico. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinationMexico.aspx
• Traveler's diarrhea is a very real possibility, but it can be prevented. Bottled water is available throughout the country. With food you should boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it. Avoid all undercooked meat and mayonnaise or creamed mixtures. Kaopectate or Immodium can help relieve symptoms and you can also talk to your doctor for other recommendations.
• The exchange rate is around 10 Mexican pesos to 1 American dollar. You will find the best rates at the Casas de Cambio in the airport and scattered throughout Morelia and Zitácuaro. You will not be able to exchange your money at the overwintering sites.
• Since January 23, 2007, all persons traveling by air or boat between the United States and Mexico are be required to present a valid passport.
Have fun on your trip!