Mexico Monarch Butterfly Trail
Day 1 Mexico City
Arrive in Mexico City at any time. There are no planned activities during the day, so check into the hotel and enjoy this charming city. Please try to arrive before 6pm for an important group meeting where you can meet the Chief Experience Officer (CEO) and the other group members. Explore the world's largest metropolitan area or take an optional day trip to the famous archaeological site of Teotihuacan. The former Aztec Capital (you can still see some of the ruins of the great Tenochtitlán in the centre of the city, or take a subway ride through one of the temples) was destroyed in the struggle with Cortez and those who followed him. Today it is one of the world’s fastest growing urban centres, offering a great variety of impressive museums, galleries and range of architecture, perhaps unequalled anywhere else in the Americas. Mexico City or D.F., as the locals refer to it, also has a variety of food to match its impressive visual style. If you prefer to get outside the city, the pyramids of Teotihuacán and the canals and gardens of Xochimilco are two good places to start. A word of caution: Mexico City may be slightly overwhelming at first. As one of the world’s most populous centres, it is a crowded, smoggy, urban place where the altitude combined with atmospheric conditions may cause irritation of eyes, nose and throat. Also be aware that the heat may affect you upon arrival, with a general sense of lethargy and/or loss of appetite. This is no cause for alarm; it is simply a reaction to the heat. Be sure to drink plenty of water (cold bottled water is available everywhere) and do not attempt too much in any given day. We prefer fan-cooled rather than air conditioned rooms to avoid having to acclimatize to the heat and humidity every time you go outside. This is also a more eco-friendly method compared to air conditioning.
Days 2-3 Angahuan/Uruapan
We have the morning to explore Mexico City, then we travel to Uruapan. When the Spanish Monk Fray Juan de San Miguel arrived to Uruapan in 1533, he was so impressed with the Rio Cupatitzio and the lush vegetation surrounding it that he gave the area the Purepecha name Uruapan, which means ‘a time when a plant bears flowers and fruit simultaneously.’ We tend to translate it as ‘Eternal Spring.’ Fray Juan had a large market square, hospital and chapel built and he arranged the streets in a checkerboard pattern. It bills itself as the ‘Capital Mundial del Aguacate’ and it has an avocado fair in November. The town’s craftpeople are famed for their hand-painted cedar lacquerware, particularly trays and boxes. Uruapan is a very traditional ‘Mexican’ city which retains a little colonial ambience. Attractive red-tile roofs top a few stucco buildings and a lush hillside surrounds the city. The splendid little national park, Parque Nacional Eduardo Ruiz is just a 15 minute walk from the town center. On Day 3, learn about rural ways of life as we visit Angahuan, a Purepechan community. Enjoy an included horseback ride around Paricutin Volcano. Both nights, we overnight in Uruapan. Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours Approximate Distance: 410 km
Days 4-5 Pátzcuaro
Start your day off with an optional early morning visit to Parque National Eduardo Ruiz waterfall park with its crystal clear waters in a tropical setting, then it's off to Pátzcuaro. Spend the afternoon marveling at the beautiful plazas and colonial buildings in this magical city. A great day for shopping, or just sampling some local food and drink at numerous outdoor cafes. Lovely Pátzcuaro, nestled in the heart of Purepecha country, is the crown jewel of Highland Michoacán. The town’s colonial centre is filled with serene plazas, impressive churchs, pretty cobbled streets and tiled adobe buildings painted white and reddish-brown. It’s a great place to explore or relax for a few days. It has 3 main plazas, Plaza grande, Plaza Chica and the Plaza de la Basílica. From wood carvings to pottery, the towns around Pátzcuaro are known for creating exceptional hand-crafted products. To the north is Lago de Pátzcuaro with some small islands, and some traditional Purepecha villages on the banks of the lake. On day 5 we take a boat ride across Lake Pátzcuaro to Janitzio. This small island is full of beautiful traditions including the famous "butterfly fishermen", skilled at using their butterfly-shaped nets to catch local fish. View the colossal 40-metre statue of José Maria Morelos, built as an homage to this independence patriot. We also visit Tzintzuntzan, the ‘Place of the Hummingbirds', which was the capital of the ancient Tarascan kingdom. Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours Approximate Distance: 60 km
Day 6 Morelia
Travel to Morelia and enjoy an included city tour on foot to get your bearings. Take some time to explore the capital of Michoacán, a well-preserved colonial city – the historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, or maybe just enjoy the atmosphere with a coffee in one of the many cafés round the Zócalo. Morelia was one of the first Spanish cities in Nueva España. Overnight in a colonial style hotel. Morelia lies 315km west of Mexico City and 278km southeast of Guadalajara. The capital of Michoacán is a well-preserved colonial city – the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site – with a large cathedral, an important university and an active cultural scene. Despite its picturesque buildings and active demeanour, Morelia isn’t overly touristy. Morelia was one of the first Spanish cities in Nueva España, officially founded in 1541, although a Franciscan monastery had been in the area since 1537. The first Viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, named it Valladolid after the Spanish city of the same name, and he encouraged families of Spanish Nobilty to move there. The families remained and maintained Valladolid as a very Spanish City, at least architecturally, until 1828. By that time Nueva España had become the Independent Republic of Mexico, and the city was renamed in honour of local hero José Maria Morelos y Pavon, a key figure in Mexico’s independence movement. Many of Morelia’s downtown streets are lined with colonial buildings and it still looks nearly as Spanish as it did before independence. Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours Approximate Distance: 60 km
Days 7-8 El Rosario/Cerro Pelón/Angangueo
Pass by scenic countryside and into towering forests on the way to El Rosario, a magnificent Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary situated at the top of a steep mountainside. Complete with visitor centre, walkways and forested trails, millions of butterflies congregate at this sanctuary every year. Located 6 km further down the windy mountain road is the small village of Angangueo, which means "entrance to the cave" in the Tarascan language. Angangueo is an old mining town that still extracts some lead and silver from the rugged hillsides. It is spread out along a single main street (sometimes called either Nacional or Morelos) with the Plaza de la Constitución at the uphill end. Stroll through the town's cobblestone streets and visit the impressive churches of La Imaculada Concepción and San Simón. The historical monument dedicated to the area's miners offers a good view of the village. Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours Approximate Distance: 130 km
Day 9 Sierra Chincua/Mexico City
Depart Angangueo in the morning for the 45 minute drive through the volcanic highlands towards the Sierra Chincua reserve to visit a monarch butterfly sanctuary. Enjoy the scenic mile-long hike climbing the hillside as we enter into the forest of tall fir trees of the sanctuary. At an elevation of 3,000 metres, we hike along a path to where millions of colourful monarchs gather in trees, bushes, and even along the ground. Truly an impressive sight! The Mexican government created the Monarch Butterfly Special Biosphere Reserve in 1986. Made up of five hilltop sanctuaries where the monarchs come for the winter, only two are open to the public. Sierra Chincua reserve is the most recent of these public reserves and was opened in 1996. Return to Mexico City in the evening. Estimated Travel Time: 5 hours Approximate Distance: 180 km
Day 10 Mexico City
Depart at any time.