How to see the monarch butterflies of mexico 

There aren’t many experiences in life that you can say are once in a lifetime, but experiencing the monarch butterflies of Mexico is undoubtedly one of them. Each year millions of monarch butterflies make the long trek from Canada and the northern part of the United States to Mexico where they stay for winter months.

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico to witness the monarch butterfly migration in Mexico, here’s what you need to know!

About the mexico monarch butterflies migration

Each fall, millions of Monarch butterflies instinctively start their travel to Mexico to overwinter. They fly anywhere from 25 to 30 miles a day traveling around 3,000 miles in total to reach one of the 3 butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico.

The journey is long and challenging. In order to survive, the monarch morphs into a “super” Monarch that is able to make it to Mexico in just one lifespan. However, due to diminishing food sources, increased pollution, and car traffic many monarchs never make it to their final destination.

The Oyamel Fir trees found in Michoacan and Estado de Mexico are the perfect sanctuary for the Monarchs in winter. The monarch butterflies will live here for several months, resting, eating, and reproducing fluttering around when the sun peeks out. Come March, the butterflies start their voyage north again.

However unlike the super Monarch that made it to Mexico in just one lifespan, the butterflies returning home will go through as many as four generations before they finally reach home stopping to rest and eat their beloved milkweed along the way.

When to see the monarch butterflies of mexico

The Mexico monarch butterfly migration begins in October, and most butterflies don’t arrive to Mexico until around late November or December.

January to early February is peak season for witnessing the monarch butterfly migration in Mexico. 

The best time to see the butterflies out and about is mid-day. Since the butterflies are in Mexico for the warmth, they huddle together on branches in clusters to keep each other warm until the sun comes out.

We went around 11:00 am and were able to witness huge groups of the Monarch’s “waking up”.

It’s also suggested you go on a weekday if at all possible. This is a very popular attraction (for good reason), and while the top of the mountain is extremely quiet and peaceful, the weekends can get very crowded.

Where to see the mexican monarch butterfly

In Mexico, there are several sanctuaries you can visit in Mexico and Michoacan state which are home to Oyamel fir, pine, and oak trees. These forest are the perfect climate for the butterflies to survive and reproduce during the cold winter months.

All of the butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico are protected, which means you are only allowed to enter with a designated tour guide.

  1. Santuario Piedra Herrada in Mexico State which is about 45 minutes outside of Valle de Bravo and is where we went (see more on our experience here) and probably the most popular out of the three.
    You can hike up the mountain (very steep and high elevation), or you can ride a horse. We paid $70 pesos per person to walk and horses were $250 pesos extra.
  2. Santuario Mariposa Monarca El Rosario in Michoacan state which is about 2 hours outside of Mexico city. We met a couple on our trip to the butterfly sanctuary that also went here, and said the experience was vastly different. This is less of a forest and more of open field where the butterflies fly around in the thousands. They also said they took horses and lunch was included in the field! If you’ve been here, please share in the comments below.
  3. Santuario de la Mariposa Monarca Sierra Chincua in Michoacan state about 3 and a half hours outside of Mexico city. This is the least visited out of the three, likely because it’s slightly further than the others. You can hike or ride a horse to view the butterflies in addition to other activities like suspension bridges and zip lining.


What to bring to the mexico monarch butterfly sanctuary

Mexico State and Michoacan can be quiet chilly in the morning, so it’s a good idea to wear layers and have a warmer jacket with you if you are visiting the monarch sanctuary in the early morning or evenings. Check the weather during your visit and plan accordingly.

It’s also highly recommend that you wear sneakers or sturdy shoes (like hiking shoes). If you aren’t riding a horse, you will be hiking up a mountain, and it definitely helps with footing.

Always bring your own reusable water bottle (this one includes a life straw for extra filtration). The sanctuary we visited had bathrooms on site ($10 pesos) and had vendors selling food and refreshments. We enjoyed a super yummy meal there, so come hungry.

What to expect when viewing the monarch butterflies

The butterflies are very active when the sun comes out, and will likely be flying overhead, munching on some milkweed, or mating. Once the butterflies mate and lay eggs, they die so don’t be surprised to see dead butterflies all around — it’s a part of their life cycle and one of the reasons they come to Mexico over winter. 

Everyone was extremely respectful of the Sanctuary and remained quiet during their time on the mountain. All we could hear was the breeze and the flapping of the butterflies wings.

Watching the monarch butterflies of Mexico fly all around you is truly magical. When you’re there, it’s easy to understand why silence is revered.

I personally am very thankful one of the friends we traveled through Mexico with knew about the migration and made a point to re-route us before they returned home.

If you’re planning to travel Mexico during peak migration months, I highly encourage you to build a visit to one of the butterfly sanctuaries for this breathtaking experience. 


Liz & Dennis

Liz & Dennis


We’re two travel-loving, real estate investing, foodies exploring North America as full-time RV’ers. This blog is where we share our lessons learned, tips and tricks, and favorite places to eat, see, and RV across North America! We hope it helps you find your wanderlust, plan and prepare for RV life, and get out on the road!


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