At the present time EcoQuest Travel does not have a trip to Mexico to observe the monarch butterflies scheduled. The following itinerary is an example of trips we have conducted in the past and is similar to trips we intend to offer in the future. Please keep in mind that Mexico is a very diverse country and EcoQuest Travel offers many different itineraries to take advantage of this diversity – the trip listed below is just one example. If you are interested in visiting the monarch butterfly sanctuaries or in Mexico as a destination please contact us for further information.
Mexico’s Magical Monarch Butterflies
A 7-Day Natural History Trip to Observe Mexico’s Wintering Monarch Butterflies
EcoQuest Travel is proud to partner with the Entomology Department at North Carolina State University to offer an exciting trip to witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles – the wintering monarch butterflies in Mexico. Each year one of the world’s greatest migrations takes place as millions of monarch butterflies from the US and Canada travel south to the forested Mexican highlands. Once they arrive they begin a period of winter hibernation by clustering together in huge numbers blanketing the surrounding vegetation. This tapestry of color is breathtaking and if we have a warm day thousands could take wing in order to find water only to settle once again as the chill of evening descends. Although the majority of this trip is designed to explore some of Mexico’s unique natural history, we will also visit the exquisite pre-Aztec ruins of Teotihuacán. We invite you to join us as we discover the natural wonders, cultural sites and magical monarchs of Mexico.
Day 1 – Tuesday, December 27: Raleigh to Our US Gateway City to Mexico City and on to Zitacuaro
We will depart early this morning, from Raleigh/Durham International Airport, for our US gateway city (likely Houston, Dallas or Atlanta) and from there we will fly directly to Mexico City. Please plan to arrive at RDU Airport no later than two hours prior to our scheduled departure time. Once we arrive in Mexico and clear customs and immigration we will travel between two and three hours to the Mexican highlands and the comfort of our accommodations at Rancho San Cayetano. Rancho San Cayetano, located on the outskirts of the busy little town of Zitacuaro, is a beautiful and charming hotel set among lush gardens. It has very comfortable rooms, excellent service and its restaurant serves fantastic cuisine. It is also located close to Cerro Pelon, perhaps the best of several monarch butterfly sanctuaries in the area, making Rancho San Cayetano the perfect base from which to explore as well as a welcome retreat after a long day in the field. (D)
Day 2 – Wednesday, December 28: Cerro Pelon Monarch Butterfly Reserve
This morning after breakfast we will witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles as we travel to see, literally, millions of wintering monarch butterflies as they festoon the fir trees in a carpet of shimmering orange and black. We will begin our journey to this magical place with a forty minute drive to the trailhead. From there we will mount horses for the strenuous climb up 10,000 feet to see the butterflies. We will take a packed lunch with us as we plan to spend the majority of the day observing and photographing the butterflies. In the cool of the morning the monarchs will be draped all over the trees and if we have a warm day the butterflies will take wing in the late morning and early afternoon in search of water. There will be so many butterflies that we will be able to hear the flutter of their collective wings which sounds like a whisper of wind through the trees. Cerro Pelon is the newest reserve within the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary and as such tends to have the least visitation. It also has the most intact forest and because the hillsides have not been logged it offers more shelter for the monarchs and a more natural experience. After a full day of admiring this awe inspiring site we will travel back down the mountain and return to Rancho San Cayetano for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 3 – Thursday, December 29: Chincua Monarch Butterfly Reserve
There are three reserves that are open to visitation within the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. We have chosen to visit all three reserves during this trip so that you have the opportunity to compare and contrast each site. Today we will observe the butterflies at a different reserve called Chincua. In order to get to this reserve we will check-out of Rancho San Cayetano and travel to the scenic mining town of Angangueo. Angangueo is the gateway to the other two monarch reserves and after checking into our accommodations at the Hotel Margarita we will head to Chincua. We will access the heights of Chincua on horseback and have most of the day to enjoy the reserve. All three reserves are home to more than just butterflies and we will also be on the lookout for other wildlife including many unique species of birds including board-billed hummingbird, Strickland’s woodpecker, buff-breasted flycatcher, grey-breasted jay, Mexican chickadee, American dipper, red and olive warblers and cinnamon-bellied flowerpiercer. After another full day in this remarkable place we will descend and have dinner and overnight at the Hotel Margarita. (B,L,D)
Day 4 – Friday, December 30: El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve
We will depart early this morning for the El Rosario Reserve. El Rosario is the best known, and most popular, reserve, but it also has been the most affected by illegal logging. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the environment at El Rosario with that of Chincua and Cerro Pelon. There will still be plenty of monarch butterflies, but it will be interesting to see how plentiful other species are. To actually get to the butterflies requires a steep ascent of between 3 and 4 kilometers and today we will be hiking up to the reserve. Because visitation has been so heavy at this reserve they have banned the horses due to the environmental impact they were having. After using horses the previous two days we may be ready for a good hike into the high country! We will take a picnic lunch with us and after a full day at El Rosario we will return to the Hotel Margarita for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 5 – Saturday, December 31: Angangueo to Teotihuacán
After breakfast we will begin a day of travel as we drive out of the mountains to the arid lowlands north of Mexico City. Our destination is the fabulous pre-Aztec ruins of Teotihuacán. We will eat lunch along the way and should arrive in the town of San Juan Teotihuacán by mid-afternoon. Upon our arrival we will settle into our accommodations at the Villas Arqueologica Teotihuacán. The Villas are located within walking distance of the ancient city and provide cozy well appointed rooms. There is also a good restaurant, nice gardens and a beautiful heated swimming pool. We will have the afternoon free to relax before having dinner at the hotel restaurant. (B,L,D)
Day 6 – Sunday, January 1: The Ruins of Teotihuacán
This morning we will be privileged to visit the awesome ruins of Mexico’s largest ancient city. Teotihuacán is a breathtaking assemblage of temples, vast plazas and gigantic pyramids. We will begin our explorations after breakfast with a visit to the Citadel which is thought to have been the residence of the city’s supreme ruler. The most interesting feature of the Citadel is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl with its impressive cravings. From the Citadel we will work our way north along the Avenue of the Dead to the Site Museum containing displays of artifacts found throughout the ruins. Next to the Site Museum is the world’s third largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun. The view of the ancient city from the top of this incredible structure is amazing. We will take a break for lunch at the nearby Restaurant Techinanco which serves excellent local fare. After lunch we will visit the northern section of the ruins which contain the Tepantitla (priest’s residence) and its famous frescos; the pyramid of the moon; the Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly; the Jaguar Palace and the Temple of the Plumed Conch Shells. After a full day admiring the ruins we will have our farewell dinner at Restaurant Techinanco which is famous for its authentic traditional Mexican dishes. After dinner we will return to the Villas Arqueologica Teotihuacán for overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 7 – Monday, January 2: Mexico City to Our US Gateway and Home to Raleigh
We will have breakfast at the hotel this morning before traveling to Mexico City’s International Airport for our afternoon flight back to our gateway city. Once at our gateway city we will have to clear immigration and customs before transferring to our flight back to Raleigh/Durham. (B)
* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.