Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve


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There is a special place in Mexico called the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. It’s located in the high mountains that border the states of Michoacán and Mexico State. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and a temporary home to one of the animal worlds largest mass migrations.

Every winter many millions of Monarch Butterflies head to the high mountains to sit out the winter before again heading north to USA. If they were human we would call them Snowbirds.

From the city of Morelia I took a tour to visit the reserve. This is only the second tour I’ve taken in the last 2 years of travel. Must admit it was worth every peso.

I’d heard of this remote corner of the world from my friend David Attenborough. I ravenously devoured natural history documentaries for as long as I can remember. As my journey takes me to the most amazing places on the planet I had to visit this place.

Their forest home is at altitude, 3300m. Enough to make most people breathless. Luckily I still have my fitness and I bounced up the hill, my poor guide struggled to keep up.

When cold the butterflies sit still clinging to the leaves, tree trunks or on the ground. As it warms up the they became more active. The sound of a swarm of them flying is a unique sound, similar to a low pitched buzzing drone.

I’ve witnessed many animal migrations in my travels. I’ve been to the Serengeti to witness the migration of the wildebeest and Zebra. I’ve witnessed the migrating Caribou in Alaska and Canada. I’ve witnessed the migration of Grey and Humpback Whales. Not to mention the migration of hundreds of different species of birds all round the world. I now rate visiting the Monarch Butterflies amoung my most treasured memories. Anybody in this part of the world at this time of year should make the effort to visit.

I arrived into my starting point of Morelia via the Mexican Toll roads. It states that bicycles are not allowed but they are much safer to cycle due to the wide shoulders. I have never had to pay the toll. I only stayed in Morelia long enough to visit the butterfly sanctuary and have a short wander around town.

My final destination was the town of San Miguel de Allende. My route took me past several large lakes and lots and lots of rural farmland. The riding was mainly quite flat and fast. My plan is to base myself in San Miguel de Allende for a period of time and explore the surrounding area.

  • Angahuan > Urupan > Patzcuaro > Morelia = 144km
  • Morelia > Cortazar = 114km
  • Cortazar > Celaya > San Miguel de Allende = 67km

Cycling the Mexican Roads
i always take note of the distances to the next town while cycling
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Mexico
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterfly Mexico
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterflies Mexico
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Morelia Mexico
dirty lake in Mexico
Flamingoes Mexico
Snake swimming
Lakes of Mexico
Guanajuato Meixco

Next : Mountain Biking Nevada de Toluca

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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15 thoughts on “Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve”

  1. I see the G16 is still going well. Enjoyed learning more about the Monarchs. I remember you mentioning them in one of your PCT posts and how you’d be meeting up with them later in your travels – which is now. Thanks for sharing Shepherd!

  2. Wow, Brad! I have always wanted to see the Monarchs in their Mexican winter home, and your photos make me want to get there now. Truly an incredible sight! Have fun chilling out in San Miguel de Allende. I hear it’s a nice place.

    • Thanks Alison, the butterflies are truly amazing, I would recommend a visit if you ever get the chance to escape your winter. San Miguel is great so far. Lots of gringos so I finally get a chance to speak English again.

  3. Wow!!! These pictures are amazing! You’re so lucky to see this and the migration of all the animals you said. Now you’ve made me want to see them too! :)


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