Tag Archives: Monarch butterflies

Bucket List Tour: Monarch Butterflies + Michoacan

February 5 – 13, 2023 – 9 days, 8 nights

I never knew that visiting the Monarch butterflies in Mexico should have been on my bucket list until I got there. Tucked into the mountainous forests of Estado de Mexico is the terminus of the butterfly migration from North America where the noble Monarchs winter and reproduce. The experience is mystical, magical, life-affirming and memorable. I’ve always felt that being here is one of those moments that inspire and validate our existence on the planet, and gives us pause to appreciate the constant cycle of nature at its most magnificent.

But this is not all! After this first part of our tour, we travel to the magical craft and folk art towns of Michoacan, including Morelia, San Juan Capula, Patzcuaro and the indigenous Purepecha towns surrounding Lake Patzcuaro. We meet with famous artisans and those off-the-beaten path whose work is recognized as Grand Masters of Mexican Folk Art by Fundacion Banamex. We meet weavers, potters, embroiderers, mask-makers, coppersmiths. We explore in safety and security, led by a local guide whom I know very well. We NEVER take you into any locations that are dangerous or threatening.

This tour is limited to 12 travelers. We have five single rooms and 4 shared rooms available.

Here is our preliminary itinerary:

Day 1, Sunday, February 5: Fly to Mexico City and check in to our comfortable hotel located near the Zocalo, the historic Aztec archeological site Templo Mayor, and excellent restaurants. Day and evening on your own.

Day 2, Monday, February 6: After breakfast, welcome and orientation, join us for a walking tour of Mexico City that includes stops at Bellas Artes and Museo Franz Mayer. Afternoon on your own. Group Gala Welcome dinner. (Breakfast and dinner included. Lunch on your own.)

Day 3, Tuesday, February 7: After early breakfast, we load luggage onto the van and leave CDMX for the town of Angangueo. Here we visit San Felipe de los Alzati, and the archeological site of Zirahuato, When we arrive, we enjoy a walking tour in Angangueo and check in to our hotel. Overnight in Angangueo. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)

Those orange things are butterflies, waking up to the sun

Day  4, Wednesday, February 8:  After breakfast, we pack up again and travel to El Rosario Monarch Reserve in the Sierra Chincua to observe the winter home of the majestic Monarchs. In late afternoon, we get back on the van to travel to the historic colonial city of Morelia, capital of Michoacan. Overnight in Morelia. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)

Day 5, Thursday, February 9: Orientation walking tour in the Historical area of Morelia.  We have lunch together and then you have the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore at your leisure. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.) Overnight in Morelia.

Morelia at night

Day 6, Friday, February 10: We leave Morelia for Patzcuaro after breakfast, making a stop in San Juan Capula to visit the town where ceramic Catrina figures captivate collectors’ attention. We arrive in Patzcuaro, check in to our comfortable hotel and participate in an orientation walking tour of the historic town. Overnight in Patzcuaro. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.)

Painted lacquer gourds, a Michoacan specialty

Day 7, Saturday, February 11: After breakfast, we explore the artisan towns around Lake Patzcuaro, including Tupataro, Cuanajo, Santa Clara and Tzintzuntzan. Overnight in Patzcuaro. (Breakfast and lunch included. Dinner on your own.)

Day 8, Sunday, February 12: After breakfast, you have the day to yourself. Maybe you want to revisit sites around town or hire a private taxi to take you back to one of the artisan villages. We join together in early evening for a Grand Finale Dinner. (Breakfast and dinner included. Overnight in Patzcuaro.

Day 9: Monday, February 13: Transfer to the Mexico City airport. You may also choose to depart to Morelia airport or Guadalajara airport. Airport transportation is on your own. We will help you make arrangements. Breakfast included.

Cost:

Shared Room: $3,360 each person, two beds

Single Room: $3,985 one person, one bed

Non-Refundable Deposit to Reserve: $500.

About your Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Eric Chavez Santiago

Eric Chavez Santiago is an expert in Oaxaca and Mexican textiles and folk art with a special interest in artisan development and promotion. He is a weaver and natural dyer by training and a fourth generation member of the Fe y Lola textile group. He and his wife Elsa are founders of Taller Teñido a Mano dye studio where they produce naturally dyed yarn skeins and textiles for worldwide distribution. Eric is a business partner with Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, too. He is trilingual, speaking Zapotec, Spanish and English and is a native of Teotitlan del Valle. He is a graduate of Anahuac University, founder of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca education department, and former managing director of folk art gallery Andares del Arte Popular. He has intimate knowledge of local traditions, culture and community.

Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC founder, will accompany this group.

What is Included:

  • 8  nights lodging
  • 8  breakfasts
  • 5  lunches
  • 3 dinners
  • Snacks
  • Expert bilingual guide services
  • Museums and archeological site admissions
  • Luxury van transportation
  • An educational experience of a lifetime

What is NOT Included:

  • Airplane tickets
  • Required international travel insurance
  • In-country COVID test
  • Required vaccines, PPE and hand-sanitizer
  • Any meals, snacks and taxis not specified in the itinerary
  • All alcoholic beverages, tips for guides and services, and personal purchases

Reservations and Cancellations.  A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to guarantee your spot. You can make your reservation deposit using one of the following (please tell us which payment method you prefer):

  1. Zelle bank transfer with no service fee
  2. PayPal request for funds with a 3% service fee
  3. Venmo request for funds with a 3% service fee

The balance is due in two equal payments. The second payment of 50% of the balance is due on or before September 15, 2022. The third payment is due on or before December 1, 2022. We accept payment using online e-commerce only. We will send you an itemized invoice when you tell us you are ready to register. After December 1, 2022, there are no refunds. If you cancel on or before December 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit received to date less the $500 non-refundable deposit. After that, there are no refunds. If we cancel for whatever reason, you will receive a full refund. 

The tour and COVID-19: Many believe that the epidemic is waning, however, data say otherwise. The virus continues to mutate. You are required to be FULLY VACCINATED to participate. Fully vaccinated is defined as all vaccinations required by the CDC including boosters. You must send Proof of Vaccination (this includes all boosters) by email on or before December 1, 2022.  You can take a photo of the documentation and email it to us. All participants are required to wear N95 OR KN95 face masks when visiting artisans and it is strongly suggested that you use the mask when you are in crowds of people or indoors. We also use hand-sanitizer and practice social distancing while together. Please note: You MUST also provide proof of international travel insurance including $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage. 

Registration Form

Complete the form and Send an email to Norma Schafer.

Tell us if you want a shared/double room or a private/single room and how you want to make your deposit

Who Should Attend • Anyone who wants a bucket-list experience, who is interested in indigenous culture and creativity, who wants a deep immersion experience into textile practices and traditions, and who appreciates artisan craft — weaving, embroidery, pottery. If you are a collector, come with us to go deep and find the best artisans. If you are a photographer or artist, come with us for inspiration. If you are an online retailer, come with us to buy and find the stories to market what you sell.

To Register, Policies, Procedures & Cancellations–Please Read

All documentation for plane reservations, required travel insurance, and personal health issues must be received by December 1,  2022 or we reserve the right to cancel your registration without reimbursement.

Terrain, Walking and Group Courtesy: While we are primarily transported by van, there will be some walking/hiking in the butterfly sanctuary and as we walk in towns and villages. In addition, many streets and sidewalks are cobblestones, narrow and uneven. We will do a lot of walking. We recommend you bring a walking stick and wear sturdy shoes.

If you have mobility issues or health/breathing impediments, please consider that this may not be the study tour for you.

Traveling with a small group has its advantages and also means that independent travelers will need to make accommodations to group needs and schedule. Adaptability, flexibility and respectfulness are essential. We encourage a no-whining attitude. There is adequate free time to go off on your own if you wish.

Fragile, Glorious Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan, Mexico

We are in sacred space. Coming to Mineral de Angangueo is like making a pilgrimage. Here in the winter home of the Monarch Butterfly — Mariposa Monarca — these glorious insects hang in colonies like giant grape clusters, suspended from the branches of majestic Douglas fir trees. We are at 10,000 feet altitude. The height is dizzying. The spectacle even more so. A million wings beating that together sound like raindrops.

At the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Reserve

I hear the heartbeat of Mother Nature. I hear the natural cycle of life. I feel the will to live. I see small, fragile, glorious golden insects that travel up to 3,000 miles to this sanctuary. This is a cycle repeated over thousands of years. From Canada to the United States to Mexico and back again.

This is a survival mission that depends on habitat and escape from natural predators. We are witness to life. It reminds me to be vigilant about conserving our resources. We are at the edge. Perhaps past it.

The orange you see are hundreds of butterfly wings.

Fear of Monarch Butterfly extinction because of milkweed extermination from insecticides. Yet, the population this year increased 144%. Why? It is a mystery. The Michoacan colonies were not discovered until the 1970’s, relatively recently.

Monarch butterflies drinking from a creek, Michoacan, Mexico

This is the year of the butterfly in Mexico. A local trail guide says there are between 900,000 and 120 million here. It is warm. Sunny. Perfect. The future is unpredictable.

Clustered colonies of butterflies, dark shadows against a pure blue sky

On the first day into butterfly territory, our group of ten women participating with me on our Michoacan Folk Art and Butterfly Study Tour enter the sanctuary at El Rosario. It is the largest and most easily accessible of those in the region. Our amazing, knowledgeable Patzcuaro guide, Jaime Hernandez Balderas of Animecha Tours, leads the way.

We ride horseback into remote Sierra Chincua Monarch Butterfly Reserve
The Gang of Five Butterfly Navigators to Sierra Chincua: Cindy, Donna, Susan, Susie, Norma

On the second day, five of us (plus Jaime) continue on to Sierra Chincua, a smaller, more remote site, accessible only by horseback and foot. I hadn’t been on a horse since I rode in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, as a young teen. The adventure of butterfly discovery was heightened by the experience of riding down dusty, rocky slopes to where only few go.

Fallen Monarchs at trailside, taken by birds and mice

We wear masks to protect us from the dusty trail that leads down into the reserve where the butterfly colonies roost. The colonies can move. Huge, living organisms of beating wings in the tree-tops from January through March each year.

Deep into the Douglas Fir forest, a sacred sanctuary

Basic facts about Monarch Butterflies

Sierra Chincua is deep in the forest. Trees become a cathedral with sunlight filtering through fir needles. Here it is quieter. People are more reverential. The viewing site is small, room enough for perhaps twenty people. We look down the hillside and are at eye level with the clusters of the colonies. They look like large black sacks against the blue sky backdrop. I see distant volcanic mountains. Breathe deeply. Take it in. Want it to stay with me. This meditation on the extraordinary.

I pull out my binoculars and focus skyward. In the shadows of the clusters I see the veins of thousands, wings pulsing, undulating. I look to the light and see the miraculous orange wings. A wind comes up and the wings pulse in rapid succession. The trees move to bring in more sun. Insects take flight. It looks like a shimmering sea of gold.

I’d say this is a bucket list experience.

Me and Winn on horseback, preparing to ride to to the colonies

There is no telling what the future will bring for these creatures as global warming encroaches, as pollution impacts our environment, as chemicals destroy habitat.

We meet a local Angangueo woman along the trail who safeguards the path

The indigenous people of the region say that the butterflies are the souls of our loved ones. One of our travelers says that if you don’t believe in God, you will now. Regardless of religion or belief system, being here is transcendent, resplendent, reverent. It is a sanctuary where the spiritual envelops us. Each moment here offers hope for survival and continuity.

Donna emerges from photographing a butterfly

I want to recommend that you read Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, and that you read about the Monarch Butterfly migration from Mexico to the USA, then to Canada and back again.

Millions of Monarch Butterflies: A Visit to the Biosphere Reserve in Michoacan, Mexico: Study Tour Details

The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the State of Michoacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It encompasses most of the municipality of Angangueo, an old mining town high in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and the Sierra Angangueo.  Average altitude here is 8,500 feet.
An overnight visit to this tunneled colonial mountain town to explore the butterfly sanctuary is part of our Michoacan Folk Art + Textile Study Tour set to start January 31, 2019.

We may see millions of Monarch butterflies

There are several sanctuaries where the Monarchs gather in colonies that sometimes reach over 20 million individuals. They travel more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) from Canada to Mexico from November through March, completing several generations of the life cycle.
We will have a half-day plus a full day in Angangueo on February 8 and 9 of our January 31 to February 11 study tour to explore one or two butterfly sanctuaries and the historic mining town. We will arrive from Patzcuaro in time for 12:30-2:30 p.m. butterfly activity. You get into the sanctuary by horseback or hiking. Your tour includes transportation into the sanctuary by horse!

Butterfly life cycle

Six spaces are spoken for! Four spaces are available. Is one of them for you?
Send me an email after you review the complete study tour itinerary and let me know if you want to participate.