Mariposa Monarca

How to See Millions of Monarch Butterflies in Mexico

At first, the air on the winding, one-lane mountain road is completely clear. But as we round a curve, the sky is suddenly teeming with butterflies, a storm of bright orange-and-black wings. It’s so utterly breathtaking, and unexpected, that my husband pulls over the car so we can attempt to register the magic of that particular moment. (And to take a video, of course.)

This extraordinary migration takes place every year, and witnessing the event in person is the perfect excuse to plan a trip to Mexico — if not this winter, than definitely next.

When To Go

The butterflies typically arrive in Mexico in November and stay until March, taking shelter amid the oyamel fir trees in a small area about two hours west of Mexico City. (It’s doable as a day trip if you’re visiting the capital.)

The best time to see them is January and February, when the population is at its highest. When arranging a visit to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve — which has a few different entry points (more on that below) — plan to arrive at the roosting areas during the warmest part of the day, between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.

That’s because the butterflies enjoy basking in the sunshine, taking to the sky and fluttering around the surrounding flowers and bushes. (You’ll also see them hanging from the trees in shadier areas of the forest, clumped together in enormous swarms that weigh down the branches.) If you can, go on a weekday, when you may even have the reserve all to yourself.


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