Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a natural treasure we must preserve

Photo: A record estimated 160 million monarch butterflies have arrived in central Mexico.

María Francesca describes in how the Natural Protected Areas Commission announced that eight “Hibernation Sanctuaries” within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve is now open to the public.

If you’d rather see butterflies on a mountaintop than slather yourself with sun block on a tourist-packed beach, you’ll be happy to hear that Monarch butterflies are settling in at their winter abode in the forests of the State of México and Michoacán and are expected to be ready to greet visitors late November 2016.

Each September, the butterflies head south from the United States and Canada to their winter home in the central Mexican mountains, where sanctuaries have been established to protect them and to let visitors see the miracle of the monarchs.

The largest preserved monarch wintering site in the Americas, the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (Spanish: Reserva de Biosfera de la Mariposa Monarca) is a World Heritage Site on the border of Michoacán and the State of Mexico, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Mexico City.

The butterflies began arriving on November 2, and last week, the Natural Protected Areas Commission announced that eight Hibernation Sanctuaries within the reserve would open to the public on Wednesday, November 23, 2016, and remain open until March 31, 2017.

The sanctuaries in Michoacán where the butterflies can be observed are El Rosario and El Asoleadero in Ocampo, Senguio in the municipality of the same name and Sierra Chincua in Angangueo. In the State of México the butterfly sanctuaries are Capulín and Macheros in Donato Guerra, La Mesa in San José del Rincón and Piedra Herrada in San Mateo Almololoa.

Photo: Monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies.

According to, entrance to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve costs on average 35 pesos with a guide. In some parts, visitors can make the trek on rented burros for an additional 100 pesos.

Be prepared to hike anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour or to rent a donkey. You can reach the butterflies only on paths laid by the reserve, and they congregate at extremely high altitudes — between 9,000 and 11,000 feet — so visitors should be in good enough physical condition to handle steep inclines.

Lincoln Brower, a monarch expert at the University of Florida and Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia, recommends the Michoacan sanctuaries, which he says are among the most popular and offer amenities such as food, souvenirs, and easy access by car. He suggests visitors go in February and March when the butterflies perform an elaborate mating ritual.




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