A friend from San Miguel about visiting the butterflies:
There really is no need for a tour guide unless you don't speak any Spanish. The signs in the park that explain about the butterflies are all in spanish, not english.
Getting there is easy. From SMA make your way to the Cuota Mex-Guad, probably the best route is through Salvatierra and past Acambaro, then get on the cuota to Mexico, and get off at Maravatio. From there you
can take one of two routes, Mexico Libre and watch for a turn off for Angagueo (I did not take this route, not sure if it is well signed). The other route is after you exit for Maravatio, follow the signs for
Ciudad Hildalgo, it is a good road, stay on it till you get to Irimbo, take a left and follow signs for Aporo and Angangueo. It is a goodroad and easy to follow. There is one point outside of Maravatio where the turn for Ciudad Hildago did not seem to be marked, but it was the most obvious choice, and we asked someone right after the turn to
confirm we were on the right road. If you decide to go, let me know and I'll send you detailed driving directions.
Make sure you bring layered clothes and good hiking shoes. Try to get there before noon. The walk up, including passing by the food and artisania stalls, takes a liesurely 3 hours. If it is cloudy, it might be cool, and it will be hot in the sun. Bring water with you, they charge a premium for it at the site. From the parking lot you will go up a trail lined with vendors. It can be very smokey from the asadores )grills.) You will start to see butterflies from the begining. You make your way up to the visitor center, and from there, it is about a one hour hike mostly uphill, in the shade of the oyamel fir trees, some parts with steps, others just dusty soil, up to where the butterflies are hanging out. You will see swarms of them overhead and all around, getting thicker the further into the oyamel forest you go. It is a moderately strenous hike, taking it slow with breaks if you are not in the best of shape. We saw many old grandmothers up there, and some were hard to keep up with!!!!! Since I know you, I can say you shouldn't have much trouble on the hike. Just don't forget to bring water.
At the end of the trail you will see hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of butterflies, in the air, painting the oyamel trees orange, filtering out the sun....it's quite a site. Along the way you will also see many many many and there are a few places were there is water on the ground and they swarm in to drink. Earlier in the season I saw them huddled together on the trees, completely covering the trees, with their wings inverted so that in the shade, they appear to be brown and dry. This last visit, with warmer weather, they were more active, fewer on the trees, many more in the air.
If you go on the weekend, expect it to be crowded, and don't expect to run into many english speakers. It is less crowded on the weekdays, and they may assign you a guide. This is more for your safety than it is a guide service, they will likely not speak much english. I can't remember how much spanish you speak Sharyn. On the weekends they have people posted all along the trails, but on less crowded days, they send the 'guides' along, I wasn't able to discern their criteria in assigning guides, but I am sure it is a safety thing just to make sure you don't fall and end up laying there on the trail all alone...and don't take me wrong, it is not a dangerous trail, but it is a trail
and all good hiking safety rules always apply. Recently friends, who did not speak much spanish, and they went on their own and had a great time.
You could do this in a day from SMA but WHY??? The butterflies are not the only attraction to this gorgeous area of the State of Michoacan. It almost lured me away from the lake area. My suggestion is leave early, do the sanctuary, and then head over to Los Azufres.I'll post lodging and hot spring options soon, you can also search the internet.
On the weekdays you wont have problems getting a room, except Semana Santa and the two weeks that follow, but on the weekend, get a reservation. I suggest Laguna Larga, the rooms are....basic, but cheap ($300 pesos for very small cabin room matrimonial bed and barely enough room to walk around it on two sides, and a decent bathroom with
plenty of hot water, but bring your own towel, pillow, tp, soap, and an extra blanket is always good when you stay in Mexican economy lodging)but they have the prettiest setting, on the lake, with the nicest pool, the hot water pours out of the rocks and the pool is built around it. This is the hottest pool, not as hot as a jacuzzi,
and the water goes from there to the other pools which are progressively cooler and full of kids, the top pool here is the best. You can sit under the hot water is it erupts from the mineral slicked rocks. So after your long hike you go and sooth your muscles in the therapuetic mineral springs. Consider buying dinner and bringing it with, on the weekdays the restaurants may not open, or they close early. On the weekend, there are several restaurants in the area. There are many other balnearios with hot springs in the area, Laguna Larga is the one I like the best but I have not yet been to them all. Most of the lodging up there is rustic and economy priced, but for a really nice large (sleeps 9?) cabin, or a nice two room suite, or just a better room, try Posada Los Azufres, next to Club Tejamaniles, prices are $1900, $1200 and $600 respectively - probably the nicest rooms in the regions, but don't expect much in the way of service) and the club next door has nice pools, one indoor, and they also advertise massage. BTW, a day pass to enjoy the springs is $35 pesos, and most places also charge $15 for parking. Bring your own towels, sandals that you can get wet and a swimsuit.
If you stay in Los Azufres, you can soak in the morning and start to head back. On the way, you should go to Tlapuljahua, which is on Mexico Libre and not far from the cuota. If you decide to do this, write me and I will send you all the driving instruction. Tlapuljahuais called Michoacan's second Pueblo Majia (after Patzcuaro). I went there, unfortunately it was late and didn't get to see much, but it was, how to explain, the architectural and small pueblo charm that I imagine SMA had many many years ago before it got so big, and much
smaller and frankly more charming in some ways than Patzcuaro. It is over 8000 feet, so a bit cooler, an old mining village, and very, very pretty. I can't wait to go back and explore it more. From there it is an easy ride back to SMA.
If you still feel you need a guide, I suggest contacting hotels in the area, there is a really nice hotel in Zitacuaro, I will look it up, they should know. Didi Rose
for more info on the butterflies
http://www.study- mexico.com/ english/4/ santuario- monarca.cfm
http://www.smm. org/sln/monarchs /story/story. html
http://travel. webshots. com/album/ 559653253BGuVvQ great photos