Book This Mexico Expedition to Uncover the Hidden World of Monarch Butterflies

by Robert Nathan

The editors of Travel + Leisure have teamed up with Black Tomato—a company known for securing insider experiences—on a series of one-of-a-kind journeys around the globe. Plus: the must-see experiences and sites in each destination that are so unique we’ve designated them our new wonders of the world.

Zitacuaro is the unofficial world capital of Monarch butterflies, and Travel + Leisure and luxury travel experts Black Tomato have created a trip that takes you to our New World Wonder: the Monarch Butterfly migration. You’ll hike through dense pine forests to catch a glimpse of the millions of butterflies at rest during their migration north. It also includes three nights in Mexico City to visit Aztec markets, a class on how to make chocolate from scratch at the famed Mucho Mundo Chocolate Museum, and a hot air balloon ride to the Teotihuacan Pyramids. The season for Monarch butterflies in Michoacán is from November to mid-March.

Read the full trip outline below, and when you’re ready to speak to an expert, get in touch with our luxury travel partner, Black Tomato.

Day 1: Mexico City

Your first introduction to the city is your hotel in the Planco neighborhood, Las Alcobas, an ultramodern boutique oasis in the bustling metropolis. Designed by Yabu Pushelberg, it houses two of the cities most buzzed about restaurants—Anatol and Dulce Patria—and you can relax with a massage or facial at the hotel’s Aurora Spa.

Day 2: Mexico City

Taste the best food Mexico City has to offer on a gastronomic adventure that takes you from pre-Hispanic cuisine to contemporary dishes. Explore the most important Aztec market, drink in a typical cantina, and be delighted with street food. Walk through the city’s streets to learn about neighborhood stories, the architecture, and be amazed with the local legends. Afterwards, you’ll be privately transferred to the Mucho Mundo Chocolate Museum for an exploration of chocolate’s rich history in the country. Your experience begins with a visit through the small museum, where you’ll find out why cacao plays such an important part of Mexico’s past and present. Next, you will learn the ritual chocolate making from scratch. Finally, a short tasting will complete the experience.

Day 3: Teotihuacan Pyramids

This rare experience is well worth the early morning wake up call. You’ll see the sunrise over the Valley of Teotihuacán as you pass over the pyramids in your own private hot-air balloon. You will be in the air for roughly forty minutes, taking in the sheer size of the religious and ceremonial center of the Aztecs and looking out over vistas of the surrounding valley. Once the gentle flight is over you will toast with sparkling wine before heading to a breakfast buffet at a nearby restaurant. (Since hot-air balloons have no steering mechanism, exact routes are dictated by wind patterns, so the proximity to the pyramids will depend on the wind conditions.)

Afterward, you will continue with a ground tour of one of the most important Mesoamerican sites in the Americas, Teotihuacán. With your expert guide you’ll explore the archeological zone while learning about the rituals, cosmology, beliefs and everyday lives of the Aztecs and the inhabitants of Teotihuacán before them.

Day 4: Zitacuaro

Today, meet your guide for a private transfer to Zitácuaro from where you will then continue to the Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. Located in the mystical pine forests of the Mariposa Monarca, where millions of monarchs cover the tall oyamel and fir trees. As the sun warms their black and orange wings, the butterflies fill the air, illuminating the entire area. Explorations are enhanced by the discussions with naturalists and World Wildlife Federation staff that illuminate and explain the Monarch’s wintering migration. Your hotel for this part of the trip is the Hotel Rancho San Cayetano, a country lodging surrounded by nature. Set among 13 acres of countryside, the rooms have a cottage-like feel with low wood-beamed ceilings, exposed brickwork and embroidered rugs and throws on the beds.

Day 5: Sierra Chincua Reserve

After breakfast this morning, drive approximately one hour to the Sierra Chincua Reserve. Upon entering, ride horseback up the hillside to the center of the reserve, where the density of the fluttering Monarchs increases. In the quiet of the forest, you can actually hear the beating of the wings of these delicate creatures. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the tranquility of this pine setting before heading back to the hotel.

Day 6: Morelia

Your journey in Morelia will begin with a drive into a local market, accompanied by a chef, to select the ingredients needed for the day’s cooking class. Next, head toward the restaurant “La Conspiración” in downtown Morelia, where you’ll receive an interactive private cooking lesson. Lead by chef Cintya Martínez, you’ll be instructed in the fine art of wrapping Tamales. Have fun as you practice your skill handling the corn meal and husks, while learning about this ancestral tradition. After lunch, your guide will lead you through the colonial streets of Michoacán’s capital city, visiting the large main square, flanked by the pink stone cathedral. As you visit the Music Conservatory, The Bishop’s Palace, and the College of Saint Nicholas you will learn more about Morelia’s history. Your tour continues by car to the iconic aqueduct on the edge of the city center, as well as other sites of interest. When the city tour ends, your guide will drive you to your hotel, Casa Grande.

From $4,750 per person for six days. To enquire about this trip with Black Tomato, click below.

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