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Mexico's Monarchs, Humpbacks & Birds

Tour Code: MEX03

An 11-day wildlife holiday to central and western Mexico, home to millions of wintering Monarch butterflies, plus Humpback Whales and numerous birds.

11 days from £3695(inc flights) Land Only Price: £3095 SRS: £395

Mexico is a vibrant country boasting an interesting natural history, as well as some stunning scenery and fascinating culture both past and present. This tour visits central and south-western Mexico. We begin our holiday in the pre-Aztec city of Teotihuacan, enjoying this superb site, home to the third largest pyramid in the world, as well as a variety of endemic and other birdlife. Next we drive to the Oyamel Fir forests of the central Mexican state of Michoacan where the microclimate provides the perfect winter home for millions of Monarch butterflies. We will visit two of the best reserves mid-morning and watch as millions of butterflies take to the wing! After a 3-night stay in this region, we fly to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast where we take to the ocean in search of Humpback Whales. Three days on the western coast allows us time to enjoy the Humpbacks and look for birds such as Bee Hummingbird and Boat-billed Heron before it is time to head back to Mexico City for our flights home.

  • See the spectacular winter gatherings of Monarch butterflies
  • Explore the pre-Aztec city of Teotihuacan & see its huge ‘Pyramid of the Sun’
  • Visit two Monarch reserves & watch millions of Monarch butterflies take to the air
  • Black Phoebe, Vermillion Flycatcher & Canyon Towhee, Teotihuacan
  • Red Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart & endemic Blue Mockingbird, El Rosario
  • 3-night stay on the Pacific coast looking for Mexican endemics
  • Boat excursion to look for Humpback Whales
  • Mexico is home to 1,100 bird species, of which 10% are endemic
  • Citreoline Trogon & Red-headed Tanager among special birds at San Blas
  • Led by expert naturalist guide


All included in the price, except for dinner on Day 1 (allow £20).


Comfortable hotels and lodges, all with private facilities.

Monarch (Paul Stanbury)

Monarch (Paul Stanbury)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Mexico City and overnight Teotihuacán

Day 2/4 Monarch butterfly reserves. Overnight Agua Blanca Lodge

Day 5 Puerto Vallarta

Day 6/9 San Blas

Day 10 Depart Mexico City

Day 11 Arrive London

Mexico is a fascinating and vibrant country: a colourful land steeped in history, myth and legend. This was the home of the ancient Aztec, Toltec and Maya civilisations, whose great pyramids rival those of Egypt, and landfall for the first of the Spanish Conquistadors as they searched for the fabled Cities of Gold. Today, Mexico is a modern, vibrant and welcoming country, full of natural history, scenic and cultural contrasts. It is also the stage for one of the most remarkable sights in the natural world, the winter gatherings of millions of Monarch butterflies.

Whilst south-eastern Mexico is clothed in thick tropical forests, in the north and west hot cactus deserts dominate. In between these extremes lie the cool Oyamel Fir forests of the central Mexican state of Michoacán. Here, the temperature, humidity and high altitude combine to create the perfect winter microclimate for millions of Monarch butterflies from the US and Canada which migrate south into Mexico every autumn to escape the cold further north. These are the third or fourth generations of butterflies that left Michoacán the previous spring and, to this day, little is known about how these delicate creatures navigate and how they find these small pockets of forest hundreds, if not thousands, of miles south from where they first emerged as adults.

As spectacular as the Monarch gatherings undoubtedly are, Mexico has many other wildlife facets to enjoy. During the same months that the butterflies gather in Michoacán, Humpback Whales congregate in Banderas Bay off Mexico’s Pacific coast, and numerous resident and wintering birds — including 25 Mexican endemics — can be found in the nearby wetlands, mangroves and forests. Although our tour takes in all these highlights, it begins with a flight to Mexico City from where we transfer to our first overnight stop at the pre-Aztec city of Teotihuacán (‘Place of the Gods’). We will explore the site the following morning, enjoying such birds as Vermillion Flycatcher, Canyon Towhee and Say's Phoebe beneath the imposing triangle of the huge ‘Pyramid of the Sun’, the third largest pyramid in the world!

Next we drive west into the forested hills of Michoacán for three nights at Agua Blanca Lodge, near the town of Zitacuaro. From here we will visit two Monarch reserves. El Chincua is one of the best of these, attracting huge gatherings of butterflies each winter and less visitors than the nearby sanctuary at El Rosario. We plan on arriving mid-morning, at a time when the sun has warmed the forests sufficiently for the butterflies to start taking flight. It is a breathtaking spectacle. The trees here can become so laden with Monarchs that branches bend under their weight and, once the butterflies take to the air, the forest fills with the delicate sound of a million fluttering wings, turning the air into a whirlwind of orange and black! On our second day we will visit another of the reserves, choosing the one most favoured by the Monarchs during the time of our visit. If we can drag our eyes away from the mesmerising clouds of butterflies for a few moments, we are also sure to find an interesting variety of birds such as Red Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart and the endemic Blue Mockingbird.

For the second part of our holiday, we take a short flight to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. Once here, we will need to readjust our eyes from watching the small and delicate to the huge and mighty, for the next morning we take to the ocean in search of Humpback Whales. Humpbacks are one of the most entertaining whales to watch and during our time on the water we hope to witness a variety of behaviours, including spy-hopping, tail-lobbing and, for the fortunate, perhaps a full breach, whereby the whale launches itself fully out of the water before falling back with a resounding splash!

Moving on, we turn our attention to the excellent avifauna of Mexico’s Pacific coast, and drive north to the fishing village of San Blas. Mexico is home to nearly 1,100 species of birds, 10% of which are endemic. The estuaries, lagoons, mangroves and forests around San Blas attract a wide variety of these, including Boat-billed Heron, Goldencheeked Woodpecker, White-striped Woodcreeper, Citreoline Trogon and Redheaded Tanager. There is even a chance of finding the rare and elusive Solitary Eagle or perhaps the tiny Bumblebee Hummingbird!

Finally, after three days spent enjoying the birdlife of western Mexico, it will be time to return to Puerto Vallarta for our short flight to Mexico City, where we connect to our onward flight home. 

Monarch Butterflies (Paul Stanbury)Monarch Butterflies (Paul Stanbury)Visiting the MonarchsMonarch Butterflies (Paul Stanbury)Monarch Butterflies (Paul Stanbury)Monarch Butterfly (Paul Stanbury)Monarch Butterflies (Paul Stanbury)Teotihuacán (Tom McJannet)Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacán (Paul Stanbury)Teotihuacán (Paul Stanbury)Mangrove Warbler (Lee Morgan)Northern Potoo (Byron Palacios)Magnificent Hummingbird (Byron Palacios)Flame-Coloured Tanagers (Byron Palacios)Brown Booby (Lee Morgan)Humpback breach (Paul Marshall)Brown Pelican (Walter Burns)Humpback Whale (Peter Dunn)Teotihuacan
L.D. & I.D.
The visits to the Monarch reserves were a lifetime highlight – spending two days there was marvellous.
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Mon 4th February 2019 - Thu 14th February 2019



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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £3095 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Mexico

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The visits to the Monarch reserves were a lifetime highlight – spending two days there was marvellous.
L.D. & I.D., Worcestershire