Sierra Chincua – A Butterfly Sanctuary For Nature Lovers

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If you are looking for one of the best places to see the monarch butterfly migration then Sierra Chincua should be right up at the top of your list. Visiting a monarch butterfly sanctuary in Mexico is one of the most amazing natural wonders you will ever see.

Every year millions of butterflies migrate from Canada and the United States and spend the North American winter in the mountains of Mexico. Seeing thousands of butterflies fluttering over your head is an absolutely amazing sight.

No videos or pictures will ever do it justice, you have to see it in person. So keep reading to find out all you need to know about visiting Sierra Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary.

How To Get To Sierra Chincua From Mexico City

Sierra Chincua is located in the mountains west of Mexico City within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.

🚗 The most convenient way to get there is by renting a car and driving. It Is about a 3-hour drive from Mexico City to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and Sierra Chincua.

🚍 You can also catch a bus to the town of Angangueo and then catch a taxi from Angangueo to Sierra Chincua. The bus departs from the Poniente bus station in Mexico City 4 times a day for 275 pesos (13.50 USD) and takes around 3 hours. You can buy your tickets at the Zina bus website.

🚖 When you arrive in Angangueo and get a taxi to Sierra Chincua you will need to arrange a return trip. The sanctuary is quite isolated so you will not be able to return with a different taxi. The taxi drivers are used to this and will include the return journey in the price.

A map showing the location of Sierra Chincua butterfly sanctuary near Mexico City
📍Pin Sierra Chincua on your map

Where To Stay At Visiting Sierra Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary

Sierra Chincua can be visited on a day trip from Mexico City if you are okay with driving for about 6 hours that day. I recommend staying the night in Angangueo or another town close by. There is no hotel directly at Sierra Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary.

Angangueo is located in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and is only a 25-minute drive from Sierra Chincua. This Pueblo Magico is worth a visit and also gives you easy access to El Rosario, another amazing sanctuary about 20 minutes drive away.

Staying in Angangueo will allow you to visit multiple sanctuaries in the area, support the local economy and get the best out of your trip. We really enjoyed its rustic charm and peacefulness.

Read here: 🏠 Where to stay in Angangueo

Colorful letters in the center of downtown Angangueo
Angangueo is a great town to stay in while visiting Sierra Chincua

Mexico City Butterfly Tours

If you do not feel like spending the night in Angangueo you can do a tour from Mexico City. Most tours take around 12 hours so it will be a long day.

Viator has highly rated Sierra Chincua Butterly Tours. You will get picked up from Mexico City and taken to Sierra Chincua. They take care of everything for you and even stop at the Pueblo Magico El Oro. So if you are short on time this might be a great tour to do.

👉 Read the complete Angangueo guide if you want to do it on your own

Morelia Butterfly Tours

If you happen to be in Morelia it is possible to do a tour of Sierra Chincua from there too. Morelia is a beautiful city that is well worth visiting.

Viator also has highly-rated tours from Morelia to Sierra Chincua so check them out if you are planning to do a butterfly tour in Michoacán.

Katharina standing in a street in Moralia with a church in the back
The beautiful streets of Morelia

Sierra Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary Entrance Fee

Entrance to the Sierra Chincua butterfly sanctuary is only 80 pesos (4 USD) so it is super cheap considering how amazing the place is.

National flags of Mexico, Canada and the United States at the entrance of Sierra Chincua
Flags at the entrance represent all of the countries the butterflies travel to on their migration

Guides At Sierra Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary

When you visit Sierra Chincua you have to go with a guide. The guides will most likely only speak Spanish so if you can’t speak Spanish you will have trouble communicating with them.

However, their main purpose is to make sure that you stay on the path. Some tourists used to go off the path causing damage to the butterfly’s habitat.

Every person or group who arrives gets their own guide so you won’t end up in a big group of people you don’t know. The guides work for tips so make sure to tip them once the tour is over.

Tour guide leading the way through the forest with people standing in front of him
Our guide leading us along the path at Sierra Chincua

Hiking To The Monarch Butterflies

Besides witnessing the amazing Monarch Butterfly migration the hike through Sierra Chincua is an absolute highlight too. You can either do everything on foot or take a horse.

By Horse

Soon after you enter you will be asked if you would like to pay for a horse to ride. In my opinion, it is totally not necessary as it is a very easy hike to the butterflies.

However, if you like horses or are elderly and need a break then go for it! Just be warned that the horses can not take you all the way to the main butterfly colony. They will take you most of the way then you have to walk the last 15 minutes by yourself.

Horses lined up in the forest
Horses ready to take on passengers

By Foot

The elevation of Sierra Chincua is about 3,000m (9,900 feet) so be prepared that the air will be thin. If you are not used to being at high altitudes then you should take it easy to avoid getting out of breath.

If you choose to walk the hike starts off with a gentle walk through an open meadow with pine forests on either side. If you have made the trip from Mexico City the air will feel super fresh and it is a relaxing walk.

Allan following the guide through the green bushes and meadow of Sierra Chincua
The meadow at the start of the hike to the butterfly colony

Eventually, you reach a path that will take you through some pine forests for about 25 minutes. Once again it is a very nice relaxing walk through the woods.

A path winding through high trees and yellow flowers
The path through the pine forests. You will see a variety of flowers on the way and some butterflies feeding on them
A tree stem cracked open
Our guide pointed out several trees that had been struck by lightning during big storms in summer

Another interesting point that we stopped at was the mirador (lookout) on the way where the picture on the 100 pesos note was taken. Make sure to bring a note and snap a photo!

Allan holding up a 100 pesos note comparing it to the view
View of where the picture for the 100 pesos note was taken
Katharina standing on a rock with the view over the pine forest in the back
Another lookout point on the way to the main colony

Arriving At The Main Monarch Butterfly Colony

Along the path, you will already see many butterflies flying in the air. But once you reach the main colony you will see millions of them.

The area where the main colonies spend the winter is on the side of a hill. So from the main viewpoint and end of the hiking track, you will be looking up from underneath.

It is a mindblowing sight and you can easily spend 1 hour (what we did) just sitting there watching them. There is no time limit for staying at the main site which we really enjoyed.

One thing to remember is that it is important to stay very quiet while you are at the main colony. Making noise can disturb the butterflies and we want to make sure that tourism does not affect them negatively. So just appreciate them in silence, it is super peaceful that way too!

Katharina looking up into thousand of butterflies
Thousands of butterflies in the air
Allan standing in front of a hilltop view at Sierra Chincua
The hilltop view from under the butterflies

After spending some time at the main colony you simply need to follow the same path back to the entrance. It is a magical experience and we are already planning to visit more sanctuaries in the future.

Read here: Our experience at El Rosario butterfly sanctuary

When Is The Best Time To See Monarch Butterflies In Mexico?

The best time to see monarch butterflies in Mexico is late January and February. At this point in time, they have gathered in the largest numbers and it is warm enough that they will take flight during the day when the sun is out.

Read here: All you need to know about the Monarch Butterfly Migration

Where Is The Best Place To See Monarch Butterflies In Mexico?

We visited two sanctuaries in Mexico: Sierra Chincua and El Rosario. El Rosario is the more famous sanctuary as the butterflies gather there in the greatest numbers.

But Sierra Chincua is equally amazing in my opinion and has the added bonus of having far fewer visitors. It also feels like you are on a nature walk while at El Rosario you also come across concrete paths or stairs along the way.

So if you feel like more of a nature walk then head to Sierra Chincua but if you want to see the most butterflies head to El Rosario. And if you have enough time I recommend going to both as they are both equally incredible and different!

Read here: How to see Monarch Butterflies at El Rosario

Now You Know All About The Sierra Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary

Visiting a Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Mexico is an amazing experience. Sierra Chincua is definitely one of the best places to see monarch butterflies in Mexico.

I am sure visiting will be one of the highlights of your trip to Mexico. If you have been to the sanctuaries or are planning on going let me know in the comments below!

If you want to learn more about the Monarch butterfly migration then this is for you:

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Travel, health and fitness fanatic from New Zealand. Co-founder of Happy Healthy Nomads and always on a hunt for good food.

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