Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Altona Stu @, Altona, Manitoba, Friday, February 10, 2017, 22:05 (2005 days ago)

My wife and I have spent four weeks in Ixtapa in January-February for quite a few years, enjoying the beach and the sites-Isla Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo and its wonderful dining, Playa las Gatas and more. But I have always been interested in the story of the Monarch butterflies. Manitoba, where we live, is at the north end of their remarkable migration and Mexico is home to several refuges at the south end of that migration. So after a few years of talking it up to friends we decided this year’s Ixtapa visit would include a butterfly tour. So in off-season research we found and hired a guide, Juan Carlos Garcia to take my wife and me, a couple from Minnesota and another couple from Michigan on a tour to the butterflies and parts in between.

So at 6:30 AM on a Friday morning Carlos picked up the six of us in a Suburban and off we went. First stop was the Parque National Barranca del Cupatitzio in Uruapan. This is the spring-fed source of the Cupatitzio River. The Parque was founded in 1938. It is beautiful place, with a series of walkways, streams and waterfalls, and a cliff diver! It was cool and refreshing under the trees after a warm drive. Then we set off again, our next stop—Santa Clara del Cobre.

Santa Clara was the copper smelting capital of New Spain and continues to this day to be an important copper working centre. The town is full of expert copper workers, making everything you can think of that can be made from copper. Think everything from delicate jewelry to kitchen sinks and bathtubs. Carlos took us to a store with a workshop at the rear where the products in the store are made. Four workers did a loud and smoky demonstration showing us from start to finish how an urn is made. After this and a walkabout of Santa Clara we left for Morelia.

Morelia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An old colonial city that one couple said reminded them of Europe and another said of Argentina. We thought it was beautiful, with old, old buildings, large plazas two, three or four blocks square filled with statues, trees, stages, walking paths and on the occasion of our visit, music, dancers, speeches and protests! (Gasolina, Trump.) We spent the night at the Casino Hotel, just steps from the Cathedral of Morelia which we toured that evening. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1660 and was completed 84 years later. The twin bell towers are 60 meters (200 feet) tall and visible from great distance. The Cathedral is considered by some to be the most beautiful in Mexico. The pipe organ was imported from Germany in 1905 and was the largest in the Western Hemisphere at the time with 4,600 flutes and pipes.

The butterfly viewing strategy according to Carlos, is to arrive at the site late morning when the air is warming up so the Monarchs, which hang together for warmth in massive clusters overnight, begin to warm up, separate from the clusters and fly about. So, the weather forecast appearing perfect, the next morning we left at 8:30 for the refuge, a nearly three hour trip. The last hour or so of the drive was a big climb with lots of slow, sharp curves. After parking the Suburban we set out for another significant climb. The choice was ours: on foot all the way, or a 20 minute horseback ride up the mountain followed by a still significant climb on foot. The least fit of us made the better argument and we rode horses! This was still followed by a difficult climb on foot to about 10,000 feet of elevation. The air is pretty thin up there. The fitter you are, the better.

And once at the top, spectacular sights! It turned out just as Carlos anticipated. There were still large masses of butterflies hanging together in the Oyamel Fir trees but many others had left the warmth and were flying all around us. The Oyamel Firs grow only at altitudes between 2,400 and 3,600 metres (8,000 to 12,000 feet) and this seems to match the same ecological conditions the Monarchs require at this stage of their existence. After getting our fill of the butterflies, we set out, no horses this time, to walk back down to the parking area. Walking up is tougher but walking down is no bargain! My legs were shaking by the time we hit the bottom and everyone mentioned sore calves the next day. But it was all worth it.

So, back to Morelia we drove, a tired bunch. We arrived about 5 PM, rested up a bit and then had dinner at a roof-top restaurant kitty-corner from the Cathedral of Morelia from which we witnessed a fireworks display at the front of the Cathedral. A short display but quite powerful. Then to bed.

The next morning we did a two hour walkabout in Morelia, seeing historic areas of the city including Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. The interior is ornately decorated in gold leaf and is apparently widely regarded as a national treasure. We also saw the picture-worthy Morelia Aqueduct, built between 1785 and 1789 consisting of 253 arches, 1.6 km or 1 mile in length. About 11 AM we set off in the general direction of Ixtapa with plans for several more stops along the way.

Our first stop of the day was in Capula, at the studio of Maestro Juan Torres Calderon. He has an acreage there dotted with sculptures and centred by a church which is his gallery. According to his paintings and sculptures, he is an admirer of the female body! Beautiful work.

Then on to Patzcuaro where we stopped for lunch and to spend some money at Once Patios (11 Patios), a whole lot of small stores in a building which once was a nunnery where the works of local artisans are on display. We also spent some time in the town plaza which was packed with action including traditional dancers and modern break-dancers! Quite a contrast but both entertaining in their own way.

There is a lot more to see in the Patzcuaro area, particularly around Lake Patzcuaro, but by this time we were toured-out and tired and so we left for Ixtapa. Back at 6:30 PM, a grateful, happy bunch. We already are planning for a two day, one-night trip to the archaeological site at Tzintzuntzan and the other towns and villages around Lake Patzcuaro next winter.

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Mork, Friday, February 10, 2017, 22:32 (2005 days ago) @ Altona Stu

What a wonderful report. Thank you so much. Look forward to doing same. Please give more info on how you put it all together.

Mork

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Altona Stu @, Altona, Manitoba, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 09:20 (2004 days ago) @ Mork

I looked through a lot of posts on this page and found mention of tourswithcarlos.com (Grumpy maybe because Carlos wore a Lake Cowichan t-shirt one day). Went to the website, read his info, did a broader internet search, found some reviews, contacted him and arranged to meet with him when we arrived in Ixtapa. Liked what we met and hired him.

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Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by frostbite ⌂ @, Hamilton MT, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 07:57 (2004 days ago) @ Altona Stu

Great report! Glad you had a good time. Contact info for Juan Carlos and the cost would be helpful.

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Casa Amarilla Vacation Rental
http://www.casaamarillazihua.com/

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Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Grumpy in Lake Cowichan @, Vancouver Island B.C Canada, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 08:36 (2004 days ago) @ frostbite

tourswithcarlos.com .......contact info is there on the webpage...........highly recommend his services

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Altona Stu @, Altona, Manitoba, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 09:22 (2004 days ago) @ frostbite

tourswithcarlos.com. I will let Carlos give you a price. It depends on how many and when I am sure.

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Paulf @, Mount Sterling, Ky 40353, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 08:30 (2004 days ago) @ Altona Stu

Couple of years ago we did the butterfly tour in January. We flew into Morelia from O'Hare- supposedly there is a direct flight from Midway for the plane loading was returning to Midway. We stayed 3 days and toured Morelia and caught the 7 am express bus to "Z" on Saturday morning. We did the horses to the meadow. Kathie's stirrups weren't adjusted for her short legs. She said she would never ride a horse again for she had so many bruises from the saddle and was sore for a couple of days.

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Greg in Rocky Mountain House, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 08:46 (2004 days ago) @ Altona Stu

Wonderful report. Reminds me of what this message board used to be like. We did the trip to Morelia and the Monarchs last year. It was an amazing 3 day adventure. Like you we lucked out with the day trip to the butterfly reserve. It was almost a spiritual experience to see hundreds of millions of Monarchs.
You definitely got to see a lot of different things on your trip!! Morelia is a gem. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Altona Stu @, Altona, Manitoba, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 09:15 (2004 days ago) @ Greg in Rocky Mountain House

You are welcome. I am torn between promoting Carlos and trying to keep him to ourselves so he doesn't get so busy that he has no time for us!:-D

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Greg in Rocky Mountain House, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 18:46 (2004 days ago) @ Altona Stu

Not to worry. Carlos will remember you!!

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Mexalberta @, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 10:19 (2004 days ago) @ Altona Stu

Love your detailed report. We have been spending up to 10'weeks a year on the beach in Ixtapa and been too lazy to have much adventure.
We will do it next year when my wife is back on her feet.
Thank you!

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Paulf @, Mount Sterling, Ky 40353, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 14:43 (2004 days ago) @ Mexalberta

We found the r/t to Patzquaro was to much in 1 day and decided when we wanted to do the Butterfly Reserve we would fly into Morelia. United had a direct flight from Houston. On our first trip to Morelia, people from the Board recommended a B&B to stay just a couple of blocks from everything. The B&B had a great guide that did tours. Our first trip we were to early and we did the villages between Morelia and Patzquaro. The 2nd trip was in January and we had our guide to find us a very cheap place- funny thing the hotel was closing after our 2 night and on the way back from the Reserve we had to find another hotel to check in the next day for 2 nights. The 2nd hotel was newer than the one the first 2 nights- was located next to the viaduct and just a short distance from the cathedral with the gold dome. We found it best to fly into Morelia and then take the 7am express bus to "Z".

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Mexalberta @, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 15:52 (2004 days ago) @ Paulf

Thank you for the advice. We could do it by air as well, Calgary-Mexico City-Morelia, bus to Ixtapa the return to Calgary with WestJet. Westjet has a code share with Aero Mexico and we could do all of the air on one ticket. Daily flights to Mexico City start in June from Calgary.. Thinking of this itinerary for next November if November still has the direct to Mexico City.

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Charlybby, Sunday, February 12, 2017, 02:11 (2004 days ago) @ Mexalberta

No Butterflies in November

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Paulf @, Mount Sterling, Ky 40353, Sunday, February 12, 2017, 11:29 (2003 days ago) @ Charlybby

Our first attempt was Oct/Nov not realizing the Reserves were closed for the butterflies were just arriving and were tired. We loved our 2nd hotel close to the medical college. Behind the hotel was a pedestrian walk to the traffic circle. We had a room on the 3rd floor facing the street and viaduct( the Spaniards built the viaduct to bring water from the mountains to Morelia). Had a small balcony to small for a chair but still enjoyed standing watching the street. The first hotel did not have hot water in the shower and only cold for the sink. We checked in around 9am and then went to breakfast in the hotel restaurant, soon as we got back to the room Kathie headed to the shower which was large and really hot water. When we go back would stay at the same hotel again even though it is a good walk to the main area.

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Mexalberta @, Sunday, February 12, 2017, 17:04 (2003 days ago) @ Charlybby

I meant January, November will be Calgary -Mexico City- Aguascalientes-Mexico City- Zihua

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Ottawa Joe, Saturday, February 11, 2017, 11:15 (2004 days ago) @ Altona Stu

We were in Morelia on the 21st an 22nd and witnessed the fireworks show in front of the Cathedral . Very dramatic low level performance. The trip out to see the Monarchs is worth the trip whether you do it with Carlos or as we did by taking a first class bus to Morelia and making our own arrangements. Tops on our list of things we wanted to experience while in Mexico.

Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by Charlybby, Sunday, February 12, 2017, 02:13 (2004 days ago) @ Altona Stu

Really enjoyed your trip report!!!

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Trip report-Butterfly tour from Ixtapa.

by dhunsber @, ¡Dondequiera que voy, estoy aquí!, Sunday, February 12, 2017, 15:10 (2003 days ago) @ Altona Stu

Great trip report -thanks!
So glad your adventure was marvelous.