FAQs


Where are you located?
How do I get there?
When are the butterflies there?
Are there still butterflies to see?
How do I pay you?
What should I pack?
How hard is the hike?
Can I go see the butterflies without a guide?
Do I have to take a horse when I go on a butterfly tour?
What are the rooms like?
Do the rooms have heat or AC?
Is there camping on the reserve?
Do I need to bring my own food, water, wine or other alcohol to Macheros?
What else should I bring?
Do you have wifi?
Do you have laundry?
When is check in and check out?
What is your cancellation policy?
Why do you charge what you charge?
Why are your rates higher on booking.com and airbnb.com than they are on your website?
Where should I stay in Mexico City?
Should I rent a car?
Is traveling in Mexico safe?


Where are you located?

We are located in the mountainous countryside of the State of Mexico in a little village of about 400 people and 100 horses called Macheros. Macheros means “stables.” We’re part of the ejido of El Capulin. An ejido is a community based on communal landholding. Our ejido was created  when our great-grandparents were freed from laboring on the nearby haciendas at the end of the Mexican Revolution. The closest large city is Zitácuaro (pronounced zee TAK war o), which is about 30 minutes away from us, just across the border in the state of Michoacán.  Zitácuaro is a two-hour-long first class bus ride from Mexico City. “Directos” leave every hour with a company called La Linea at the Observatorio, or Poniente, terminal in Mexico City, located at the end of the pink subway line. We are also about an hour and a half away from Toluca and Valle de Bravo, and a three hour trip from Morelia.

Cerro Pelon and Macheros are located in the State of Mexico right over the border of Michoacan state.
Cerro Pelon and Macheros are located in the State of Mexico right over the border of Michoacan state.

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How do I get there?

The easiest way to get to us is through the city of Zitácuaro (zee TAK war o), which is on the very eastern edge of the state of Michoacán. Zitácuaro is a two hour bus ride from Mexico City and a three hour bus ride from Morelia. In a car, these travel times are shorter. From Mexico City, go to the Observatorio terminal, also known as Poniente, and buy a “directo” ticket with a company called La Linea for Zitácuaro.

We are 17 km or 10.4 miles outside of Zitácuaro in the State of Mexico.

  1. In Zitácuaro, find the rotunda with a fountain with a statue of woman with a basket on her head. This landmark is called la Mujer Mazahua. It’s on Avenida la Revolución, the main drag that runs through Zitácuaro. She is flanked by Pemex gas stations on either side. If you are coming from the direction of Morelia and have already passed through downtown Zitácuaro, make a right at this rotunda. If you are headed in from the direction of Mexico City and have yet to enter downtown, you will be making a left. The road you are looking for is called la Carretera a Apuztio de Juarez.
  2. Continue straight on this road. You will see signs for the small communities of El Aguacate and Silba de Abajo. Watch out for potholes and speed bumps.
  3. The road will fork where there is a two-story blue and white police substation. This location is called La Piedra or La Colonia: Go left here.
  4. Stay on this winding road another 5 km. You will pass a community called Llano Redondo. When the road curves sharply to the right, make a left and pass under the archway that says MACHEROS. If you see the El Capulin entry to the butterfly reserve, you have gone too far.
  5. In Macheros, keep going straight. When you see the church in the middle of town, make a left. We are in the two-story white house that is across the street from the church, right before the pavement ends.
  6. Our GPS coordinates are 19° 21’ 47.1” and -100° 17’ 31.0” But be warned, relying on GPS alone has led some visitors onto off-road adventures up the sides of mountains, otherwise known as getting lost.

If you take a bus here, taxis can take you to our place from the terminal for around 200 pesos. You can ask us to arrange a taxi pick up for you, or, if you speak Spanish, you can call Rene yourself at  715 127 8400. His car is the number 31.  If you get a taxi on your own, make sure your taxista knows where Macheros is, and that you can tell them how to get to our place–otherwise they will drop you off at the entry of the reserve. See above directions, and tell them to make a left at the church in the center of town. Note that taxistas will charge more if you’re traveling after dark.

For the super budget traveler, there is also a public transportation service called a combi (a refitted VW bus). Exit the bus station and cross the street. The combis leave from the street that is to the left of the large supermarket in front of you. Take one that goes to Aputzio de Juarez and get off at La Piedra. La Piedra is the on the border of the state of Mexico, where the combis are not authorized to operate. There are usually taxis waiting here if you arrive before dark: take one to Macheros from there (ask them to make a left at the church). Note that if you are traveling solo, the taxis won’t leave until they have another fare.
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When are the butterflies there?

The monarchs trickle in in mid-November and usually stick around until mid-March (i.e. the 21st, in recent memory). They used to arrive around the Day of the Dead, on November 1, but warmer temperatures in the north sometimes push back their departure date from northern North America. If you’re coming early in the season, be in touch with us about when they arrive so you won’t be disappointed. Also be aware that the sanctuaries do not officially open until the third Saturday in November. Some open unofficially before then, and others do not.  This situation changes from year to year depending on who’s in charge, so again it’s good to be in touch with us about specifics when planning an early November visit.
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Are there still butterflies to see?

Yes there are, but the number of monarch butterflies making the trip to Mexico has dropped precipitously over the last decade. Agrobusiness and corn subsidies in the United States have decimated the milkweed population, the plant that is essential to monarch butterfly reproduction. The widespread spraying of herbicides on GMO crops has also greatly reduced the wildflower population that provides food for butterflies once they’ve hatched. In Mexico, environmental degradation of their overwintering sites isn’t helping matters either. It’s hard to count butterflies, but the area of trees filled with them in Mexico has declined a great deal. Some of their roosts have been extinguished entirely. Fortunately they are still coming to Cerro Pelon, which remains one of Mexico’s most populous roosts. It is our hope that if more people come experience this remarkable natural phenomenon here in Mexico first hand, more people will feel inspired to take action to help the monarchs.
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How do I pay you?

We are not set up to take credit cards and there are no ATMs in Macheros. There are several in Zitácuaro, including a Scotiabank machine in the bus terminal and an HSBC machine across the street inside the massive yellow and green Bodega Aurrera. Once you arrive in Macheros, it’s cash only. We accept Mexican pesos or U.S. dollars.

If you feel more comfortable paying all or part of your bill ahead of time so you don’t have to carry much cash, we have a Paypal account connected to the email jmbutterflybnb@gmail.com. Let us know if you would like us to send you an invoice via Paypal.
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What should I pack?

Warm clothes! We are in high altitude tropics. While it can get balmy in neighboring Zitacuaro, the temperatures drop noticeably as you drive into the mountain valley where we’re located. Once the sun sets, you’ll want a hoodie or polar fleece. There is no indoor heating here, so be prepared to bundle up in the evenings.

We’re at 2,400 meters, and the butterflies are up the mountain from us at about 3,000 meters. Butterflies don’t fly at temperatures below 55 F, and so they have picked this part of the Sierra Madres for their overwintering site because the temperatures are rarely below freezing but never so warm that they burn too much energy. We have two seasons here, wet and dry, and the butterflies visit us during the dry season. Rain is rare but not unheard of during the dry season.

As you climb the mountain temperatures drop. Bring layers, so you can take them off as you warm up on the ascent and put them back on as you cool down while contemplating butterflies. Hats and sunblock also come in handy–it’s easy to get a sunburn at high altitdue.

Obviously comfortable shoes with traction are highly recommended. It can get dusty toward the end of the season: some people like to cover their nose and mouth with a bandanna.

You will want your camera. Binoculars are nice too.

Sometimes the neighborhood dogs are barky at night, so earplugs can help you sleep soundly.
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How hard is the hike?

Cerro Pelon is a moderate to hard hike. It starts off with some flat parts but then it gets pretty consistently steep. The super-fit have reached the butterfly roost in an hour and a half; others have taken a more leisurely three. Two is average. It is high altitude, and some people are affected by this. We have seen people in their 20s struggle to breathe and folks pushing 70 make it up without a problem.

Many people opt to take horses instead of hiking. The people in the ejido will be happy if you do this, because that’s one way they make money during butterfly season. The horses are on a list, so whoever’s horse is up is whose horse you take. The owner of the horse is supposed to lead the horse up the mountain. The horses are for the most part pretty docile and used to carrying strangers up to the butterflies. It’s a hard trip for them too, and it takes them about an hour each way.

If there are members of your party who aren’t physically up to a strenuous high-altitude hike or two hours on horseback, see our activities page for alternatives such as cooking classes, market trips,  or shorter, gentler horseback rides.

The other three sanctuaries that are open to the public involve shorter hikes (30-45 min) that are less consistently steep. In our admittedly biased opinion, the forest settings of these sanctuaries lack the pristine loveliness of our beloved Cerro Pelon.
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Can I go see the butterflies without a guide?
No. The people of the ejido of Macheros have organized butterfly tourism so that it provides much needed income for them. The trail up the mountain to see the butterflies is unmarked, and visitors are required to take a local guide with them when they enter the reserve. The guides are on a rotating list, so whoever happens to be at the top of the list that day will be your guide. Some of them like going to see butterflies. Some of them rush you because they’d rather be doing something else. None of the guides speak much if any English.
If you would like to take a tour of the sanctuary at your own pace with an experienced bilingual guide, reserve a butterfly tour with us.
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Do I have to take a horse when I go on a butterfly tour?
No, horses are optional. If you are worried about riding one because you’re an inexperienced rider though, don’t worry; they are usually led by their owners up the mountain so you don’t really have to “ride” them. If you are, on the other hand, an experienced rider, we can tell the owner that you know what you’re doing and that he doesn’t have to accompany you. Some folks take a horse up and then walk down, so they can experience both ways of being in the butterfly forest.
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What are the rooms like?
We have four rooms for rent in the main house of the B&B. Three of them are spacious with hardwood floors, big windows, and great views of the rolling countryside that surrounds us. We also have six rooms for rent in our new extension, which is behind our house with a separate entry. These rooms have private entries and great views of Cerro Cacique, the mountain that looms to the west of our village. In total, we have four rooms outfitted with kingsize beds,  three rooms with two beds, and two rooms with one double bed. All have private bathrooms with hot showers. There are no TVs in the rooms—so load up your e-reader or bring a book. 
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Do the rooms have heat or AC?
No, they don’t. We very rarely need either one. Where we live temperatures usually range from 50-75 degrees F year round. Most Canadians find it balmy. Evenings sometimes get chilly in December and January. We can give you extra blankets if you are especially chilly-natured.
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Is there camping on the reserve?

Although recent editions of the Lonely Planet guide to Mexico imply that there is, that is not the case: camping is not allowed on the reserve. The reason for the camping ban is not about your safety—camping in Macheros is safe. The ban is about the safety of the butterflies and their forest. 
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Do I need to bring my own food, water, wine or other alcohol to Macheros?

No. We provide purified water at the B&B. There is a restaurant run by our family next door and there are several small stores in town that sell basics like bottled water, snacks, fruit, and beer. We have wine, rum, and tequila on hand as well. If you do bring your own wine, there is a 75 MXN corkage fee.

At the restaurant, all food is prepared when you order it, and requests for food for vegetarians, vegans, gluten free, or small children can easily be accommodated.
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What else should I bring?

We are in a sleepy farming community. Expect to be surrounded by chirping choruses of birds, the neighing of horses, baaing of sheep, the crowing of roosters, and the barking of dogs. If you are unaccustomed to these natural noises you might want to bring ear plugs. 

puppy-fight
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Do you have wifi?

We’re still working out the kinks, but during the 2017-2018 season we are happy to say that we should be able to offer wifi to our guests (fingers crossed!). It’s not entirely consistent though–so be prepared for some unpredictability. Because we are off the grid and Mexico’s telecommunications monopoly doesn’t consider it worth its while to provide service to rural areas, we had to build a series of towers ourselves at some expense to relay the signal across the county. Power outages and strong winds sometimes disrupt this relay.  Keep your expectations low, and hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised.

pinksunset
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Do you have laundry?

Yes, you can use our machine to wash a load of clothes for $5. Sun and wind dries clothes quickly on our clotheslines. Hanging and folding not included.
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When is check in and check out?

Check in is at 1 pm and check out is at twelve noon.
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What is your cancelation policy?

We are a very small business with a very short season, so if we have held your reservation, we probably had to turn someone else away. If you have to cancel less than two weeks before your arrival date, we reserve the right to keep 50% of the cost of the room.
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Why do you charge what you charge?
We charge what we charge for our rooms, food and tours because we have a responsibility to ourselves, our family and our community to stay in business. We are not a budget option for butterfly tourism. (There are cheaper–as well as much more expensive–lodging options in Zitacuaro.) We pay our workers above market rate and we employ people in maintenance and construction projects throughout the year, even when there is no revenue from butterfly tourism. Making a living with our ecotourism business means that we can afford to not make a living with our conservation work on Cerro Pelon, where we employ three Biosphere Reserve residents to patrol the forest and monitor its health year-round.
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Why are your rates higher on booking.com and airbnb.com than they are on your website?

Booking.com charges us a 15% commission per night for each reservation made through them, which is why the prices we list there for the butterfly high season are 15% higher than the ones we charge if you book directly with us. Airbnb, on the other hand, charges most of their commission to the guest in the fees added on when you check out.
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Where should I stay in Mexico City?
There’s a lot to see in Mexico City’s Centro Historico. Guests have liked the Zocalo Central, Hotel Catedral, and the Hampton Inn. Hotels Marlowe and Metropol are decent enough mid-range places. Adjacent neighborhoods Condesa and Roma are also popular options. These Brooklynesque neighborhoods feature myriad coffee shops and dog runs. Stella’s B&B and the Red Tree House have received good reviews from former guests.
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Should I rent a car?
It depends on where else you’re going. Most major destinations in Mexico are well-connected by public transportation, which is for the most part comfortable and efficient and far less stressful than maneuvering a rental in a trafficky metropolis. (Getting to us from San Miguel de Allende is an exception to this rule.) While we ourselves have never had to rent a car here, we have not heard very good stories from our guests about the rental car process in Mexico. Long waits, hidden charges, and cops waiting to bribe you just past the airport exit are just a few of the car rental adventures people have shared with us.
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Is traveling in Mexico safe?

Every year millions of travelers visit Mexico without incident. Thanks to organized crime, the name of our neighboring state, the lovely Michoacán, has become synonymous with danger. Most recently these problems have been happening in the western side of the state: we are in the state of Mexico near the eastern edge of Michoacán. While the most recent U.S. State Department travel advisory indicated that several municipios in the State of Mexico were potentially problematic, none of these areas are close to our municipio, Donato Guerra.

Organized crime works like the mafia here, demanding protection money from local businesses. These practices have been stressful and economically damaging for ordinary Mexicans, but they rarely affect travelers. Right now, Mexico City is safer than most large cities in the United States, and public transportation and travel on main roads, especially toll roads, is quite secure. Over the last four seasons we have never known of any of our guests to have any problems taking the bus to us from Mexico City.

We haven’t had any incidents in our sleepy corner of the state of Mexico. As you move on from here, it is a good idea though to talk to local people about where they feel comfortable traveling. We are more than happy to advise you on your travel plans and let you know what the safest route is to your next destination. If you want to go to the western beaches of Mexico from our place, we recommend checking out flights from Toluca or Mexico City, which will get you there safely and much more comfortably and quickly. We are also happy to put you in touch with recent guests if you would like to ask them about their experiences with safety conditions here.
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