- Full Itinerary
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- Travel Details
- Trip Reports
- Know Before You Go
- Other Trips You May Like
One of the greatest ecological spectacles in the world is the wintering grounds of the Monarch Butterfly in a small area of forest in central Mexico. Over 20-million Monarchs make their amazing yearly migration of more than 2000 miles from Canada and the United States to a small area in the mountains in the highland pine forests of Michoacan and the Estado de Mexico. Each year, a special generation of these extraordinary butterflies discover the same place. It’s a marvel of nature that is not to be missed! There are several sanctuaries that protect these forests and we visit two of them.
In addition to exploring the butterfly sanctuaries, we bird La Cima, for the Sierra Madre Sparrow and Strickland’s Woodpecker and visit the Lerma Marshes, where we look for the beautiful Black-polled Yellowthroat. We also spend some time birding around the Lake Patzcuaro region, looking for central Mexico endemics such as Dusky Hummingbird, Black-backed Oriole, Pileated Flycatcher, Transvolcanic Jay, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, and Striped Sparrow. Beyond birds and butterflies, we have the opportunity to explore more of the staggering Mexican biodiversity, enjoy great food, some amazing arts and crafts, and plenty of adventure.
We stay in lovely and unique hotels along the way that give us a chance to really settle in and relax during down times, bird the grounds, relax in thermal springs, or enjoy short walks into the local plaza.
Please note that this trip starts in Mexico City and ends in Guadalajara. We can recommend a travel agent if you’d like help booking your flights.
- Discover one of the greatest ecological spectacles in the world!
- Experience the highland pine forests of Michoacan
- Spot numerous rare Mexican endemic bird species
- Visit Cerro Pelón where the butterflies are most likely in their highest numbers
- Bird volcanic peaks, searching for Mountain Trogon and Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow
- Marvel in Mexico’s rich biodiversity and culture
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Sat., Feb. 17 : Arrivals
Welcome to Mexico! Arrive today at your leisure into Mexico City. Our hotel for the night is directly accessible from the airport terminal to ease logistics on this first day. Settle in to your room, and then those arriving in time can gather for an informal dinner with the group.
Accommodations at Courtyard by Marriot Mexico City Airport
Sun., Feb. 18 : La Cima | Lerma Marshes | Jungapeo
We make an early departure from the hotel to get us into the field sooner, but mostly to beat Mexico City traffic! To really speed along the process, we enjoy a field breakfast upon our arrival at the first birding stop in La Cima. Our goal this morning is to see two extremely limited range endemics: Sierra Madre Sparrow and Strickland’s Woodpecker. After finding the two endemics, we make a few other stops along the road to look for birds such as the endemic and striking Red Warbler, Golden-browed Warbler, Brown-backed Solitaire, the endemic Rufous-capped Brushfinch, and the endemic Striped Sparrow.
Lunch is at a small, local place along the way. After lunch we stop at the once extensive Lerma Marshes for another very important bird, the highly endangered Black-polled Yellowthroat, found only in just a tiny area in Central Mexico. The Yellowthroat has seen a major reduction in its habitat over the years due to water being sent over the mountains to Mexico City.
We then have a 2-hour drive to our home for the next three nights in Jungapeo. Our hotel is nestled at the bottom of a steep canyon, perched above a beautiful river and is in close proximity to the butterfly reserves we visit over the next two days. Enjoy!
Accommodations at Hotel Aguablanca (B,L,D)
Mon., Feb. 19 : Sierra Chincua Monarch Reserve | Local Birding
Today is our first visit to one of the Monarch reserves known as Sierra Chincua. Although it may seem obvious, because the Monarchs are only in the area for a very limited time, anyone that wants to see them needs to go during a very narrow window of time. To beat the crowds, and to get us to the best areas for seeing the most butterflies, we get up and out of the hotel early! We eat breakfast at the van before we depart the hotel—quick, but worth it to beat the crowds. The butterflies don’t return to the exact same trees each year, so it’s important to realize that getting to the location where the Monarchs are may require a little more, or a little less, walking.
At Sierra Chincua, like at all of the other reserves, horses are available for rent for getting to the butterflies with a unique and enjoyable ride. It may seem silly to ride a horse, but once you get to the location you realize that the 10,000+ foot elevation may have a bigger effect on you than you originally thought!
After spending some time with the butterflies and looking for birds, we head back down the mountain for lunch at a great little restaurant in Angangueo, a beautiful small colonial city. Some of the birds we look for could include Chestnut-sided Shrike-Vireo, Crescent-chested Warbler, White-striped Woodcreeper, Pine Flycatcher, Gray-collared Becard, Gray-barred Wren, the striking and endemic Blue Mockingbird, endemic Green-striped and Rufous-capped Brushfinches, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer, and Black-headed Siskin. We return to the hotel in the late afternoon for a relaxing dinner.
Accommodations at Hotel Aguablanca (B,L,D)
Tues., Feb. 20 : Birding to Patzcuaro
Once again, we have breakfast at the van before taking a very short drive across the canyon from the hotel. The dry forest surrounding the canyon is rich with interesting birds like Slate-blue Seedeater, endemic West Mexican Chachalaca, endemic Banded Quail, endemic Colima Pygmy Owl and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, endemic Golden-crowned Emerald, endemic Dusky Hummingbird, endemic Golden-cheeked Woodpecker, Russet-crowned Motmot, endemic Pileated Flycatcher, endemic Golden Vireo, endemic Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow, and endemic Black-chested Sparrow and Military Macaws. Dippers can also be found in the river below!
We go back to the hotel to check out and have lunch on our drive to Patzcuaro, one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos. We make a number of stops along the road to look for more highland species, and a stop at a fantastic lagoon filled with water birds. Then, after settling into our beautiful hotel and taking a break, we stroll into the beautiful town plaza for dinner.
Accommodations at Hotel Yolihuani (B,L,D)
Wed., Feb. 21 : Pine-Oak Habitat | Tacambaro | Patzcuaro
After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we drive about 30 minutes to bird an interesting volcanic peak covered in remnant pine-oak habitat. We look for Mountain Trogon, striking and endemic Red-headed Tanager, endemic Collared Towhee, Crescent-chested Warbler, endemic Spotted and Gray-barred Wrens, and endemic Rusty-crowned Ground-Sparrow.
Later we continue to drop in elevation and make a couple of stops looking for the rare, and difficult to find, White-chinned Swift! There are some great places to look for other swifts, as well. Great-swallow-tailed, endemic White-naped, Black, Chestnut-collared, and Vaux’s can all be seen in this area! We have lunch at a fancy and interesting restaurant in Tacambaro before making a few more stops in search of the White-chinned (or White-fronted) Swift near its roosting locations.
We head back to Patzcuaro in the late afternoon for time to explore around the plaza and then have dinner.
Accommodations at Posada Yolihuani (B,L,D)
Thurs., Feb. 22 : Morning Birding | Free Afternoon to Explore Patzcuaro
We enjoy another delicious hotel breakfast this morning and then set out to cover some ground and look for species that we may not have seen yesterday. We work different habitats on the outskirts of town before heading back for a free afternoon to explore the city on your own.
Accommodations at Posada Yolihuani (B,L,D)
Fri., Feb. 23: Birding En Route to Guadalajara
We have a lovely breakfast at our hotel before checking out and making a few stops around Patzcuaro for birds. We have a three-hour drive to Guadalajara and our hotel in Tlaquepaque. Along the way, we bird a few different spots looking for more species of the dry highlands of central Mexico, near the town of Churintzio. We have lunch in Churintzio, at a great local spot, before making the last push into Guadalajara. Tonight, we stay in the crafts mecca of Tlaquepaque at the comfortable and popular Quinta Don Jose Boutique Hotel.
We enjoy farewell dinner in the excellent restaurant, right at the hotel.
Accommodations at Quinta Don Jose Boutique Hotel (B,L,D)
Sat., Feb. 24: Departures
You may depart at your leisure today out of the Guadalajara airport. We arrange one shuttle to the airport around the majority of everyone’s flights; if your flight isn’t around this time, you can take a taxi. (B)
Butterfly Skies by Peg Abbott
All Smiles by Jonathan Goding
Traditional Decorations by Jonathan Goding
Yellow-eyed Junco by Jonathan Goding
In the Plaza by Jonathan Goding
Monarchs by Jonathan Goding
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher by Jonathan Goding
Group Birding by Jonathan Goding
With the Horses by Jonathan Goding
Lizard by Jonathan Goding
Details in town by Jonathan Goding
Monarch Cluster by Jonathan Goding
Lizard by Jonathan Goding
Lake Patzcuaro Scenic by Woody Wheeler
Patzcuaro Hotel by Woody Wheeler
Golden-cheeked Woodpecker by Woody Wheeler
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the tour: $4790 DBL / $5390 SGL, based on double occupancy from Mexico City, departing Guadalajara. Includes seven nights’ accommodations, meals as noted in the itinerary, purified water, airport transfers, ground transportation in vans, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Not included is airfare to Mexico City and from Guadalajara, personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, and gratuities for luggage handling or other services. Guide gratuities are at your discretion.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Arrival Airport: Mexico City International (MEX)
Arrival Information: Arrive at your leisure on February 17, 2024. Please try to arrive by 5:00 PM to join the welcome dinner and orientation at 6:30PM. If you need to arrive later, remember we have an early start the next day so please check in with your guide for any important messages. We chose our first night hotel for its proximity to the airport, it is just across from Terminal One, so from either terminal you can walk. We suggest you ask help from a porter for your luggage and they will show you the way!
Our first night hotel is: Courtyard by Marriott Mexico City Airport (+52) 55 4631 4000.
Departure Airport: Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International (GDL)
Departure Information: Departure is February 24, 2024. We arrange one shuttle to the airport around the majority of everyone’s flights; if your flight isn’t around this time, we can help you organize and take a taxi so you can relax and enjoy our lovely final night hotel: Quinta Don Jose Boutique Hotel toll free 1-866-629-3735 Direct dial to Mexico: (+52) 33 3635 7522.
Travel Tips: Our guests have enjoyed adding time on either end of the journey. Mexico City is famous for its museums and murals and vibrant restaurants. There are a number of tour guides that will do a city tour for you, or you can explore at leisure from the museum area. Guadalajara has a charming market area near our hotel which is in a trendy shop and dining area outside of the city. You can walk to that area from the hotel; additionally, you can taxi into the colonial city to explore, then return to this quiet oasis.
VISAS: US residents do not need a visa to travel to Mexico for tourist visits of this length.
Items of Note
Pace of the Tour
Moderate, with full days of birding and walks on quiet roads and trails. A typical walk is less than two miles and often we have a series of walks at different spots that are a half-mile each, several times a day. Please note: Hikes to the butterfly sanctuaries are at altitude; you need to be able to make that walk or plan to rent a horse.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Butterflies & Birds
- February 2020
- February 2022
- February 2023
- October 2021
- August 2022
- October 2022
- August 2023
Sea of Cortés
- March 2017
- February 2019
- March 2022
- March 2023
Greg recently retired as the Migratory Species Coordinator for U.S. Forest Service International Programs, working throughout the Western Hemisphere. He is Vice President for Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, serving on the Conservation and Citizen Science committees. For his Ph.D. in Zoology at University of Washington, he studied the coloration and behavior of Bullock’s Orioles. Greg studied ecology in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies and has worked internationally for the past 19 years. Greg has previously worked for the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association, Birder’s World magazine (now Birdwatching), Partners in Flight, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society (AOS). He has been a birder since he was 11 and has birded in all 50 states and 46 countries.
Other trips with Greg Butcher
Western Panama: Tranquilo Bay FULL - Take a look at our March 2024 departure!February 1 - 8, 2024, w/Canopy Lodge extension
Northwest ArgentinaMarch 4 - 17, 2024, w/Iguazu Falls extension
Texas Coast & Big ThicketApril 17 - 25, 2024
Olympic Peninsula Spring ExplorerMay 6 - 13, 2024
Incredible Ecuador: Chocó GaloreAugust 2 - 11, 2024
Bolivia: Birding & NatureNovember 1 - 17, 2024, w/Blue-throated Macaw Reserve extension
- Western Panama: Tranquilo Bay
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Make sure your passport will be valid at time of entry into Mexico. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for length of this stay in Mexico. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Mexico website for guidelines.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Mexico and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Plan your flight reservations arriving into Mexico City International (MEX) and departing from Guadalajara - Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International (GDL). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival into Mexico City International (MEX)
Please note. If you are delayed in travel, contact the ground operator listed for the country you’re traveling to with a copy to our office (refer to your emergency contact list). You may also phone or text the operator, your guide, or as backup our office, or the staff person indicated there as an emergency contact.
Plan to arrive at the Mexico City International Airport (MEX) at your leisure by the start of the tour date. To simplify arrivals into Mexico City, we stay at a very nice Courtyard Marriott right next to the airport (0.1-mile west). The hotel is directly accessible from the airport Terminal 1. You can walk there, and if you need assist to find it or with luggage, you can simply hire a porter who will take you there. Please plan to arrive for dinner no later than 5:00 PM. We will meet in the hotel bar for an orientation at 6:00 PM. If your flight gets in later, your guide will make contact with you upon arrival or will leave information for you at the hotel front desk. We have an early start the following day.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Departures from Guadalajara - Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International (GDL)
Plan to depart from Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport (GDL) at your leisure. Once we have the group’s travel information, we will arrange one group shuttle to the airport to accommodate the majority of everyone’s flights. If your flight is not around that time, you may take a taxi.
Travel Tips: Our guests have enjoyed adding time on either end of the journey. Mexico City is famous for its museums and murals and vibrant restaurants. There are a number of tour guides that will do a city tour for you or you can explore at leisure from the museum area. Guadalajara has a charming market area near our hotel which is in a trendy shop and dining area outside of the city. You can walk to that area from the hotel; additionally you can taxi into the colonial city to explore, then return to this quiet oasis.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passport & Documents
A valid passport book is required to enter Mexico. You must have a passport valid at the time on entry into Mexico. Please check your expiration date carefully! We advise having at least one blank passport page per entry stamp. U.S. citizens attempting to enter Mexico at an airport with a U.S. passport card only may be denied entry.
At the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required for the length of this stay. It is recommended to check the link below at least 4-6 weeks ahead of tour for any changes in requirements.
If you are from another country, please contact the Mexican embassy website for guidelines. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at: travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Mexico.html
As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, travel visa, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.
General Health & Inoculations Information - Be Prepared!
We strongly recommend you have medical evacuation insurance. You are traveling in remote areas. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of a medical emergency.
Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. There are occasional reports of Dengue Fever in lower elevation areas, for which there is no vaccine. Dengue fever, Zika, and other diseases are contacted by mosquito bites so be sure to use mosquito repellant containing DEET or Picaridin. Travelers can reduce their risk of disease by protecting themselves from mosquito bites in lower elevation areas by using protective clothing.
Vaccinations: Bring your up-to-date vaccination records with you. At the time of writing there were no other required vaccinations to enter Mexico. However, the CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. A helpful website for planning is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for travel to Mexico or by phone (800) CDC-INFO or (800) 232-4636.
Prescriptions and Allergies: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.
Common Ailments: We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over-the-counter medications for common ailments (such as upset stomach, headache, motion sickness, diahhrea, minor scrapes, bug bites, etc.).
Weather & Climate
Mexico’s climate and temperatures will vary depending on topography. Central, inland communities at higher elevations such as Guadalajara (about 5,200 ft above sea level) are much dryer and more temperate than the coasts. Mexico City with its much higher elevation of (about 7,200 ft above sea level) can reach freezing temperatures in the winter. The butterfly reserves are up around 9,000-10,000 feet and temperatures can be quite cold in the early mornings. February temperatures along your adventure will range from average highs of 85°F and average lows of 40°F.
Annoyances & Hazards
Mosquitoes can occur in the forests; therefore, a supply of insect repellent containing DEET is essential. At grassland or farm locations you may encounter chiggers, if so, spray your shoes with repellent, and tuck your pants into your socks. When back to your room, be sure to shower and air out your clothing. Chiggers are a part of lowland and mid-elevation habitats throughout Central and South America. Your guide should have a good read on whether it has been wet enough that they are active. There can also be poisonous snakes and insects, though encountering them is rare. Do listen carefully to any advice given by your local guide. And remember the sun is strong and be prepared with proper protection.
Food & Drinks
Menus at the lodges are varied, sustainably based on the wonderful local ingredients available, and delightfully prepared in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or refer to a guidebook such as Frommers. Meals reflect the contributions of American, European, Spanish, and local cuisines. Generally, sanitation and cleanliness have improved significantly in Mexico.
Tap water in Mexico is generally not potable. We urge you to use purified bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. Purified water will be available everywhere you go, as well as purified ice. There will be a cooler full of drinks that your guide will keep stocked during the trip. Bring a refillable water bottle that you can refill from larger bottles of purified water as needed; this helps enormously to cut down on the use of plastics. A number of restaurants and hotels will use purified water, but you may want to ask first to be sure.
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at our lodges. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.
Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life! Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down please!
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!
The official currency in Mexico is the Peso. US dollar is accepted but not everywhere. We advise that you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com, or your bank. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are taken as a form of payment but shopping for smaller handicrafts may necessitate using local currency.
When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards, and there are often transaction fees for withdrawals. Check with your bank before departure, and be sure you know your PIN number ahead of the journey.
We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every location will accept every card and some smaller shops and restaurants, or taxis often require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. We recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.
Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted, and can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise that you use them.
Tipping throughout the tour is at your discretion. Some guidelines follow. At larger (mostly city) hotels, tip maids and bar service as you would at home. At eco-lodges, there is typically a staff tip box in a public area; the going rate per person is $6-$10 a day, which is shared among staff for maid service, and general staff service at the lodges. Gratuities for group meals are already included. Your Naturalist Journeys host will take care of smaller tips such field trip services by boat drivers, night drive outings, single activities. Your additional tip is encouraged for birding tour guides and drivers who are with you for several days or the full trip; $10-$15 per day per guest is standard for guide service, and half that for a driver. If you have more than one local guide at a location, they will share the daily amount. We encourage tipping for the local teams hosting you; anything extra for your Naturalist Journeys host is at your discretion.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM card at the airport (newer phones may not accept SIM cards), or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet.
Your hotels and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi in their common areas, at least. Although generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions in more remote locations. Consider downloading smart phone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls via Wi-Fi. Renting an international phone may also be an option. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
If you plan NOT to use your cell phone, we highly recommend that you turn off your cellular data. This will ensure that you do not incur international roaming charges. Another technique is to put your phone in airplane mode when not connected to WIFI, you can still use it for photos and the battery will last longer too.
Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it is an emergency.
Mexico plugs are 110 volts AV (60 cycles), as they are in the U.S. and Canada. You will not need a power plug adapter if you are using U.S. or Canadian plugs. Mexican socket types are type A and B. We recommend you bring a 3 to 2 prong adaptor just in case type B sockets are not available. For more information: www.power-plugs-sockets.com/us/mexico
Your Mexican adventure will be in the Central Daylight Time zone (CDT). A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is www.timeanddate.com.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please pack light!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this makes an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. But if you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy.
We recommend khaki or muted colors (navy, greens, gray, black, dark burgundy, or similar) as they are spotted less easily than very vivid/saturated colors (brilliant white or blue, fiery red, neon pink or green, etc.). Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors. Camouflage clothing is not recommended, and in some countries, not legal to wear. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent, such as Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight or convertible hiking pants, 1-2 pair
- Shorts, 2-3 pair
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, 2-3
- T-shirts, sleeveless and short-sleeved or equivalent, 2-3
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes)
- Personal underclothing (consider what dries quickly if you plan to do laundry)
- Socks – lightweight, easy to wash and dry
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots
- Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
- Lightweight jacket: fleece fabric is ideal, or a pullover/sweater
- Lightweight hooded raincoat (great if this doubles as a windbreaker)
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when hot and sweaty)
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- Airline tickets or e-ticket verification
- Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
- A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
- As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the ID and entry stamp pages.
- Small daypack to carry gear while hiking
- Umbrella (optional - compact, not brightly colored!)
- Walking sticks (optional, but recommended if you usually use them when hiking)
- Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock, or plan to use your phone
- Sunscreen/Chapstick and waterproof sunblock
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent (containing at least 20% DEET)
- Toiletry articles
- Earplugs (optional; if hotel noise or roommates snoring might bother you)
- Water bottle (or plan to refill one bought on location))
- Binoculars (a shower cap makes a great cover when it is raining)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will bring)
- Camera and extra batteries/chargers, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- 3 to 2 prong outlet adaptors
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Air Items
- Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions)
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on van, etc.
- Personal first aid kit including medications for general and stomach ailments
- Copy of eyeglass prescription, medical prescriptions, Covid-19 vaccination record, and any medical alerts
- Heath insurance and vaccination information (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Antibacterial soap in small container
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Mexico the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Merlin App – Mexico Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Mexico.
History & Culture
There is a good selection of books available for sale at visitors’ centers, and your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Monarch Butterflies in Mexico
Monarch Butterfly Migration Google Earth Tour – Awesome 12-min. production
Arrival of Monarch Butterflies in Sierra Chincua – 3-min. video
Sierra Chincua – Reuters Article about Hopes for a Monarch Comeback
Endemics of Mexico
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO)
Biodiversity in Mexico
The Nature Conservancy - Mexico
Geology & Geography
Variety of Maps of Mexico
Geology of Mexico
Geological Oddities of Mexico
Geography of Mexico
Helpful Travel Websites
Arrival - Mexico City International Airport (MEX)
Departure - Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International (GDL)
Homeland Security Real ID Act
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
National Passport Information Center
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Foreign Exchange Rates
U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Mexico
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Mexico
Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Mexico
Travel Health Pro (UK) - Mexico
Electricity and Plugs - Mexico
Date, Time, and Holidays - Mexico
Photo credits: Banners: Elegant Trogon by Mary McSparen; Monarch Butterflies by Alex Guillaume, courtesy UnSplash; Red-faced Warbler by Mary McSparen; Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl by Mike Boyce Thumbnails: Mexican Violetear (NJ Stock), Ash-throated Flycatcher (Jonathan Goding), Monarch Butterfly (NJ Stock), House Finch (Jonathan Goding), Russet-crowned Motmot (NJ Stock), Belted Kingfisher (NJ Stock), Butterfly (Jonathan Goding), Plain-capped Starthroat (Jonathan Goding)