You must travel to a reserve to view the butterflies. During our tour we visited two reserves in two days. The reserves were the less visited by tourists of the several reserves. At both reserves you have the option of renting a horse, an additional 200 or so pesos, or hiking to the area where the butterflies are congregated. Unless you are quite physically fit and used to high altitudes, you should ride the horse. Both reserves were near 8,000 feet elevation at the base, and then about a 45-minute ride including another 1,000 feet of elevation to see the butterflies.
At the first preserve’s base there was a few souvenir stands and places to buy snacks, all quite reasonably priced. We bought nice T-shirts for about $5.
The horses and the ride up were nice. Every horse had a guide on its reins. The climb up was moderate and we traveled through a beautiful forest. After the ride we had to walk about the last half mile to see the butterflies. This walk was easy, though I did need to catch my breath a few times because I live at sea level and now was at 9,000 feet.
The drive, the ride, and the walk were all worth it when I saw the butterflies. We walked to an open area where a reserve guide was stationed to be sure we stayed within their boundary. Ahead of us were thousands of monarch butterflies. It was truly a tremendous sight. Here we were on flat ground and the butterflies were ahead of us, and surrounding us, in the trees. There are so many that leaves, limbs, and tree trunks disappear being completely covered with butterflies. About every 10 minutes many butterflies would release from the branches and fly. What a wonderful sight. Since there were so many, you can hear the wings making a sound like a quiet rain. Some would fly among us, sometimes landing on us.
We were allowed to remain there around 45 minutes, during this time only our group and a few other visitors were watching. When the next group was coming, then it was time for us to leave. While we were there, we had to keep quiet. The only sounds I heard were the butterflies' wings, a few whispers, and lots of cameras.