Day 1: Arrive Morelia, transfer to hotel. We enjoy a light snack at the Portales, across from the Cathedral, which is illuminated at night!
Day 2: Breakfast at hotel, followed by guided walking tour of Morelia, the capital of Michoacan and a colonial gem! Morelia is a conservative city with deep traditions in higher education, music and the arts. Highlights include: The Government Palace and Alfredo Zalce Murals, Palace of Justice, Cathedral, Temple of the Roses, the former Aqueduct, and the outstanding House of “Artesanias”. We enjoy a fabulous welcome dinner at one of Morelia’s top rated restaurants. (B,D)
Day 3: Leaving the world of art and history behind, we embark on a one of a kind nature trek to witness one of the Western Hemisphere’s great natural phenomena: the winter home of the monarch butterflies, which migrate each year to the Transvolcanic mountains of central Mexico. Millions and millions of butterflies fly south each year, to exactly the same location. It wasn't until 1975 that the scientific community finally tracked down the wintering sites of the Monarch in Mexico. Until then, the Monarch butterflies' winter hideouts had been a secret known only to local villagers and landowners. The sites the Monarchs use during the winter have particular characteristics that enable their survival, such as trees on which to cluster, to protect them from the wind. Nearby trees, streams, underbrush, and fog or clouds all form an intricate natural ecosystem that forms the monarchs' winter habitat. These conditions are found in oyamel fir forests, which occur in a very small area of mountain tops in central Mexico. (B)
Day 4: In the morning we visit one more sanctuary before we depart for Patzcuaro, on the shores of the lake that shares its name. We will settle into our hotel and walk the town to orient ourselves to the plazas, churches and charming cobblestone streets. (B)
Day 5: Today, we travel the village of Tzintzuntzan to see churches and convents of the colonial era and to meet local artisans. We visit the ruins of the great, former Purepecha empire at Tzintzuntzan,which means place of the hummingbirds, where we learn about the fascinating people and culture who are believed to be descendents of nomadic tribes from northwestern Mexico, known as the Chichimecas. They are one of the few civilizations that held off the Aztecs in their attempt to spread their empire in western Mexico. From here, we visit the early community of Santa Fe de La Laguna, founded by Vasco de Quiroga, where we learn of the early evangelization efforts in this region. Returning home, we stop at Santa Clara del Cobre to see master artisans hammer copper as they shape the raw material into beautiful works of art. (B)
Day 6: Today, we spend a leisurely day strolling the cobblestone streets of Patzcuaro. We visit select craft shops and galleries and enjoy their patio restaurants for regional foods, such as corundas. Optional excursions to the island of Janitzio or to other craft villages on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro, such as Tocuaro to see master mask makers and to Erogaricuaro to visit this charming bohemian village. (B)
Day 7: Today we transfer to Morelia to once again enjoy this colonial atmosphere of this UNESCO Heritage city. We will visit Museums and Artisan Coops on our final day. A farewell dinner will be held at one of Morelia's great restaurants. (B,D)
Day 8: Early transfer to airport for our journey home.
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