Discover the firefly sanctuary in Tlaxcala! With the arrival of summer, between the months of June and August, the small town of Nanacamilpa, a charming forest in the state of Tlaxcala, offers a fairytale-like experience worth visiting once in a lifetime. Join us in this blog as we plan a visit to this place to marvel at the incredible natural spectacle that the fireflies put on every year.
Firefly Season in Nanacamilpa
During the months of June and July, as well as the first days of August, the forests of Tlaxcala are witness to one of nature’s most impressive phenomena: miles of fireflies turn the night’s darkness into a monumental magical light show. Every year, these insects (which are actually beetles) visit the municipalities of Nanacamilpa and Españita to reproduce thanks to the fact that this area covers more than 500 acres filled with the ideal conditions of humidity and feeding for the larvae.
The firefly sighting begins approximately at eight at night and can last up to one and half hour. However, the magic begins at twilight, when you enter the cold coniferous forest of this reserve accompanied by the silence of the night in search for the first glimpse of light in the dark.
Once you arrive at the area where the "light bugs" are located, you will be able to admire the females lighting up to attract the males and fertilize their eggs, which they lay on the ground. The postcard provided by the bioluminescence of this species, coupled with the brightness of the stars, is simply breathtaking.
When Visiting the Sanctuary
Although the sanctuary, which has two main entrances, is located near the city of Tlaxcala, we highly recommend to immerse yourself in the full experience and stay in the local hotels of Nanacamilpa, especially as most of them are ecological and conscious of the environment to preserve this sightseeing for years to come. In the firefly sanctuary there are different authorized ecotourism centers to take you to the sighting sites safely and without disturbing the ecosystem. It is important to know what your preferences are when staying there since there is a wide variety of lodging options that range from cabins, camping centers, and glamping, all of them offering guided tours and experiences. However, if you prefer, you can stay in Tlaxcala and hire one of the operating services that transport you to the sanctuary.
When visiting this firefly sanctuary, there are some rules to follow and respect during your visit. These are all established to conserve the natural habitat of the forest and the fireflies as well as to make the visit more enjoyable for all.
- Do not leave the paths established by the ecotourism centers, because you could step on the fireflies.
- Do not use flashlights, cell phones or any type of flash.
- Do not wear fluorescent clothing or shoes.
- Remain as quiet as possible.
- Do not use insect repellants.
If you are considering visiting this spectacular place and you are thinking about warm summer months in Mexico, think again and consider that the temperature drops a lot when in the forest, so plan ahead and do dress warmly at night.
Another important note of caution is that you should know that it is not always guaranteed to see fireflies in the same numbers or with the same intensity. The probabilities of seeing a field filled with lights or more scattered glimpses of them all depend on the weather conditions. For example, if there is light rain it is possible to see them still, but if it hails (which sometimes happens in the forest during this season) it is almost impossible for the fireflies to go out. Being a natural occurrence, the phenomenon is variable: you can go on the strongest nights of the season and the weather makes sighting difficult, or show up on the last days and the conditions are perfect. Below is a video made by @BlakeCongdon displaying this unique and magnificent experience:
However, don’t let this uncertainty discourage you! Consider the weather before planning your trip and save a day—or night—to witness this marvel. The other days, when you visit these forests, take the opportunity to get to know Tlaxcala, the smallest state in Mexico. You can start with its capital city; here admire the cathedral, one of the oldest on the continent, which stands out for its open chapel.
Follow the route to the Baroque-style Basilica of Ocotlán and the Government Palace, which houses an impressive mural that narrates the history of the entity, the work of the artist Desiderio Hernández. Other essentials are the Plaza de Toros Jorge “El Ranchero” Aguilar and the Plaza Xicoténcatl, which houses the traditional Tianguis Artesanal where you can buy serapes, Tlaxcalan talavera, and many other artisanal products directly from its creators.
Other places that you cannot miss in Tlaxcala are Huamantla and Cacaxtla. The first is a Magical Town, recognized for its pulque haciendas, its National Puppet Museum, and for the "Huamantlada" festival, in which bulls are released and the streets are decorated with flower rugs. Cacaxtla is an archaeological zone famous for the quality and good conservation of its mural paintings; a sight that you cannot miss!