How to Visit Mexico's Firefly Sanctuary
Every summer, from about the end of June to the beginning of August, thousands of fireflies light up in unison as they search for a mate in the magnificent forest of Nanacamilpa. At only two and a half hours outside of Mexico City, a drive to Nanacamilpa to see these glowing beauties makes for an easy one night trip. We visited the firefly sanctuary at the beginning of July and had a beautiful time.
The firefly sanctuaries are a new attraction that have popped up in the last 5 years or so. Now these glowing, summer insects have become a full-blown tourist attraction. After doing some research, I decided the sanctuary at Piedra Canteada would be best for us. We wanted to camp and the beautiful forest here was the perfect venue. The firefly tour leaves directly from the campground so it was convenient to be able to walk from our campsite to the beginning of the tour. There is also the option to stop in the town of Nanacamilpa, right outside of the forests and look for a tour that will drive you from town and back to visit the sanctuary, but ,if you’re like us and want a more natural experience, stay overnight on the grounds of Piedra Canteada.
The Piedra Canteada Sanctuary is located just outside of Nanacamilpa, about two and a half hours drive from Mexico City. Rent a car and the drive there is quite simple. Once we arrived, we set up our tent just in time for the rain. It will be rainy season when the fireflies are out, so be prepared for constant on and off showers. But don’t fret! The more rain, the better the odds are that you see lots of fireflies! Just make sure you bring shoes that can get muddy and a raincoat to keep you dry.
The campsite was very rustic. There were a few picnic shelters scattered about and one toilet close to the camp sites. We hid from the rain by joining our neighbors underneath one of the shelters. From the looks of their picnic spread, they did not forget a thing when packing. They had a giant pot of water boiling over the stove cooking elotes, Mexican corn on the cob. Snacks were spread across the table and hot drinks were steaming from the cups in their hands. They were the most generous of neighbors, persistently asking if we wanted anything to eat. We enjoyed each others company before we left for the tour at 8pm.
Firefly Sanctuary Tour
In the afternoon there was a very comfortable amount of people. However, by the time of the tour there must have been hundred of people that had descended on this pristine forest to catch a glimpse of the firefly show. We broke up into what was probably 10 groups of 50 people. It was insane. However, once it got dark and we started to make our way into the forest, the crowd hushed in anticipation. If you’re looking for a less crowded experience, try going on the weekdays when people are at work.
Shortly after 8pm it was dark and we started to see a flash of a firefly here and there as we walked through the forest. We came to a stop in the heart of the woods and we began to see more and more fireflies dance and light up the night sky. At the peak of their show, hundreds if not thousands of fireflies blinked in unison. They blinked from the bottom of the hills, to the very top, guiding your eyes upwards. A crescent moon shone not too bright overhead and we took in the magic of the forest and its little glowing summer inhabitants.
The tour in all lasted about 2 hours from the time you gathered to break into groups, until you were back at the campground enjoying a complimentary hot beverage and sweet bread. Afterwards, we spent some time with our friendly neighbors, enjoying the fried sweet plantains they made with cream and sweetened condensed milk, one of my most favorite Mexican treats. At night, we bundled up in our tent and in the morning awoke with the sun shining down through the treetops.
How to Book?
If you’re interested in making a reservation, visit Piedra Canteada’s Facebook and send them a message. They will likely ask you for a 40% deposit to reserve your spot. If you want additional information you can visit their website.
Piedra Canteada Firefly Sanctuary, Nanacamilpa, Mexico
400MXN per person (camping + tour weekend rate)
300MXN per person (camping + tour weekday rate)
500MXN (toll charge estimate for drive)
End of June - Beginning of August.
Onsite restaurant (100-200MXN per meal)
Bring your own food to cook at your campsite
Cold (60’s during the day, 40’s at night)
What to Bring?
Warm clothes (it gets very cold and damp at night)
Toilet paper (you can’t count on Mexican bathrooms having TP)