Michoacan, which is an Aztec word meaning 'Place of the Masters of Fish' lies on the west coast of Mexico. Its capital, Morelia, is 195 miles due west of Mexico City. Not an obvious tourist area, it is a state of quiet beauty, and has a great variety of attractions.
In the east of the state lies the Sanctuario Mariposa Monarca - the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. The reserve may be visited between November, when the butterflies start arriving from the USA, and March. In any given year there may be between 200 and 500 million butterflies spending the winter months here.
The capital, Morelia, has the cultural attractions expected. Several museums, including the Michoacan State Museum. Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, who was an important figure in the struggle for Mexico's independence, was born in the city (and it is in fact named after him) and there are several museums dedicated to him, including his birthplace and his own home. Another must see while in Morelia is the cathedral, which took over one hundred years to build, being finished in 1744. it dominates the Plaza de Armas.
South of Uruapan is the Cascada de Tzararacua, a 30 metre waterfall. There are 557 steps down to get close to it, although a horse can be hired to take you down, and back up again! Also not far from Uruapan is Tingambato, the ruins of a ceremonial site dating from AD 450. There is a ball court, a pyramid and a tomb. A museum at the site has photos and small discoveries.
One of the most famous sights in Michoacan is Volcan Paricutin, a volcano that literally came out of nowhere. It first started to appear in 1943 and rose 410m in one year. It grew for approximately nine years but has been dormant since 1952. It covered two villages with lava, although there were no casualties, as the lava was very slow moving, and the top of the church of one of those villages can be seen peeking out of the solidified lava. The volcano can be climbed, it stands at 2800 meters.
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