During our time here, we have had a chance to explore outside of the city and see some of the beautiful sights that Oaxaca has to offer. I asked some of our volunteers to share some of their favorite places to visit near the city.
Q. What is your favorite day trip outside of Oaxaca:
Flor: It’s difficult to think of just one place because as an Oaxacan girl, I have several favorites. But probably my favorite trip outside Oaxaca is to La Sierra Juárez and seeing the different towns there, such as Cajimoloyas, Llano Grande, Latuvi and Rancho Benito Juárez. I’ve walked almost everywhere in these towns and you should to believe me when I say that the surrounding landscape is just beautiful. I love walking through the woods, seeing the green color on every side, and viewing all sorts of different plants and flowers. There’s no better way to view the stars than from the Sierra; I’ll always remember the sky full of small spotlights and shining brightly. Also, Sierra’s delicious bread paired with a cup of chocolate is the absolute best. The weather is cold but the people are very warm. It’s easy to have special moments: the Sierra has nature, quietness and yummy food…all I need!
You can take a bus or taxi from central Abastos to the individual towns. You can also go to a shop near the Sangre de Cristo Church on Abasolo street and ask for more information about tours and booking a night in one of the villages.
Julia: The best day trip I have taken so far is to Monte Alban. I visited on a clear, sunny morning one Sunday in June. What I like about Monte Alban is that it has been uncovered (and some parts reconstructed) in a way that allows visitors to get a sense of what the inhabitants of the ancient city saw when they looked into the skies, or out across the mountains, or down into the valley where the city of Oaxaca now sits. The pyramids, meeting halls, patios, and palaces of Monte Alban are quite impressive as well. Made of stone, and held together with little other than well-planned designs, the buildings are situated to align with the cosmos, marking the change of both the hours and the seasons of the year. I climbed to the tops of the pyramids, and from each one I got a different view of the site and how it may have appeared when it was a bustling Zapotec city. There are also lots of intricate details in the tiles and paint in the hall of the dancers, which depicts the figures that were captured and sacrificed. I also enjoyed the museum, which showcased artifacts found in the tombs and original carvings.
The easiest way to get to Monte Alban from Oaxaca for solo travelers is to purchase a ticket from the Hotel Rivera del Angel (Calle Mina 518, Centro, Oaxaca). For less than $50 MXN I purchased a round trip ticket that allowed me 3 hours at the site. Travel time each way was about 25 minutes. Monte Alban is a fantastic half day trip, just remember water and sunscreen.
Kim: The town of Santa Maria del Tule is just a short bus ride from the centre of the city of Oaxaca, along the highway towards Mitla. Do yourself a favour and pay the 5.50 pesos fare and go out there! In the town you will meet a very old and very beautiful being; El Árbol del Tule. A tree! She is over 2000 years old. She is 40 metres tall, and at 42 metres in diameter her trunk is the biggest in the world! She seems just as big as the church that stands by her side. Her ‘hijo’ (child), with an approximate age of 1000 years, keeps her company in the churchyard also. According to the Zapotec legend, Pechocha, a priest of Ehécatl the God of the Wind, planted the tree in this sacred site, and standing by the great tree I felt that it remains a special place. It was an experience I’ll never forget. She is magnificent! Local people and foreigners all flock to see her. There is a 5 pesos donation at the gate that goes towards the maintenance of the beautiful garden and the preservation of the tree which has suffered in the last years due to the compacting of the soil and the growing urban environment. I hope that she lasts another 1000 years! Go visit!
Sam: Santiago Apoala, a little village hidden in between the mountains of the Mixteca Alta Sierra about 4 hours northeast of Oaxaca has been one of my favorite escapes from Oaxaca City. It takes a while to get there, and the roads aren’t too pleasant, but once you arrive you know the trip was worth it. Upon our arrival, we decided to first explore the beautiful waterfalls that had led to us to this place. We registered with the town tourism office, and were given a personal guide, an eager little boy, who told us about his village as we ascended down the gorge in search of the waterfall. The hike was short (45 min), a little steep, and the views magnificent.
The waterfall was as expected, spectacular. After admiring her beauty, we continued along the path in search of a swimming hole. The water was freezing, and incredibly refreshing. We ended up spending the whole day at the swimming pool, and didn’t leave enough time to visit the caves nor the town, so I guess I’ll have to go again.
Kyra: I really enjoyed visiting San Bartolo, the village that is famous for its black pottery. Instead of buying from the shops right off the road, I walked into the town and found a number of stores run by local families. I also happened upon a demonstration of how the pottery is made and you can see that is almost completely done by hand – there’s no wheel just a base to rest it on and small tools to carve intricate designs.
Right off of the small park in the center is the Museo de Arte Popular Oaxaca. It has a pretty expansive collection of pottery, textiles, and paintings. It was completely empty when I arrived so it was a nice quiet place to walk around and visually take in local culture. You can take a collective taxi near the Abastos Market. The ride takes about 20 minutes and cost about 8-10 pesos each way.
Shelley: My favorite is the hike up past the Guelaguetza stadium, past the observatory, and out to the hills north east of Oaxaca. Not exactly a day trip, as it can be done in a couple of hours. But the views of Oaxaca and the surrounding areas are tremendous, and the exercise isn’t bad, either. Any sturdy shoe will work.
Story by Kyra Siegel, Photos by Samantha Wattson, Julia Turnbull, Kim Groves, Kyra Siegel