An Authentic Oaxaca Walking Vacation
Oaxaca, cradle of The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), alebrijes, and mole’ sauce, offers up a great backdrop to excellent walking, urban hiking, and hiking. Drop in the wonderful 7-pueblo ecotourism cooperative of the Pueblos Mancomunados, and you’ve got a trip worth repeating year after year. This year, I went back for my second adventure, and it was even better than my first walking vacation in Oaxaca!
Walking from Oaxaca to Monte Álban
Our adventure started with a hike to Monte Álban. Home to the Zapotecans and then the Mixtecs, this giant ruin just outside of Oaxaca sets the stage for the history and founding of Oaxaca. It’s hard not to compare the site to the Inca’s Macchu Pichu, the Aztec’s pyramids in Mexico City, or the Mayan structures in Chichén Itzá. From these rich cultures, Mexico has developed into the vibrant country we all love. The hike took us through a few barrios of Oaxaca, then up a road to a trail of about 1 km. Although I enjoyed the walk, I wouldn’t recommend it due to the road and traffic conditions. Save your walking for elsewhere.
Hunting for Alebrijes
From Monte Álban, we drove to San Antonio Arrazola. This small town’s vibrancy bounces off the streets as you approach. Here is the home of Manuel Jimenez, who brought the idea of these brilliant wooden alebrijes, or wooden creatures, to life. His son, Isaías, has built a fascinating museum to his father and has carried on the hand-made, authentic production of these one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Be sure to watch the video of Manuel’s story, and then pick out your favorite, signed alebrije. The prices range from about $50 on up to several thousand. I never get out of there for less than $300! Although the town is full of alebrije knock-offs, you’ll want to be certain to stop at the authentic El Tallador de Suenos.
Top Pescatarian Spots in Oaxaca
After a day of hiking, history, and shopping, we wanted a great dinner to finish our night. We returned to Oaxaca. With eight days before the Dia de los Muertos festivities, the town was beginning to change. Luckily, we snuck in a reservation at the Restaurante Catedral, one of Oaxaca’s top ten places to eat. My Caldo de Hongos de la sierra (mushroom soup), followed by Pulpo a Las Brasas (octopus), and finished with Panque de Elote Tierno (corn cake) set my taste buds up for great Oaxacan flavors for the rest of the week. The service shined and the meal exceeded all expectations.
An Urban Hike through Oaxaca
Our next day, we headed out on an urban hike through Oaxaca. Oaxaca is made up of 17 barrios, ranging from the very poor to the very rich. We ambled through most of them, getting insight into how Oaxacans live, where they go to school, and places they work. We stumbled upon a mayordomo party, and then we discovered a one-man factory where the owner created blankets and drapes on his 75-year old loom that has passed down from his father. Along the way, we sampled some pulque from a vendor who topped it with jalapenos and onions! Our last stop featured murals of famous Oaxacans, including Maria Sabina.
Oaxacan Rugs and Tlayudas
The next few days, we headed up to the mountains, but first we stopped in the Central Valleys, on the way to Teotitlan del Valle. Our hike started outside of town in the garlic fields, stopping to talk to the farmers. They were picking garlic and getting ready to plant onions. Along scenic agricultural trails, we made our way to Josefina’s shop, Artesanias y Tapetes. Josefina is an Oaxacan treasure and great friend of my guide. First she taught us how to make tortillas, then we had a fabulous meal of tlayudas. She followed the smorgasbord with a demonstration of the traditional ways Mexican rugs are created via manual dying of yarn with natural ingredients! It’s a family affair with Josefina, and one I’ve grown to love.
For part two of our trip where we hiked in the Sierra Norte Mountains in the Pueblos Mancomunados, click here. For part three of our trip where we return to Oaxaca to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, click here.
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