Written by Jessica Hernández
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In a previous article, we talked about a New development in the heart of Oaxaca City: “La Merced”, a complex of 7 apartments ideal for those who love being close to the most tourist attractions of the Verde Antequera. Living in downtown is a privilege since you have quick access to many restaurants, museums, art galleries, and cultural activities, in addition, as it is a middle point, other tourist attractions are 30 to 40 from it. That is why, this time I will present you 8 pristine places close to Oaxaca downtown you can visit and know more about its culture.
This is the most famous archeological zone in Oaxaca, it was one of the most important cities in Mesoamerica. It was founded in 500 BC, n the top of a mountain in the center of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, and functioned as the capital of the Zapotecs from the beginning of our era until 800 AD.C. At its moment of greatest development, Monte Albán came to have about 35,000 inhabitants, who lived mostly on the terraced slopes of the mountain, dedicated to agriculture.
This site keeps vestiges of what this culture was, there is a museum in which different jewelry, pots, and other antique Zapotec objects can be admired.
This emblematic cultural treasure was declared by UNESCO, together with the Historic Center of the City of Oaxaca as Cultural Heritage of Humanity on December 11, 1987. It is located 8 kilometers to the west of the City, and it is only 2 minutes by car from downtown.
Following on the line of the archeological places. here is Mitla, also the house of the Zapotecs. It is a place where the stone was worked as jewelry, and the Zapotecs showed its devotions to the dead. In all of this, the imprint of the skills of this indigenous group and their prodigious world, born 18 centuries ago, can be observed.
Among the buildings that composed the site, the Hall of Columns stands out, inside which a row of such architectural elements, carved in a single piece of stone, fulfilled the function of supporting and decorating.
After the fall of Monte Albán, it gained great importance, reaching its apogee around the year 1200, and retained preeminence in the Tlacolula Valley until the Spanish Conquest.
Mitla is located 40 minutes from downtown, in the place can be also found handcrafts stores and traditional ice creams.
Before getting to Mitla, it is Tlacolula de Matamoros. It is distinguished by its handcrafts, its gastronomy, and part of the archeological zone that belongs to Mitla too; its tianguis (street market) is an ancestral tradition that comes alive every Sunday, it is important to mention that this market was on of the pioneers of the prehispanic era.
The temples of the towns tell us about their culture, traditions, and festivities, of course, the 17 th century temple of The Assumption is not the exception.
Talking about gastronomy, when you visit this place you can not leave without tasting a hot chocolate with delicious “Pan de cazuela”, and of course its “barbacoa”.
it is also 40 minutes by car, approximately, from Oaxaca downtown.
Santiago Matatlán, The World Capital of Mezcal
As its name suggests, it is about a town where the ancestral beverage Mezcal is produced. As you may already know, this alcoholic drink is obtained from the “maguey”, there are in the world around 210 species of this plant, and we are really proud to say that Oaxaca has 120 of them. Santiago matlán was named The World Capital of Mezcal due to the quantity of Palenques (traditional places where the mezcal is produced with handmade processes) that can be found in it. You can visit them and observe the ancestral techniques to make the Mezcal, the process goes from the cooking of maguey “pineapples”, to their grinding, fermentation, and distillation.
If you visit the community, do not forget to buy some Mezcal bottles, you will contribute to the economy of locals, who are completely dependent on the production and sale of this product.
Hierve el Agua
It is a system of petrified waterfalls, formed by calcium carbonate. The waterfalls where naturally originated thousands of years ago from the runoff of water with high mineral content. The place is located about 70 kilometers from Oaxaca City, in the town of San Isidro Roaguía, Municipality of San Lorenzo Albarradas, near Mitla. The natural puddles with turquoise waters perfectly contrast with the mountains view.
Did you know there is only one similar place to Hierve el Agua in the world? As you read it, there are only 2 petrified waterfalls in the world, the second ones are located in Turkey.
La Cumbre Ixtepeji
This community has great natural wealth in its ancient forest of pines and oaks, likewise natural landscapes of exceptional beauty, but above all in the enthusiasm, personal treatment, hospitality, and great respect for the environment that the inhabitants have.
There is an ecotouristic park, where you will find cabins in the middle of the forest, so a perfect place to connect with the tranquility it offers, you can practice hiking, mountain biking, and of course, stare at the flora and fauna of the place.
It will take you from Oaxaca city only one hour by car to get to this natural sanctuary.
San Bartolo Coyotepec
It is only 15 kilometers from Oaxaca City, it was also a Zapotec settlement and it is a town dedicated to the elaboration of barro negro (black mud) pieces, it is its main attraction.
You will find in it a market where locals sell pots, handcrafts, different pieces of barro negro, and musical instruments, among other things.
It is important to mention that the pieces that the artisans create in this town are unique in the world as well as the ancestral techniques they use to mold the barro negro.
It is an easy access place, since there is public transportation that can take you there, and by car, it will take you only 35 minutes.
San Martin Tilcajete and San Antonio Arrazola
We could not leave out in this list the towns where the famous alebrijes are created. The alebrijes are figures cut in wood, and they are painted with an original and curious design. They are imaginary creatures formed with animal parts and brilliant colors.
It is important to mention that the alebrije is a handmade item because it is unique and cannot be repeated in a mold, since if it were, it would no longer be considered a craft as such within the group called alebrijes. The craftsman shapes his work and what he adds to it step by step determines its value.
San Martin Tilcajete is only 53 minutes (approximately) from Oaxaca City, meanwhile, Arrazola is only 26 minutes away. You will find in both towns artisans dedicated to the creation of this beautiful art.
Enjoy and admire the landscapes, gastronomy, and hospitality of Oaxaca. Whenever you visit any of its places, we hope you spend memorable days, take unique pictures, and remember to support artisans by acquiring its pieces of art, likewise tasting the local food.
- gob.mx, (s.f.), San Pablo Villa de Mitla, https://www.gob.mx/sectur/es/articulos/san-pablo-villa-mitla-oaxaca
- INAH, (2022) Zona Arqueológica de Monte Albán, https://inah.gob.mx/zonas/94-zona-arqueologica-de-monte-alban
- OAXACA MIO, (s.f.), Santiago Matatlán, https://www.oaxaca-mio.com/mezcalesdeoaxaca/matatlan/
- OAXACA MIO, (s.f.), Cascadas de Hierve el Agua, https://www.oaxaca-mio.com/ecoturismo/hierveelagua.htm
- OAXACA MIO, (s.f.), Tlacolula de Matamoros, https://www.oaxaca-mio.com/rutasturisticas/tlacolula.htm
- OAXACA MIO, (s.f.), San Bartolo Coyotepec, https://oaxaca-mio.com/atrac_turisticos/sanbartolocoyotepec.htm
- OAXACA MIO, (s.f.), La Cumbre Ixtepeji, https://www.oaxaca-mio.com/ecoturismo/lacumbre.htm
By Jessica Hernández.