Oaxaca city is situated within Mexico's beautiful Valles Centrales (Central Valleys) and provides a splendid jumping off point for exploring what they have to offer. From wonderful walking opportunities to quirky, traditional villages, venturing through the 'Valles Centrales de Oaxaca' will surely be an unforgettable experience and a feast for all your senses.
Oaxaca's Valles Centrales are comprised of Tlacolula, Etla and Zimatlón valleys and are mainly inabited by Zapotec speaking indigenous communities. Whilst life continues in a wonderfully traditional way, the locals are accustomed to tourists and are always welcoming. There are tons of little villages to visit and plenty of opportunity for hiking and mountain biking through the beautiful surroundings, as well as some of the best places to shop for handicrafts in the whole country.
You could spend weeks venturing round every nook and cranny in Oaxaca's Valles Centrales, but if you are like most people then time will probably be a constraint. To help you out we've listed below some of the top highlights so you get to see the very best of the area - happy travelling!
Valles Centrales de Oaxaca: Highlights
- Monte Albán - This incredible prehispanic site is found amidst the Central Valleys. Follow the link to our page on Monte Albán Oaxaca.
- Mitla - Another of Oaxaca's hotspots is this interesting archeological site. Check out our page on Mitla Oaxaca for more information.
- Hierve el Agua - One of the most famous images of Oaxaca, you will see it on postcards throughout the region, hierve el agua is even more spectacular if you get to visit it in person. Dramatically located 1800 metres above sea level, Hierve el Agua consists of some stunning natural springs which are a divine pleasure to bathe in and are packed with minerals said to be good for both body and soul. The years of warm water cascading over the mountainside has lead to the creation of some incredible rock formations - the stone is so totally smooth it resembles running water itself.
Where? Buses leave Oaxaca city at 8am daily and it takes two hours to get to the springs.
- Teotitlán del Valle - Get down to this town and enjoy some of the best arts and crafts Oaxaca has to offer! Handicraft stores galore and an enormous Mercado de Artesanías, this is a particularly good spot to pick up textiles and woven goods. Once you've finished shopping you can explore the pretty village and visit the stunning seventeenth century Templo de la Virgen de la Natividad.
Where? Teotitlán del Valle is conveniently located just 25km from Oaxaca City. Buses leave the city every hour and it only takes 40minutes to get there.
- San Bartolo de Coyotepec - Another pretty village famous for its crafts. This is where Oaxaca Black Pottery is made, the most traditional type of 'alfarería' or ceramics to come out of the region. You can see it being made at Afarería Doña Rosa which is found at Juárez 24 and is open daily from 9am-7pm. For another dose of Oaxaqueñan handicrafts you can also check out San Bartolo de Coyotepec's state craft museum with interesting exhibits and a good little shop.
Where? Frequent buses leave Oaxaca city and take 20mins to get to San Bartolo.
- Tlacolula - A charming little 'aldea' which attracts hoards of natives and visitors to its extensive Sunday market where you can buy just about anything your heart so desires!
Where? It only takes 45 minutes to get there from Oaxaca city and buses leave frequently from the city centre.
- El Tule - This cute little town is famous for being the home to an incredibly big tree. El Arbol del Tule is an enormous pine tree which has been the focal point of the town for over 2000 years. Locals are trying to get the famous tree protected as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Where? Just 10km from Oaxaca city, it takes a tiny 20 minutes to get there and buses leave 6 times an hour.
- Pueblos Mancomunados - This collection of Commonwealth villages is enchanting. Set amidst some truly lush surroundings, the eight different communities work together to ensure effective sustainability. They have also mounted an ecotourism program which benefits from the richness of the land - this is one of the most enjoyable places to hike, trek and bike around valleys and hidden coves. Whilst tours are generally in Spanish, guides are inspired and happy to show you around their home.
Where? Daily from the city centre. The journey takes 2 to 3 hours depending on which town you jump off at, Cuajimoloyas is the nearest.