Up Close and Personal: Around Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico
In previous Up Close and Personal's, Oaxaca City, "Off the Beaten Path", and Monte Albán have been covered. In this version, some of the places I went to around the city and some popular places I didn't go to such as beaches and the coast are covered.
Books On Oaxaca
Around Oaxaca City
Moving around the outskirts of the city with my limited time was only made possible by taking a tour. If I could do it again, I would go at it by myself. Many of the places I went would have been very difficult to get to on my own accord. I would have had to take a combination of 2nd class buses, taxis, and I am sure, a lot of walking. It would have taken 3-4 days to see the sites I saw in one day. However, the memories would have been worth the trouble (if only I had the time). A worker from the hostel I was staying at arranged my tour.
(The video below was uploaded to youtube by ErinLeeMay1.)
Oaxaca Mexico Coast - Viewpoint at Puerto Angel - Whale Sighting
View of Central America
Santa Maria del Tule
Santa Maria del Tule is located approximately 20 minutes from Oaxaca City and was the first stop on our tour. This site consists of a Sabine tree called "arbol del Tule", a church (Santa Maria de la Asunción), and many arts, crafts, and food vendors. The tree is a Montezuma cypress and has the stoutest stump of any tree in the world. It was placed on a UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage Sites in 2001.
The tree measures approximately 36.2 m around, but with taking a true cross-sectional diameter it is about 9.38 m. The true diameter is calculated by factoring out the buttress roots, which are large roots on a shallowly rooted tree, protruding off of the trunk. The height of the tree is approximately 35.4 m with a total volume of 816.829 m3. Ironically, this tree is reportedly dying from the highway that brings all the tourists to the area.
We only spent about 20 minutes here, which was not really enough time. After waiting in line, snapping a few pictures, and marveling at the enormous tree, we were back on the bus. It would have been nice to have been able to walk around to some of the vendors as the items they were selling were unique in their own right.
Hierve el Agua
It was built as an irrigation system in which only one other place, Turkey, in the world has a site similar. Getting to Hierve el Agua was as exciting as the site.
Imagine being on a coach bus going along a one-way dirt road with houses jammed on either side. The views were spectacular as we towered over most houses and got to see farmers work their fields. There were no casualites other than a sign that spanned the width of the road. Apparently, when building the sign someone forgot to account for the large tour busses that drive along the narrow path.
The site consists of two rock shelves that rise 50 m and 90 m above the valley with white rock formations that look like waterfalls. The rocks were created by fresh water springs with water over saturated in calcium carbonate along with other minerals. The process is very much like stalactites being created in a cave. Natural and artificial pools are scattered about the area.
This places was awesome as it provided spectacular views of the valley below and surrounding mountains. If one was so inclined, you could go for a dip in one of the pools of water.
Have you ever.....
Have you ever been to Oaxaca, Mexico?
These ruins lie approximately one hour from Oaxaca City and are unlike any of the other ruins found around Mexico. What really makes this site unique are the finely decorated tombs, panels, and walls. The decorations were made from cut and polished stones that were fitted together with no mortar.
Mitla is the most important site in Zapotec culture, as it served as the religious center, and the second most significant site in the state of Oaxaca. In Nahuatl (a native language of the region), the name of the site is mictlán, meaning "place of the dead". It's Zapotec name is lyobaa, which translates to "place of rest". In terms of ancient ruins, it is the second most visited site in the region behind Monte Albán.
(The video below was uploaded to youtube by hgmexico.)
The Real Mexico Mitla Oaxaca
This distilled alcoholic drink is derived from the maguey plant which is a form of agave. Oaxaca is known for its production of this beverage. It is the same plant that is used in the production of tequila, however, tequila is made from the blue agave while mezcal is made from a variety of agave. Mezcal comes from the Nahuatl words metl and ixcalli meaning "oven cooked agave".
On our voyage back towards Oaxaca City, we stopped at one of the many mezcal "factories" located on the main highway (Internacional) between Mitla and the city. They showed us how mezcal was produced and then offered us many samples. The production sequence reminded me a lot of moonshine. Many types of mezcal with different flavors and some aged longer than others were offered.
(The video below was uploaded to youtube by MultiCulturalCooking.)
MCCN in Mexico: Process of Making Mezcal at Wahaka Distillery
Teotitlán del Valle
The last stop made on our tour was in this small town. We visit a place to see how locals produce some of the intricately woven rugs of the region. It was one of the first villages established by the Zapotecs in the region, which still holds true to its traditional roots through the designs of textiles, the wool produced by local sheep, natural pigments for dying, and the use of hand-operated looms. The name Teotitlán comes from Nahuatl, which means "land of gods". Its Zapotec name is xaguixe meaning "at the foot of the mountain".
While there, a man showed us how they turned the sheep wool into string, produced the colors for dying the string, and then how the string was woven together using a loom. At the end, we were given the opportunity to look around at some of the textiles they had produced and purchase them.
Oaxaca Beaches Guides
Beaches and the Coast
I never made it down to the coast, which I regret, but my time off didn't allow it. Getting down to the coast is a feat in itself. The winding roads through the mountains to the coast can take hours to travel even though the distance from point A to B may be short. The Oaxaca Coast is home to some of the nicest beaches in Mexico, which in turn makes them some of the best beaches in the world. It is also home to a wide variety of marine and terrestrial animals.
- Puerto Escondido (A) is home to seven beaches (Bacocho, Carrizalillo, Manzanillo, Marineros Principal, Angelito, and Zicatela) and is one of the main tourist spots in Oaxaca. The pristine beaches along with the surfing and relaxed atmosphere attracts tourists of all ages from all over the world. Playa Zicatela holds surfing competitions and has attracted the ESPN X Games.
- Parque Nacional Huatulco (B) is located near a town that, during the colonial times, was once a refuge for pirates. The park is home to many reptiles, birds, and fauna. Whales, dolphins, and turtles can be spotted off the coast.
- Parque Nacional Laguna Chacahua (C) is located approximately 46 miles west of Puerto Escondido. Along with tours of the lagoon in a small boat, it is a popular place for bird watchers and lovers of all ages. The bird population is the greatest during the winter months as they migrate south from the frigid northern parts of the continent. Other popular activities include a crocodile farm and Playa Cerro Hermoso.
- Puerto Ángel (D) is a small fishing town approximately 50 miles east of Puerto Escondido. It has two beaches and many surrounding beaches with activities such as scuba diving and crocodile viewing.
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