Oaxaca – Surroundings
Mitla is one of the most important archaeological sites in the surrounding area of Oaxaca.
The ruins of the former necropolis of the Zapotecs are located in the centre of today’s village.
Famous for its unique geometric wall ornaments, Mitla has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010.
Its history dates back to the pre-Christian millennium, and even at the arrival of the Spaniards the city, which had been dominated by Mixtecs since the turn of the millennium, was still inhabited and served as a religious centre. In order to cement the new claim to power of the Spanish king and the Catholic church, many of Mitla’s buildings were destroyed and instead a church (San Pablo) was built on the ruins.
On the way to Mitla you pass the “Árbol del Tule“, a huge cypress tree in the village of the same name, whose age is estimated at about 2000 years. The trunk has a circumference of 58 metres. 30 people are just enough to enclose the mighty trunk of the tree with their arms.
Also other prehispanic places like the picturesquely situated Yagul, the formerly most important market place of the Zapotecs in Lambityeco or Zaachila, the last capital of the Zapotec Empire before the arrival of the Spaniards, can be reached from Oaxaca within a day trip – by rental car or bus.
Many of the villages in the valley of Oaxaca are specialized in handicrafts. If you are interested in arts and crafts or would like to shop locally, here you will find what you are looking for: The market of Atzompa is famous for its green ceramics, which owe their colour to a glaze made of copper oxide. Handmade ornaments such as leaves, vines and flowers are typical.
The tradition of the black Zapotec ceramics is cultivated in San Bartolo Coyotepec and the process of their creation can be observed here.
San Martín Tilcajete has famous wood carvers who make multi-coloured animals or mythical creatures known as alebrijes.
In Ocotlán de Morelos there is a market every Friday where all kinds of handicrafts are offered, especially ceramics, forged objects and woven baskets.
Teotitlán del Valle has been known for the quality of its weaving since pre-Hispanic times. Carpets in red and blue are dyed with indigo or cochineal dye.
Those who like hiking in clear mountain air should definitely visit the ‘Pueblos Mancomunados’ in the Sierra Norte (de Oaxaca). Several villages have teamed up here to offer (guided) hikes of one or more days with overnight stays in rustic guesthouses.