An immersive, active journey through the region’s famously diverse landscapes and cultures
Isolated by a ring of rugged mountains, the Oaxaca region has one of the largest indigenous populations in Mexico. Though the city of Oaxaca is a charming Spanish colonial gem, its distinctive personality comes through in its famous traditional handicrafts, its exciting contemporary art scene, and its cuisine, especially mole, a smoky, spicy regional specialty with seemingly endless variations. (Oaxaca is known as the “Land of the Seven Moles,” but you’ll find much more than those seven classic styles.) Beyond the city, fascinating ancient ruins and picturesque villages are tucked within the deeply forested Sierra Norte, one of the most biologically diverse areas in Mexico.
MTS has been operating tours in this part of Mexico for many years, and we’ve put together a comprehensive itinerary that showcases the many facets of this captivating region. Relatively short but packed with immersive experiences and personal encounters, this trip is ideal for active travelers who want to explore both the natural and cultural wonders of Oaxaca. In the city itself, you’ll tour the colorful craft markets, view the impressive collection at the cultural museum, and discover why Oaxaca is Mexico’s most vibrant center of contemporary art. Later, you’ll visit a famous mescal cave for a taste of this quintessential Mexican liquor.
Venturing further out, you’ll delve into the region’s ancient history, with a tour of the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán, one of Mesoamerica’s oldest and best-preserved ancient sites, featuring ball courts, an astronomical observatory, and the extraordinary Danzantes stone slabs, carved with strange and compelling figures. You’ll tour Mitla, a Mixtec ruin known for its unique stone fretwork that resembles traditional Greek structures. And you’ll visit a family of weavers, where you’ll learn how the traditional Oaxacan rugs are made and see how organic dyes and silks are produced.
The region’s natural riches are not to be missed, and you’ll get to fully experience them on a series of hikes through the Sierra Norte, known by locals as the “Village of the Clouds.” The local pueblos here have come together to form a cooperative for sustainable ecotourism, helping to ensure their lands stay pristine. In this lush mountainous area, where clouds accumulate daily and the elevation rises dramatically to peaks of nearly 10,000 feet, you’ll travel through a very diverse ecosystem supporting an enormous range of flora and fauna. Staying overnight in a simply furnished cabana, you’ll rise before dawn and hike to El Mirador, a stunning viewpoint, where you’ll enjoy a spectacular sunrise and fantastic views of the mist–covered valleys below. It’s a sight—and a journey—you won’t soon forget.
4 days moderate day hikes on varied terrain (max. elev. 10,000')
- Visit the ruins of Monte Albán, believed to be Mesoamerica's oldest city, and Mitla, with its unique stone fretwork
- Discover Oaxaca’s vibrant contemporary art scene, inspired by famous local artists like Francisco Toledo, and rooted in folk traditions and the region’s history of social justice movements
- Visit a family of weavers, watch how prized Oaxacan rugs are woven, and learn to spin wool
- Hike in the remote and biologically diverse Sierra Norte, known by locals as the “Village of the Clouds,” where eight local pueblos have formed a cooperative for sustainable ecotourism
Duration: 5 days Start Location: Oaxaca End Location: OaxacaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Oaxaca
Your guide will pick you up in the late morning at the Oaxaca Airport and will take you to our hotel, the Quinta Real Oaxaca, which in itself is an experience. This 16th century national monument used to be a convent inhabited by Dominican nuns from 1576 to 1862, charged with converting the local Zapotec inhabitants to Christianity.
Day 2 : Monte Albán
Explore the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán, and visit the Catedral Santo Domingo, Oaxaca's lively market, and a museum where you can see treasures from the tombs of Monte Albán.
Day 3 : Mitla
Morning visit to the Mixtec ruins of Mitla, with its five hilltop palace-like structures and the remains of tombs, plazas, and ancient dwellings. Continue to the home of a family that specializes in spinning and weaving Oaxacan rugs, highly prized by collectors for their use of organic dyes. Continue to Cujimoloyas (8,500') and hike to the Zapotec village of Llano Grande (10,000').
Day 4 : Llano Grande
Day hike to Piedra Larga, an area of remarkable rock formations and pristine alpine forests with wonderful views of the Oaxacan Sierra Norte. Return to Oaxaca City for a night on the town!
Day 5 : Fly Home
Depart Oaxaca, or continue to Toluca for our Valle de Bravo or Piedra Herrada Butterfly Sanctuary extension!
DATES: Best time to go: March - April, July - August, December Departures: No group departures scheduled. Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availablity. Call us for details.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.