Our trip to Oaxaca would not have gone so smoothly if we didn't book our guided tours to help us navigate where we needed to go and which artisans we needed to meet with. Below you will find a list of towns, tour guides, and artisans that we visited and loved.
GUIDED TOURS AND PRIVATE DRIVERS:
I would not feel comfortable driving in Oaxaca and having Edmundo pick us up at our hotel in his huge Suburban and drive us around, helping us translate, and deciding which artists we should meet made the whole trip seamless!
Their rates are as follows for 1-3 people in Mexican pesos:
Transportation only: $400 pesos per hour (minimum 3 hours). Roughly $21 USD/ hour.
Transportation and Tour Guide $500 pesos per hour (minimum 3 hours)
Transportation only: $3,000 pesos per day (8-9 hours) Transportation and tour guide: $4,000 per day (8-9 hours) Transportation to Hierve el Agua: $3,000 (5-6 hours travel time)
*All prices are in Mexican pesos. *All options are private services.
"Transportation only" is a good option if you have already planned the places you want to visit, but only have a slight idea of the places you are going to visit and want recommendations or some information about the areas during the tour. The option with the tour guide is much better.
TOWNS + ARTISANS:
THE WOMAN OF THE RED CLAY in San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca
In the small Zapotec village of San Marcos Tlapazola, about 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca, is a group of women who have been making pottery out of red clay for the past 20 generations. Macrina is the mastermind and known around the world for her incredible red clay work, she has been featured in Vogue, and has work in the MET! The women hike together to gather the clay from the surrounding mountains, which gives its classic red clay look, using their hands (not a wheel) and simple hand tools such as pieces of leather and then a quartz rock to polish. It was the highlight of our trip and you would be missing out not to go here! Thank you Macrina for your wonderful hospitality!
VELAS SAN PASCUAL in Teotitlán del Valle
We then left to go to the town of Teotitlán del Valle to meet the beeswax candle makers Velas San Pascual. It took us about 30 minutes from San Marcos Tlapazola by car and is about 40 minutes from Oaxaca city central. They are a family run beeswax candle workshop, Velas San Pascual was founded in 2011 and are the third generation in their family to continue this tradition. All of their candles are hand poured, using clay and wooden molds to create decorative flowers, fruits, and birds, some of which have been in use for 50 to 60 years. These candles are still used today in the region to celebrate marriage proposals and saints´ feast days. Their candles are made with locally harvested beeswax, natural dyes, and are completely handmade. We loved seeing their work!
BLACK CLAY OAXACAN POTTERY in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca
Located 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca the black clay, better known as Barro Negro, comes from the town of San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca. It is one of the most popular and influential arts of the Oaxacan region. Also, the history of Barro Negro dates back to the Monte Alban period of the region almost 2500 years ago. These exquisite pieces, which are only made in this region of Oaxaca, receive their beautiful black finish through the process of polishing the surface with a quartz stone. We went to meet with a few of the makers in this town and it's a definite must see if you are a pottery lover when you go to Oaxaca!
WOOD CARVERS of San Martin Tilcajete and San Antonio Arrazola
Alebrijes (ah-leh-bree-hess) are creatures carved out of wood and painted with Zapotec patterns and fantastic designs from the artist's own imagination. These colorful one-of-a-kind carvings are handmade using wood of the copal tree which is grown in the surrounding fields of the towns and is considered a sacred tree which only grows in the region of Oaxaca. This wood is sustainably sourced from the branches of the tree in order to preserve the life of the tree and ensure a continued source of wood for the future. Alebrijes are traditionally made in Oaxaca in the towns of San Martin Tilcajete as well as San Antonio Arrazola.
Our hotel Grana B&B suggested this route but we didn't have enough time to do it, next time for sure!
Hierve el Agua: this place is about 2 hours away from Oaxaca city center and is known for its stunning mountain views. On the way back from Hierve el Agua you can find Matatlan which is where many mezcal factories are located. On that same route, there is El Tule tree, this place is great to chill out and grab a quick snack.
There you can go to Toetitlan where you can find wax candles and weaving, and then go to tlapazola, which is famous for the red clay pottery. Packing all of these places in one day would take about 7-8 hours. The before-mentioned route is the longest, there are other routes that have fewer places to visit and would take less time, for example:
- Monte Alban (Pyramids)
- Atzompa (Green clay)
- Monte Alban (ruins) - Arrazola (alebrijes) - Cuilapam (ex-monastery)
- San Bartolo Coyotepec (black pottery)
- Mitla (archeological site)
- Teotitlan (candles, weaving)
- Matatlan (mezcal)
We had the best time in Oaxaca, everyone was so welcoming, the food was out of this world, and we managed to get by without knowing Spanish thanks to Edmundo.
I hope you get to enjoy Oaxaca, too!
What a gorgeous trip! The black pottery and the candles are incredible.