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Journey to the best of Oaxaca

By Sheridan Sansegundo

The Audubon Society’s next trip, for six days at the beginning of February, is to the highlands and valleys of Oaxaca. The trip will cover Mexico’s ancient past, traditional handicrafts, spectacular natural beauty, cloud forests, local restaurants, and indigenous markets—not to mention the famous 2,000-year-old Montezuma cypress known as the Tree of Tule.

Audubon Eco Journeys trip
Highlands and Valleys of Oaxaca
February 6-12
415-152-3644 or 415-100-2798

After a night in Oaxaca City, the first full-day will begin with birdwatching at Teotitlán del Valle, famous for its handwoven rugs whose colors come from pomegranate, pecan bark, prickly pear fruit, cochineal beetles, and Pacific coast snails. It is one of the earliest Zapotec villages and a traditional Zapotec lunch will be served when the tour visits the workshop of master weaver Jacobo Mendoza. On the way back to Oaxaca City, the group will stop at Santa María del Tule to see that famous tree — the widest, stoutest tree in the world (119 feet around).

Ceramics and Alebrijes

The town of Ocotlán is the destination on the third day, known for the former convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán and for its ceramics, particularly those of the three Aguilar sisters, whose workshop is on the agenda. Then it’s on to San Martín Tilcajete, home of alebrijes, those vividly hand-painted carved wooden animals, for lunch and a visit to the workshop of master artisans Jacobo and Angeles Ojeda.

Day Four offers an opportunity to explore Oaxaca City alone or to sign up for a guided birding tour in the beauty of the cloud forest mountains (not included in the trip’s fee). Oaxaca, an ancient city which was given a particularly rough time by Hernán Cortés, has beautiful colonial churches, the richest collection of ancient gold and silver jewelry in Mexico, art museums, and the Benito Juárez Market which features moles, tasajo (a spicy pulled beef), chapulines (fried grasshoppers in chile), as well as very large cups of hot chocolate spiced with cinnamon and almonds.

The Column of Death

The following day will cover two world-renowned archeological sites: Yagul, a World Heritage Site which also offers good birding because of its verdant site nestled against a hill, and the ancient city state of Mitla, whose lavish stonework throughout the site is unequalled anywhere else in Mexico. In the depths of one of the palaces is La Columna de la Muerte (the Column of Death). The legend is that you wrap your arms around this pillar and see how much distance remains between your outstretched fingertips. The distance left is said to represent the time you have left on this earth.

The amazing archeological site of Monte Albán, founded around 500 B.C., is the focus of the next day. Besides being one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Albán was the pre-eminent Zapotec center for close to 1,000 years. There’ll be time to birdwatch or explore the monumental structures, which include many carvings of twisted, contorted danzantes, said to be sacrificial victims in their death throes. That final afternoon the group will visit the Etnobotanic Garden of Oaxaca.

The cost of the trip while in Oaxaca is US$668 (US$643 for Audubon members) and is based on double occupancy. Participants are expected to get to Oaxaca under their own steam (for most people, this will be by First-Class bus). A reservation is guaranteed with full payment. Payment deadline is January 4. For complete details, click this link: or Please contact Colleen Besman, Audubon Board Trip Coordinator, 415-152-3644, or, or Rodrigo López, 415-100-2798, or for reservations or more information.


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