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©Wolfgang Kaehler

2020 Oaxaca, Mexico

July 23rd to August 2nd, 2020

 

Photos: © Wolfgang Kaehler, http://phototours.us

2020 Oaxaca, Mexico

July 23rd to August 2nd, 2020

Join us on this tour to experience the vibrant cultures, crafts, and cuisine of beautiful Oaxaca, Mexico and the surrounding region.  Located in Southwestern Mexico, the state of Oaxaca is best known for its indigenous people and their cultures, including the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs.  The state’s rugged mountains helped to preserve these cultures, where traditions continue to thrive in remote villages.  Oaxaca is also one of the most biologically diverse states in Mexico.  As we explore the region, we will discover unique plant species and search for interesting wildlife.

 

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2020 Oaxaca Mexico

  • Price: $1,500.00
  • Samples: Single person booking: 1; a couple booking: 2; a group or family of four: 4
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Trip Details

Thursday July 23rd

Today we arrive at Oaxaca City and transfer to our charming Mexican hotel, Casa Antigua, in the old town. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday July 24th

This morning we will take a walking tour through Oaxaca’s beautiful colonial city center to experience the lively markets, historic architecture, and street life.   In addition to its fascinating culture, Oaxaca is known as a leading culinary center in Mexico.  At the local food markets, we will photograph and learn about regional specialties and ingredients, including local chocolate used to make the famous dish known as mole and worm salt frequently used to rim glasses of mescal cocktails.

Strolling through the popular traffic-free square known as the Zocalo in the center of the city, we will photograph local people in colorful traditional clothing and vendors selling embroidery, woven rugs, and other regional crafts.

In the afternoon you will have time on your own to visit nearby colonial churches, including the stunning Baroque church of Santo Domingo.  In addition to the magnificent architecture, the area is fun for people watching.  Just relax in the square and you may see a wedding party exiting the church to parade through town.  At nearby craft markets you will see pottery, embroidery, alebrijes and other fine quality crafts for which the region is known.

Our welcome dinner will introduce you to flavorful Oaxacan dishes, including the wide variety of red, yellow, and brown moles with their unusual spices and ingredients such as almonds and dark Mexican chocolate.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua in Oaxaca. B,D

Saturday July 25th

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, a short drive will bring us to Monte Albán, one of Mexico’s most ancient and impressive archaeological sites.

This large pre-Columbian structure, built by the Zapotec people, is perched on a low mountainous range above Oaxaca’s Central Valley. The civic-ceremonial center is situated at an elevation of about 1,940 meters.  As we explore Mont Alban, we will learn about its rich history.  One of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Alban served as a socio-political and economic center for close to a thousand years. Founded around 500 BC, Monte Albán traded with other Mesoamerican regions.

After our visit to Monte Alban, we will head to a center of visual art, known as CASA, in the village of San Agustin Etla.  Oaxaca artist Francisco Toledo inspired the design of this art center, created from an abandoned factory in the early 2000s.  This is an opportunity to photograph the charming architecture that includes surrounding reflective pools.  Here we will visit a handmade paper factory and the gallery where regional artisan crafts and fine art are on display.

Today will be our first day to see colorful Guelaguetza delegations parade through the city.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua. B, L

 Sunday July 26th

 

 

 

 

 

 

The famous archaeological sites of Mitla and Yagul are today’s highlights.  At Mitla we will see this important Zapotec religious site whose name means place of the dead.  Known for its elaborate friezes and mosaic, Mitla’s architectural details make it a gem of Meso America.

Following our visit to Mitla, we will drive to Yagul.  First inhabited around 500 BC, most of the remaining site dates to 1250-1521 AD.  Like Mitla, Yagul gained importance after Monte Alban was abandoned.

On the way back to Oaxaca, we will stop at the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle.  One of the oldest Zapotec settlements in the Central Valley, Teotitlan dates to 1465.  Here the Zapotec culture, traditions, and language continue to play a role in daily life.

In this small village, located in the foothills of the Sierra Juarez mountains, we will go to a family-run weaving workshop.  Here we will see how craftspeople use natural products like marigolds, indigo, and an insect called cochinilla, to dye their wool.  Then, working on hand-operated looms, they will demonstrate their weaving techniques that have been passed on for generations.  We will see how they create bold-colored rugs, wall-hangings and other products using traditional Zapotec and contemporary designs.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua. B, L

Monday July 27th

 

 

 

 

 

Today is the highlight of our trip.  We will set off for Tlacochahuaya where we will see the Guelaguetza, the famous local dance festival.

The Guelaguetza, or Los lunes del Cerro (Mondays on the Hill), is an annual indigenous cultural event in Oaxaca as well as in nearby villages.  Its origin is linked to the worship of corn and the corn god.  This important cultural event, which predates the arrival of the Spanish, is helping the people of Oaxaca to retain their culture.  Today, indigenous communities from within the state come to share their dances, costumes and music.  This cultural festival, the most famous of its kind in Mexico, blends indigenous and Christian traditions.

We will photograph this celebration including traditional dances, parades, indigenous walking bands, native foods, and crafts. The brightly-colored costumes (traje) and dances will make stunning motifs for our images.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua. B, D?

Tuesday July 28th

 

 

 

 

 

 

This morning we will drive through the picturesque mountains southwest of Oaxaca to the village of San Jose Contreras.  As we wind through the rolling hills, we will see sweeping views of the highlands and the agricultural Valle Central below.  Passing through farmland and villages, we will watch for opportunities to photograph the traditional way of life including farmers plowing using oxen and transporting wood or produce with donkeys.  Once we reach San Jose Contreras, we will be invited to a meal of handmade tamales and other local specialties, prepared by the village women.  We will then visit the local schools and hike a brand new trail made by the village men that leads to a chain of waterfalls.  We will also visit the women’s sewing and embroidery project to see the women’s work and learn about the process of starting an artisan business in a remote Mexican village.

After an active day, we will return to our hotel in the old town of Oaxaca and an evening at leisure.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua. B, L

Wednesday July 29th

 

 

 

 

 

Today we will drive to Zapotitlan de las Salinas, three hours north of Oaxaca.  This village is part of the biosphere Tehuacán-Cuicatlán, famous for its impressive cacti landscape.

At the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, covering 1,211,276 acres (490,186 hectares), we will photograph the plants of the region.  An estimated third of these plant species are believed to be endemic.

Here we will photograph a cacti forest that holds one of the highest concentrations of columnar cacti in the world.  This biosphere is home to about forty-five of the seventy species of columnar cacti found in Mexico.   Among the many other diverse ecosystems and plants we will see are xeric bushes, tropical deciduous forest, pine forest, pine-oak and cloud forest.  We will keep our eyes open for wildlife since the biosphere is home to

27 amphibian species, 85 reptile species (of which 20 are endemic) and 338 bird species (including 16 which are endemic). Today this nature reserve has been named an IUCN world biodiversity hotspot.

After our visit to the biosphere, we will tour the botanical garden Helia Bravo Hollis, where we will have a tour led by a community guide.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua. B, L

 Thursday July 30th

 

 

 

 

 

Today will be a “fiesta” for your senses.  We will visit the indigenous market of Zaachila.

The local people will share their culinary secrets with us — from traditional chocolate making to mescal tasting.  We will also try chapulines (grasshoppers) with ice cream.

Zaachila, an important Mesoamerican city, was named for Zaachila Yoo, the Zapotec ruler, in the late 14th and early 15th century. Here we will explore the archaeological site, home of the last Zapotec capital, which was later conquered by the Mixtecs.  At the market in Zaachila, we will photograph merchants who come to sell their fresh produce and other products.

On the way back to Oaxaca, we will visit the picturesque, ancient roofless church of Cuilapan de Guerrero.  A monastery was built here in the 16th century by the Spanish in order to convert the Mixtec and Zapotec people.  The church ruins make an excellent subject for artistic images.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua. B, L, D?

Friday July 31st

 

 

 

 

 

Driving into the Sierra Norte, we will discover Los Pueblos Mancomunados.  Here, eight small towns amidst forests and mountains, offer the opportunity to enjoy nature and get a firsthand experience of rural life in this area of Mexico.   The people of this highland region refer to themselves as “the people of the clouds”.  Here we will discover a range of unique and diverse ecosystems: seven of the nine types of vegetation existing in Mexico are found in Los Pueblos Mancommunados.  The pine-oak forest, possibly twenty million years old, is considered one the world’s oldest ecosystems.

While wildlife can be elusive, we will keep our eyes open for the unique fauna of this region, known for four hundred bird and three hundred and fifty butterfly species, six forest cat species, including the jaguar, as well as endangered animals such as the spider monkey and the tapir.

Local Zapotec villagers will guide us on our walk, explaining the local plants and wildlife.  An ecotourism project, established here in 1997, helps to protect and preserve this ecosystem.

Our visit will include one of the ancient villages of Pueblos Mancomunados.  In Lachatao, we will visit a community museum and take an easy one-hour walk up to the Hill of the Jaguar.  This ritual walk will be guided by Oscar Martinez who rediscovered this site after searching for it for twenty years.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua.  B, L

Saturday August 1st

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oaxaca region is famous for “alebrijes”, intricately painted and carved animals and fantasy creatures. Today at the handicraft village of Ocotlan de Morelos valley, we will visit the Zapotec wood carving village of San Martin Tilcajete.  At the studio of Jacobo y Maria Angeles, we will see the artists creating the masterful, intricately painted alibrije.

Continuing our tour of local crafts, we will head to see the cotton textiles of Santo Tomas Jalieza.   This town in the south Valles Centrales Region, sometimes called the “town of belts” (cinturones), is home to crafts people known for their decorative embroidered cloth and leather belts. The townsfolk have also adapted their designs to clothing, purses and bags.

Our next stop includes a visit to a mezcal producer, where we will see and learn how mescal is made from the valley’s agave cacti.  We will enjoy a tasting where we will learn about the different types of mescal.  

Refreshed from our mescal stop, we will go on to visit San Bartolo Coyotepec, known for its Barro negro pottery or black clay pottery.  Here we will photograph potters who still use a traditional wheel introduced by the Spaniards.  Pottery has been made here for hundreds of years.  Originally possessing a gray matte finish, today the works are known for a rich and shiny black glaze with finely carved geometric patterns.

 We conclude our day with an farewell dinner at one of Oaxaca’s fine restaurants where we will savor local specialties.

Overnight at the hotel Casa Antigua.  B, L, D

Sunday August 2nd

B

Transfer to Oaxaca airport.

This itinerary could be changed if we see another good photo opportunity.

In order to participate, you must be able to walk at least two miles at a good pace.  Some of the terrain is uneven and in the small villages most streets are cobblestone streets.

 Meals

I am planning two additional group dinners on evenings when we will be returning to the hotel at an earlier time (at the moment marked with D?).  They will be announced at the beginning of the trip. On the longer days, we will have group lunches.  We have decided not to have a dinner together every day because it would be too much food following a large meal at noon, and many people prefer to have a lighter snack in the evening.  Oaxaca offers great restaurants and food, so you will enjoy exploring and trying a variety of places and dishes.