Oaxaca is an amazing state. The city is amazing, but it has so much more to offer! Here the top 5 natural wonders of the state
The state of Oaxaca Mexico, recognized by Unesco World Heritage, is blessed when it comes to biodiversity and landscapes. During your travel you will encounter deserts draped with huge cacti as well as tropical forests or magnificent beaches with lagoons that have fragile ecosystems.
All of the above in only one state! This is precisely why I adored Oaxaca during our travel, it’s a rich area, diverse and above all authentic. That said, just like all countries and regions of this Earth, Oaxaca is damaged by human influence. There’s air and soil pollution, poor water management while droughts become more and more frequent. But also deforestation in order to accommodate fields of agaves and due to improper overall waste management. All of these represent palpable threats to local populations, mostly rural, which depend on natural resources for survival.
Local initiatives are attempting to preserve as much as possible the fragile environment of the region. Ecotourism initiatives look to make travelers aware of the natural beauty and traditions of isolated villages. We stayed in Oaxaca only 6 days. It was unfortunately far too short to explore and enjoy all of its wonders. Between two sips of fabulous mescal artisanal (the best that we tasted after a thorough investigation was Cuish, at prices defying all competition!) and hikes in the colorful, small city centre, we wanted to explore the natural wonders of the region.
Hierve El Agua; the natural pride of Oaxaca Mexico
Hierve El Agua is probably the most incredible but also touristic place in Oaxaca. We saw natural pools, carved by limestone on the side of the cliffs, spectacular landscapes, and incredible natural formations. We decided to go by bike from Tule, a village where is the largest tree in the world. This tree is more than 2,000 years old!!! Not the oldest though as the oldest is Methusulah (thanks Fabian for the feedback!). The tour was organized by Pedro Martinez, a mountain bike tour agency in Oaxaca. We strongly recommend it, the personnel is highly professional and bikes are good quality.The guides are very nice and they even took into account Denis’s birthday. Yes they had a cake ready for his 30th birthday! It was truly an unforgettable experience!
Practical tips:plan the whole day especially if you decide to go for the bicycle tour. You’ll go through several beautiful places such as Teotitlan and Tule. Price : about 1500MXN per person. Access to touristic sites included.
Santiago Apoala; the secret gem of the Oaxaca State, Mexico
Santiago Apoala is a small village lost in the confines of Oaxaca where the natural settings are simply dazzling. There is a canyon, waterfalls reminding me of the ones from the blue lagoon in Iceland and magnificent color contrasts. And the village is very much rustic.This trip you can do in 2 days (3 hours drive) and you can sleep in a homestay especially built for visitors. This accommodation is maintained by the villagers who do it in rotation. This it the way in which the community manages itself
Whether it is the church or the restaurant, villagers take turns in taking care of them each year. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have the village make a living from rural exodus. Companies such as Tierraventura who bring tourists to the village allow it to subsist. It was an expedition that Denis and I simply adored . Far from everything, deep in the mountains of Oaxaca Mexico, in a comfortable homestay, without wifi or cellphone network, a lovely retreat in the countryside…
Practical tips: About 5-6 hours driving in total. It’s mandatory to go with an agency as they have the contact details of the local communities to set up your stay including food. Price for 1d/2n tour: 2800MXN per person all included..
Sierra Norte : Llano Grande, Latuvi, a land of discoveries
We initially thought to do a 2 day expedition with Expediciones Sierra Norte. Unfortunately, due to the dates (the Day of the Dead), we had to cancel. Nevertheless, we collected plenty of information regarding the agency and the place. The agency has its location in the centre of Oaxaca and the staff speaks good English. We were going to visit Llano Grande and Latuvi, areas with rich biodiversity, also known as the Clouds Route (Ruta de las Nubes). The altitude of Sierra Norte starts from 100m above sea level all the way to 3,300m, making it Mexico’s largest natural corridor of intact forests and jungles, considered the most diverse in the world according to WWF. Sierra Norte is home to 50% of the flora in the Oaxaca state.
It is in Sierra Norte that you will discover villages also called Pueblos Mancomunados. What makes them so special? Well, these indigenous villages work together towards their won preservation, should it be cultural or environmental. Whether it’s the development of transport routes or touristic activities, the local community decides what is best from a sustainable development viewpoint.
We strongly advise you to go with an agency and take a tour with them. Although a little pricier, this money will be used for a good cause and you will experience incredible things. Shall you choose observing 400 bird species or wild cats living in the area or tasting ancestors’ alcohol (the tepache produced from agaves), you won’t regret it.
Mazunte; one of the most preserved beach in Oaxaca Mexico
This is another spot that we didn’t manage to explore on our own but we heard people talking about it. It’s a sanctuary for marine turtles. You can find a small beach , crystal clear water and a village that specializes in ecotourism. Mazunte is a real life paradise for those who want to escape the crowded beaches of Puerto Escondido.
Mexico is one of the privileged countries when it comes to sea turtles. There are 8 species in the world and the state of Oaxaca Mexico is an observation spot for 4 of them: the Olive Ridley, the Hawksbill, the Black Sea turtle and the Leatherback turtle. In Mazunte you will encounter places such as Puerto Angel national turtle protection centre and Punta Cometa sacred Aztec spot where whales and other marine mammals make a pit stop. Mazunte is definitely a magical place for the wild sea life and migratory birds! And if you want to buy cosmetics, there’s a shop there that creates its own line of cosmetics. All 100% natural and organic, created from local products by the local community.
Laguna de Manialtepec; lights in the dark
You’ve probably already heard about night-time bathing surrounded by luminous plankton. This plankton is not only present in Thailand but also in Oaxaca Mexico, in the region of Puerto Escondido. It’s a natural phenomenon that doesn’t cease to amaze me. Puerto Escondido is one of the most famous beaches in Oaxaca – rest assured that you won’t regret going to Laguna de Manialtepec! And during the day, you’ll be able to observe a very diverse ecosystem, from mammals (like bobcats), reptiles and birds (golden eagle).
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu