A short journey away from downtown Oaxaca, you’ll find one of my favorite little villages in the world. Teotitlan del Valle is a quiet, picturesque town surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Within the town itself, you’ll find a multitude of history, culture, and tradition. I visited Oaxaca de Juarez in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Thus, many of its most famous attractions were closed, including the famed Hierve el Agua. Other destinations, like Monte Alban, were limited to a handful of visitors per day.
Luckily, this wasn’t my first go-around in Oaxaca, as I had spent my birthday in this magical city two years before. I loved it, and always knew that my adventures would take me back eventually. Living in San Cristobal de las Casas during the Coronavirus pandemic put me an overnight bus away from Oaxaca. Eventually, the cold weather of San Cristobal made me seek out warmer weather and took me back to one of my favorite cities for a few days.
With many of the big-name attractions shut down, I had to get a little bit creative. That involved a lot of hitchhiking and speaking to as many locals as I could to get the down-low on what to do around Oaxaca. I emphasized that I loved nature and hiking, and Teotitlan del Valle came up in conversation multiple times. A friend and I decided to send it the next morning.
How To Get to Teotitlan del Valle
The journey is about 30 kilometers from downtown Oaxaca City, so you’ll need some wheels to get there. The simplest way to get to Teotitlan del Valle is by taxi. But you know me, simple isn’t really my style. If you’ve got a group of four people or so, the price of taking a taxi might be worth skipping out on local transportation. However, since it was just a friend and I, we sought out local transportation and made an adventure out of it.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to catch a bus or a colectivo headed towards Tlacolula. It’s a bigger town and has a famous Sunday market, so it’s a popular destination for travelers and locals alike. I caught a colectivo the previous day from outside the sprawling Mercado de Abastos. However, we took a bus from one of the main highways about seven blocks from the city center. Just catch one headed towards Tlacolula and tell them that you want to get off at the crucero. That’s the intersection where you can hop off and catch a colectivo or tuk-tuk to Teotitlan del Valle. On the other side, you’ll have a few mezcalerias, and you can also head to one of those if you have time later in the afternoon.
The colectivo from Mercado de Abastos cost 30 pesos, and the bus cost 15 pesos. The tuk-tuk from the intersection to get to the main plaza of Teotitlan del Valle cost 10 pesos.
Things To Do in Teotitlan del Valle
For a small town, it is really easy to fill up an entire day at Teotitlan del Valle. You’ll get a good mix of things in there, too. Whether you like hiking, history, culture, or just chilling, Teotitlan’s got something for you.
Visit the Church (Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo) and the Ruins
Like most small Latin American towns, the main attraction in the town is the cathedral in the main plaza. Teotitlan del Valle is no different. However, what is cool about the church in Teotitlan is that there are Zapotec ruins beneath the church. Behind the walls of the church, you can find some intricate Zapotec carvings and walls. Just outside the church, there are ruins that you can see from the road behind the church. For history lovers, Teotitlan del Valle really packs a punch for its small size.
Hike up El Picacho Mountain
Impossible to ignore is the towering Cerro Picacho, standing stoically over the small town of Teotitlan del Valle. I have one philosophy in life. If I see a mountain, I want to hike it. Thankfully, I was with a fellow hiker. After a bit of Insta-stalking each other, we actually found out we were on the same trail on the same day in Yosemite earlier this year before meeting in Oaxaca a few months later.
After having to digest a large but glorious empanada, we ended up starting the hike significantly later than planned. However, sunset sends are my absolute favorite. We hauled ass up the mountain in about 45 minutes, about half the expected hiking time told to us by our tuk-tuk driver. The landscapes were absolutely beautiful, giving you a good mix of desert vibes and mountain views. My friend had done a portion of the Arizona Trail earlier this year, and she said it was almost exactly like it. The views at the top were absolutely magnificent, giving you panoramic views of the vast Oaxacan landscapes.
The way down was fantastic as well, as the sky transformed into shades of purple and gold. For a spontaneous adventure, it paid off incredibly. The trail was very well marked and pretty easy. The only road block we truly faced was a tarantula on the trail, and my friend needed a little encouragement before making the leap past it.
Visit the Centro Cultural Comunitario (Cultural Community Center)
For a small town like Teotitlan del Valle, it really has no business having a museum and cultural center this nice. Especially since entrance is completely free. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a Christmas tree made of corn husks. It was magical. Despite its smaller size, this museum held a ton of information, translated into Zapotec, Spanish, and English. You can learn a lot about the history and traditions of the Zapotec people at this museum.
You only need an hour or so at the cultural center, so it won’t take up too much of your day if you were looking to do more outdoorsy activities. It gives you a lot of background about the peoples and the culture of the town and the region.
Shop For Rugs, Tapestries, and More
Teotitlan del Valle is renowned for its weavers, and you’ll find their work draped over nearly every building in the downtown area. The Zapotec artisans are incredibly skillful. If you’re lucky, you can catch them hard at work in the stores. While it is a bit bulky to travel around with the rugs and tapestries that the Zapotec weavers are known for, there are plenty of smaller items that you can shop around for. For the quality and authenticity, the price is unbeatable.
Visit the Local Market
While the local market of Teotitlan del Valle may pale in comparison to those of Oaxaca City’s and Tlacolula’s, but it’s definitely worth the visit if you’re already in town. Markets are definitely the best way to immerse yourself in the local life and hustle and bustle of a city. For me, the highlight of the local market was definitely snagging an empanada from Camellia and Hector. They were some of the sweetest and most pure souls I ever met, and made some bomb ass food to boot.
The highlight of my trip to Teotitlan del Valle was truly watching her laugh her ass off at her own dumb joke.
Me: “Do you know how we can get to the top of the mountain?”
Camellia: “Yes, by walking.”
She was smirking for a good ten minutes about it while making our empanadas. At the end of the day, she was right. We did end up simply just walking up to Cerro Picacho to cap off the most perfect adventure in Teotitlan del Valle.