Our first stop was at the little village of Santa María del Tule just nine miles from the city of Oaxaca. The village is renowned for what is referred to as the Tule tree, an enormous water cypress. The tree is at least 2000 years old. It dwarfs the village church next to it. The trunk has a circumference of 160 feet... it would take thirty people with arms outstretched to encircle it. Although it is not the tallest tree in the world, some say that it is the world's largest tree in terms of biomass.
About four miles from Tule was our next stop, the town of Tlacochahuaya. The town's pride and joy is the 16th century church and former Dominican monastery of San Jerónimo.
In the choir loft there is an organ which is nearly 300 years old and is still functioning.
Our third stop, five miles further down the road was Teotitlán del Valle. The town is famous for its weavers who produce beautiful wool rugs. We went into one of the workshops for a demonstration of how the wool is prepared, dyed with natural colors, and woven on looms.
Cochineal, an insect that lives on the paddles of the prickly pear cactus, is the source of natural red dye which can then be modified into various shades of orange and purple. In colonial times cochineal was a major source of wealth for Oaxaca.
Of course the demonstration is done in hopes that the visitors will then buy some of their merchandise. And I am fully aware that guides and drivers have arrangements with the workshops... that they will get a commission from any sales made to the tourists they bring. Nevertheless, we were impressed by the beauty of the "tapetes" (throw rugs), and I bought one for my house.
Our final stop, 28 miles from the city of Oaxaca, was the archaeological zone of Yagul. The hilltop city of Yagul was inhabited by the Zapotecs for about 1000 years until its abandonment around A.D. 1200. Although it is not as spectacular as some archaeological sites, its location and solitude (very few tourists come here) give it a very special appeal.
The ball court at Yagul is the second largest in Mesoamerica. (Only the Mayan ball court at Chichén Itzá in Yucatán is larger.
In a courtyard surrounded by largely unrestored structures archaeologists have discovered several tombs.
Visitors may descend into one of the tombs. Although they were looted long before the Spanish arrived, you can still see the carvings that decorated the burial chamber.
The most important structure at Yagul is known as the Palace of the Six Patios. This was most probably the residence of the city's rulers. A maze of rooms surround six courtyards.
Some pictures of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Yagul...