Planning Your Time
If your time is limited, your enviable task is to pick, according to your own interests, the best of the best from the Oaxaca Valley’s treasury of colorful markets, bucolic handicrafts villages, mysterious archaeological sights, and community museums. In a whirlwind four or five days, you can soak in the valley’s celebrated highlights, scheduling your time according to the weekly market days.
Given the limited hotel choices in the Valley of Oaxaca and the relatively short distances (10–30 miles/16–48 km) to valley sights from Oaxaca City, you could use your lodging in the city as a home base and take excursions from there to explore the valley.
For getting around, you could hire a guide for about $150–300 per day, which includes a car for 4–5 people; rent a car for around $50 per day ($250 per week); or use the tourist bus transportation for $10–15 per person. Each option can get you to most of the valley’s highlights over three or four days. Although touring by local buses from the second-class bus station (Camionera Central Segunda Clase) is much cheaper, it requires twice the time.
Some sights you won’t want to miss are the archaeological sites Mitla, on the east side, and Monte Albán, on the southwest side of the valley. Of the markets, the biggest are the Tlacolula Sunday market, the Ocotlán Friday market, and the Zaachila Thursday market.
Fascinating crafts villages along the way are Teotitlán del Valle (on the way to Tlacolula and Mitla); Santo Tomás Jalieza, San Martín Tilcajete, and San Bartolo Coyotepec (on the way back to Oaxaca City from Ocotlán); and the Santa María Atzompa pottery village on the way to or from Monte Albán.
If your time is very limited, you could skip the Tlacolula market, but make sure to visit the Thursday market in Zaachila, unbeatable for its intensely colorful ambience and exotic fruits and foods. Nearby, be sure to include the Zaachila archaeological site in your visit.
On the other hand, if you have an extra day, it would be worthwhile to visit the San José El Mogote archaeological site and the adjacent community museum. Continue to the Etla market, especially good on Wednesdays.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition