Mitla Archaeological Zone
The town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla actually stands partially atop the Mitla ruins (about 31 miles/50 km from Oaxaca city, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily), which are a “must” for Valley of Oaxaca sightseers. Mitla (Liobaa in Zapotec, the Place of the Dead) flowered late, reaching a population of perhaps 10,000 during its apex around A.D. 1350. It remained occupied and in use for generations after the conquest.
During Mitla’s heyday, several feudalistic, fortified city-states vied for power in the Valley of Oaxaca. Concurrently, Mixtec-speaking people arrived from the north, perhaps under pressure from Aztecs and others in central Mexico.
Evidence suggests that these Mixtec groups, in interacting with the resident Zapotecs, created the unique architectural styles of late cities such as Yagul and Mitla. Archaeologists believe, for example, that the striking greca (Grecian-style) frets that honeycomb Mitla facades are the result of Mixtec influence.
Bus travelers can get to Mitla from Oaxaca City by Fletes y Pasajes bus from the camionera central segunda clase.
Drivers get there by forking left from main Oaxaca Highway 190, at the big Mitla sign, onto Highway 176. Continue about two miles (3.2 km) to the Mitla town entrance, on the left. Head straight through town, pass the town plaza, continue across the bridge over the (usually dry) Río Mitla, and after about a mile (1.6 km), arrive at the archaeological site.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition