There’s More to Visiting Teotitlan del Valle Than Rug Shopping
Teotitlan del Valle is deservedly known for its gorgeous hand-woven sheep’s wool rugs and the dozens of family-run rug weaving workshops that bring them to life on the loom. But did you know that the city’s name in the ancient Aztec’s Nahuatl tongue translates to “Land of the Gods” or that this well-positioned Zapotec valley village is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites on earth? Yes, there is truly far more to visiting Teotitlan del Valle than shopping for an exquisitely crafted rug, though that’s certainly a must too.
Here are four more reasons to make the 30-minute drive east from Oaxaca City to visit Teotitlan del Valle.
1. Zapotec myths & traditions still live on in Teotitlan del Valle
Having been founded in 1465, Teotitlan del Valle has had plenty of time to develop a long list of fascinating traditions and myths, from its unique gift-giving traditions pre-betrothal to its well-known Danza de la Pluma (“Feather Dance”) and the accompanying carnival-like celebration held every first Wednesday of July. Then there’s local lore…
Legend has it that Quetzalcoatl, a plumed serpent, protects the grounds of Teotitlan del Valle’s Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Church. If you see it, your job is to snag one of its three feathers, but be careful which one you grab. One brings death, one brings health, and the third wealth. Zapotec legends like this one still pass through the lips of village locals, accompanied by convincing stares that will have you looking around for three-feathered serpents and believing other local lore.
Local guides will shepherd you around and between towns sharing knowledge of the communal land, stunning biodiversity of plants and mushrooms, and human history of the area. Take your pick of hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding through remote trails or past agave fields and animal pastures. While it’s practical to travel between two towns on a day trip, each community offers options to spend the night. String together a few days hopping between villages and you’ll find yourself in a non-tourist destination wishing your could forever stay off the map.
2. Teotitlan del Valle is home to ancient pre-Hispanic archaeological remains
The Preciosa Sangre de Cristo Church is harbouring more than just ancient myths. Around its backside there lay the carved stone remains of a local Zapotec temple. If you look closely at the stones, you can even spot the rain god Tlaloc and get a visual of the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl.
Sadly, these carved stones are the only thing left of this once important Zapotec temple as the Spanish destroyed and then used the temple’s stones to construct the church that now stands. Fortunately, the Community Museum of Teotitlan del Valle has several halls dedicated to the archaeology of the village, including more etched stones and ceramics from the pre-hispanic era.
One idea is to start in Latuvi and ride or walk to Lachatao (14 km). Called ‘Camino Real’, this trail is a very old route that follows the river and was used for trade between the mountains and the central valleys. Upon arrival in Lachatao, go to the local temazcal (steam bath) and have a traditional cleanse . Keep an eye out for local fauna including white-tailed deer, and “tigrillo,” a small spotted leopard lurking in the trees.
3. The local Teotitlan del Valle rug weavers are secretly skilled in the kitchen too
Sitting down for a multi-course meal in a family-run rug weaving workshop isn’t usually an experience visitors to Teotitlan del Valle have, but on our Bike, Arts, and Sunset tour a home-cooked meal around our friend Josefina’s dinner table is part and parcel of the experience.
Dig into Josefina’s rendition of the town’s most characteristic dishes as well as a few from her own family recipe vault. Think mouthwatering mole negro, stuffed tamales, unforgettable memelas, and a sopa de guias that will have you licking the bowl clean.
Whether you’re on our tour or not, getting the invite to a local’s table is an offer you should not pass up when visiting Teotitlan del Valle. Take our word for it.
4. Nature and adventure is on Teotitlan del Valle’s doorstep
Located 45 minutes north west of Oaxaca City is La Cumbre Ixtepeji where a series of professionally made mountain bike trails are at your full disposal. Meanwhile, the non-bikers of the group can take full advantage of meandering hiking trails that also offer wonderful opportunities for birdwatching. Meet back up with your crew at the end of the day for a night of camping or stay overnight in the local cabañas which you’ll find right as you exit the main road.
This is a paradise for mountain bikers. The best trails of the country for endurance, cross country and downhill are waiting for you with lots of flow, adrenaline, jumps, obstacles and surrounded by the magical nature of the forest.