Introducing Pueblos Mancomunados
The Pueblos Mancomunados (Commonwealth of Villages) are eight remote Zapotec villages in the thickly forested highlands north of the Valle de Tlacolula. For centuries, in a unique form of cooperation, the villages have pooled the natural resources of their 290-sq-km territory, which include extensive pine and oak forests, sharing the profits from forestry and other enterprises. Today seven of the villages (the exception is Yavesía) also cooperate in an excellent ecotourism program that offers plain but comfortable lodgings and walking, horseback riding and mountain biking along more than 100km of scenic tracks and trails. Elevations range from 2200m to over 3200m, and the landscapes, with their canyons, caves, crags, waterfalls and panoramic lookouts, are spectacular. The villages themselves are mostly simple but picturesque places, and have unique relics of local history or culture to show off.
The ecotourism program’s office in Oaxaca is Expediciones Sierra Norte. Several Oaxaca active-tourism agencies offer trips to the Pueblos Mancomunados, from one to several days long, and will provide transportation to the area and take the organizational legwork out of your visit. But you can do it independently, and cheaper, by dealing direct with Expediciones Sierra Norte. The office has English-speaking staff and copious information on trails, villages, accommodations, transportation and how to prepare, and will make reservations. It also sells a very useful guide-map for M$50.
Trained local guides are available for all excursions. They will almost certainly only speak Zapotec and Spanish but are knowledgeable about the plants, wildlife and ecology of these sierras. You can head off without a guide, but trail marking is less than perfect. For accommodations and meals, each village has cabañas (mostly with hot-water bathrooms and fireplaces), a designated camping ground, and at least one comedor serving cheap, good local meals from 8am to 8pm.
Below is a guide to prices for visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados:
Guide for up to eight people: M$120 to M$200 per day
Cabaña: M$130 per person (shared); M$450 for up to four people (private)
Camping: M$40 per person (bring your own tent)
Meals: M$30 to M$40 each
Bicycle: M$100/150 per three hours/one day (available in all villages)
Horse: M$100 per hour (available in some villages)
Huentzee (contribution to maintenance costs) : M$50 per person
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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