The southern state of Oaxaca provides some of Mexico’s most stunning landscapes, boasting rolling, forested hills and spectacular plants and wildlife. The region contains eight remote villages that are known collectively as the Pueblos Mancomunados (Commonwealth of Villages). These tiny communities cooperate in a unique ecotourism project offering simple accommodation options and excellent hiking excursions. The towns are surrounded by the Sierra Norte Range which offers a wide diversity of landscapes, including pine and oak forests, waterfalls, caves and breath-taking panoramas.
Benito Juárez to La Nevería
The eight villages that form a part of the ecotourism project are Amatlán, Benito Juárez, Cuajimoloyas, La Nevería, Lachatao, Latuvi, Llano Grande and Yavesía. The program, known as Expediciones Sierra Norte, has an office in Oaxaca City where you can plan your itinerary.
Hiring a trained guide is also an excellent idea for your hike. These guides are very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the local area, although do bear in mind that they rarely speak English.
Each of the Pueblos Mancomunados has simple but pleasant cabins for accommodation, as well as a restaurant serving affordable local food from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The village of Benito Juárez is a popular place to begin your trek. The hike to the next village, La Nevería, follows a winding, uphill road through the scenic Sierra Norte. The 8 km (5 mile) hike is no easy task, especially given the high altitude, but the lush farmland and dense pine forests make it all worthwhile. Keep an eye out for exotic birds, hovering butterflies and multi-colored flowers.
La Nevería to Latuvi
The trek from La Nevería to Latuvi takes around three hours. Expect to spend much of it walking through narrow paths in the woods and making your way up steep, hilly terrain. The log bridge that crosses the Guacamayas River is a real highlight of the trail. Make sure to enjoy a good night’s rest in the cabin at Latuvi. The trek to San Miguel Amatlán the next day is one of the more difficult hikes on the trip.
Latuvi to San Miguel Amatlán
At 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) in length, the hike to Amatlán is the longest on the itinerary, but also the most rewarding. The first part of the trek follows a river through a beautiful canyon, followed by mysterious cloud forests adorned with hanging mosses.
The tiny village of Lachatao boasts an elegant, historic church and scenic views over the valley. A little further up the road is the village of San Miguel Amatlán, the largest in the area. Spend the evening exploring its narrow cobbled streets and enjoy a simple yet delicious meal at the local comedor.
San Miguel Amatlán to San Isidro Llano Grande
The 22 kilometer (13.67 mile) hike to San Isidro Llano Grande lasts a little more than six hours and takes you through pristine, winding mountain roads.
Bear in mind that the timing of your visit is of utmost importance. During the winter, temperatures drop in the high southern villages, while hiking is sometimes impossible during the rainy season between May and September.
Both San Isidro Llano Grande and the nearby village of Cuajimoloyas have good bus links back to Oaxaca City. The journey takes around two hours, during which time you can enjoy a well-deserved rest.