After David arrived in Oaxaca, we decided to do a day trip to the Valley de Tlacolula near Oaxaca. We looked at taking a tour, but the itineraries didn’t match up with what we wanted to do and public transport would take too long, so we decided to rent a car for the day from Europcar. We didn’t want the hassle or responsibility of parking the rental car overnight, so we hired it at 8.30am in the morning and returned in by 7pm the same evening. The car hire fee was around A$50, including full insurance. Navigating out of Oaxaca and to the various sights was very easy and the roads were generally very good (although we accidentally took the old dirt road to Hierve El Agua, but this just added to the adventure!).
We visited El Tule, which apparently has the largest tree in the world! Then we drove to the beautiful Yagul Ruins. These ruins don’t appear to be on the normal tourist trail and the carpark was completely deserted when we arrived, but they were just wonderful and are so well preserved. We enjoyed wandering around the patios and through the labyrinthine Palacio (I got lost a few times!). Afterwards we hiked up to the fortress for some beautiful views of the ruins and surrounding valleys.
After visiting Yagul, we drove to Mitla. We enjoyed some mole chicken (we tried both the red and black mole sauces) at Restaurante Doña Chica, and then visited the ancient Zapotec ruins. Ancient Mitla was a major religious centre in its heyday. We wandered around the ruins near the Church of San Pablo, marveling at the geometric stone mosaics decorating the ruins.
After wandering around the ruins at Mitla, we jumped back in the car and headed for the mineral springs at Hierve El Agua, which looks like a petrified waterfall. Hierve El Agua is quite spectacular! You can swim in the pools on the cliff edge and hike down to the bottom as we did for impressive views of the mineral formations. It certainly is a must see in Oaxaca!
We would definitely recommend this tour if you have a free day in Oaxaca! The whole round trip was about 160kms. You could also do the trip by bike, although it would obviously take longer. Cycling to El Tule, Yagul and Mitla would be very manageable. Hierve El Agua is located in the mountains, so cycling there would be much more challenging, especially if you take the windy dirt road! But, the views are incredible and there is a campground where you could stay overnight.