Day to Day Itinerary Mixteca Villages and Vistas Ride

Day 1

There is a strong traditional horse culture in the Mixtec region.

Afternoon arrival at Rancho Pitaya, settle in your room and visit the horses. Your Oaxaca experience begins with a sunset ride across the Rio Salado, through stands of wild cane and into the protected communal lands to get up-close with the rare Palmillo yucca trees. Breathtaking vistas abound and the immenseness and beauty of the valley of Tlacolula set the tone for the week to come. Orientation over artisan mezcal and homemade Margaritas. Dinner on the terrace. Overnight at Rancho Pitaya.

This land is immense.

Day 2

Early breakfast before climbing in the big pickup to trailer the horses 100 km. west to the Mixtec region where this circular journey begins.

Yanhuitlan was a hub during the heyday of the Dominican order with camino reales radiating in every direction. Ride east along smooth lanes bordered by a checkerboard of winter wheat and oat fields. Follow a near-dry stream on its sinuous route east. Canter a gentle ascent on the famed “Tierra Colorada”, the red earth of the area. We’ll arrive in the out-of-the-way village of Tiltepec, where the village authorities will give us an official welcome. We’ll enjoy a traditional lunch in the village before marvelling at the amazing colonial church ensconced at the heart of the town. Chock-a-bloc with quirky iconography and skilful stone-carving, this church, that nobody visits, is a gem.

Remote homesteads en route.

The ride back to Yanhuitlan ascends along winding trails to the pine line. The panorama vistas of this vast region nourish the soul. Dinner and overnight at the inn.

Day 3

The route meanders northwest over a pass where the earth has turned white with so much lyme. Streams lined with cypress contrast with the golden winter fields.  Riders and horses will enjoy the virtually deserted back roads and the smooth, mostly flat footing is perfect for extended trots and relaxed canters. In the mystical oak forests festooned with silver moss and colourful bromeliads our support vehicle will be waiting with a tailgate feast.

Proper sit-down “tailgate” meals along the way.

The hillsides of terraced white earth defined by fieldstone walls  are a fascinating visual of today’s ride. This area is park of the Unesco Geopark. Late afternoon, ride into Coixtlahuaca where you can marvel at the  fascinating architecture of the 16thc. Dominican convent, remarkable for the syncretism of indigenous styles and classic Dominican construction. After settling into a comfortable guesthouse, we’ll visit the convent, then finish the day with a delicious mole, ( the savoury sauce Oaxacan cuisine is famous for).

Day 4

This is a non-ride day.  No need to pack up, we return to this inn for a second night. The drive heads east across the altiplano. It must have been an exciting moment in time when the earth cracked open, creating an impossibly deep chasm where legend tells of the birth of the Mixtec people. At the rim follow a road well-engineered switchbacks that gently descends to Santiago Apoala. This is Oaxaca’s Shangri-la. We’ll spend several hours here, relaxing by the ancient Bald Cypress trees that line the crystalline stream.  Follow the current to a beautiful waterfall – you may want to take a refreshing dip! Lunch in Apoala. Yoked oxen tend the black bean and oat crops of this enchanting valley. Loquat, quince and plums, as well as bananas, limes and avocados are abundant in the gentle micro-climate.

Just one of several waterfalls visited on the non-ride day.

The drive back to Coixtlahuaca follows a different route. The forests recede giving way to endless vistas as we ride the highest parts of the massive Mixtec mesa. The scenery is bucolic: cattle lounge on the grasslands, clusters of traditional adobe homes dot the landscape and children romp on their way home from school or scamper behind herds of happy goats.

Streams of the Mixteca.

Day 5

This is the heart of the Dominican mission region. The missions were built approximately 30 kms. apart – a comfortable day’s ride. From Coixtlahuaca, following camino reales – the Spanish colonial roads – the route meanders through several sleepy villages surrounded by traditional farmlands, oak forests and pristine streams. The terrain, by Oaxacan standards, is relatively flat and the quiet, narrow backroads are perfect for a touring trot and canter. The final approach to this day’s destination is dramatic. Rounding a bend on a high bluff a verdant valley of perennial alfalfa, oats and wheat comes into view . Old but maintained irrigation canals feed the farmlands. Teotongo, once an important village at the centre of the Dominican order in the Mixtec, is home to a living museum. Their colonial church is literally stuffed to the rafters with fascinating and quirky works of art. But beyond the interesting church, this village is sweet. Quiet, spic-and-span clean – and has lovely lodging for both the riders and the horses. We’ll walk over to Graciela’s comedor for a home cooked meal complimented with the unique stone-ground wheat tortillas of the region.

The village churches are stuffed with charming folk art statues and priceless colonial paintings.

Day 6 Ride out from the village and into the austere beauty the the high plane. Mountains frame the visitas. Pirul trees line the small lanes. Herds of goats, the signature livestock of this region, romp along the hillsides. By lunch the ride will have progressed to a emerald river valley. The irrigation allows for year-round crops. The cobbled streets signal our arrival in San Pedro and San Pablo Teposcolula. Overnight at a very comfy little hotel just a couple hundred meters from the church. Dine on delicious and authentic Mixtec cuisine.

Day 7 Before riding out enjoy walking the pleasant streets of this town, visit the simple but well-preserved home of the last indigenous royalty and the Dominican mission renowned for the  architecture of its singular open-air chapel.

To complete the circuit, ride east into the oak forests and pine trees following a well-trodden trail over a pass at 2,500 meters. Views on the gentle descent are rich in the red earth paths, the winding streams and the golden farmlands that all stretch out for many kilometres.

This shorter 20 km. ride means arrival back in Yanhuitlan for lunch at the same inn as on day two. After a siesta, visit the studio of local ceramic artist Manuel Reyes. His work is talented and original, and he will pack his work for travel. Dine at his home on his family’s excellent traditional cooking.

Enchanted oak forests dripping with moss.

Day 8 Relaxed breakfast and enjoy the lovely gardens at the inn. Take a guided tour of Yanhuitlan’s Dominican convent; delight in its quirky over-the-top uniquely Mexican baroque decoration.  Pre-arranged transfers to the airport or hotel in the city of Oaxaca.

NOTE: This itinerary is subject to change and may be ridden in the reverse order described.