This blog post is all about the Pueblos Mancomunados of Oaxaca. It explains what these villages are, and describes our two night stay in Cuajimoloyas. For travel directions just scroll to the bottom of this page. You can easily go from Oaxaca city independently, without paying the high fees of a tourist agency.

What are the Pueblos Mancomunados?

The Pueblos Mancomunados consists of eight villages in the Sierra Norte, which sits within the Oaxaca state of Mexico. Over twenty years ago these mountain villages came together to create an ecotourism project that was of value to both visitors and their communities. Today, a well established network of hiking trails exist, as well as opportunities for horse riding and even zip-lining for the more adventurous.

The eight villages are Amatlán, Benito Juárez, Cuajimoloyas, La Nevería, Lachatao, Latuvi, Llano Grande and Yavesí.

Why should you go?

If you enjoy off the grid mountain escapes, and want to make sure your tourism has a positive effect, you should definitely check out the Pueblos Mancomunados. A stay in any of the villages will allow you to witness authentic Zapotec mountain life, and you will be gifted with a warm welcome from these wonderful people.

Our stay in the village of Cuajimoloyas

Arriving in Cuajimoloyas

We spent two nights in the Pueblos Mancomunados, and based ourselves in Cuajimoloyas. Our primary reason for choosing this particular village was that it’s one of the easiest of the pueblos to get to from the city of Oaxaca (travel directions at the bottom of this page). It turned out to be a great decision for many more reasons.

We arrived in Cuajimoloyas on Saturday at around 1pm. Luckily our collectivo (shared taxi) driver dropped us off right outside the tourism office and from there we found it easy to organise a place to stay and to reserve an English-speaking guide for our hikes.

By 2pm, we had checked into our cosy cabana, eaten lunch at the closest comedor – this means ‘dining room’ and was really just a small room in a family’s home – and were ready for our first hike.

View of the brick cabana buildings in Cuajimoloyas a Pueblo Mancomunado

These are the tourist cabanas in Cuajimoloyas

Inside the Cuajimoloyas cabanas in the Pueblos Mancomunados

Inside our cosy cabana

Ester, our private guide, met us at our cabana and spent the next two days hiking with us. She was born and grew up in Cuajimoloyas, and as well as helping us to explore the forest trials, she introduced us to her village and taught us a lot about the community’s way of life.

Hike 1: Canyon del Coyote, 3 hours

We had limited time in the mountains and didn’t want to waste a moment, so we booked ourselves on to a three hour hike to make the most of our first afternoon.

The hike was really interesting. Ester introduced us to a whole host of different plants that the villagers use for medicinal purposes. There seemed to be something for everything… cysts, cold sores, cancer, coughs, high fevers, wounds etc.

As we walked we came across lots of little ranches. These are owned by village families and they come here during the day to work. Some of the ranches were for trout farming, growing crops of potatoes or corn, or grazing livestock such as sheep or cows.

View of small family ranch in the Pueblos Mancomunados

A small ranch for trout farming, owned by one of the families that live in Cuajimoloyas

The hike was was the perfect length for an afternoon adventure, but it wasn’t easy. A lot of it was uphill through the forest, and there were points where we had to scramble over rocks or through caves. When we arrived at the viewpoint however, it made the dirty clothes more than worth it. Just look at that view!

View of the Sierra Norte mountains during our Canyon del Coyote hike

The viewpoint during the Canyon del Coyote hike

Hike 2: Mirador Xi-Nudaa, 7 hours

On our second day in the Sierra Norte we decided to push ourselves and went for the longest route on the list. Apparently, it’s not often that the guides do this walk, usually people opt for the 3 or 5 hour walks. Trust us to be different!

The highlight of this walk was the viewpoint from which you could see for miles and miles, including a look at some of the other Pueblos Mancomunados. This hike was more advanced than the day before, there was a lot of scrambling over and under rocks, and to get to the viewpoint we had to to climb up a little way.

View of the Sierra Norte mountains during Mirador Xi-Nudaa hike

This is the viewpoint during the Mirador Xi-Nudaa hike

We got to eat our lunch (we’d requested a packed lunch from the comedor by our cabana the night before) by the waterfalls. As we were visiting during the dry season they were unfortunately really small… but it did mean we didn’t have to take a rain jacket with us!

Apart from the stunning panoramic from the viewpoint , this hike wasn’t quite as interesting as the day before. We didn’t come across as many villagers or ranches, and the forest that we saw did become quite repetitive in places.

Evenings in Cuajimoloyas

Despite warm days, the evenings drop very cold in Cuajimoloyas, and we were very grateful for the open fireplace in our cabana to ward off the chill. We didn’t pay extra for access to WiFi, choosing to immerse ourselves in the experience. After lots of hiking, it was so cosy to sit in front of the fireplace, having nothing more to do than relax and watch the flames lick across the logs.

We had all of our meals at the closest comedor. The family were really sweet and their food, although simple, was delicious, traditional Oaxacan fayre. Our guide told us that the other comedors in the village were cheaper. For us however, the prices were really reasonable; per person, breakfast cost 50 pesos (£2), lunch cost 60 pesos (about £2.40) and dinner cost 50-60 pesos. We were always absolutely stuffed, and the prices included a hot drink. We couldn’t face more walking up and down hills and were happy to pay these ‘inflated’ prices.

Taking a breath

We really enjoyed our stay in the Sierra Norte, and would highly recommend getting off the beaten track to explore the Pueblos Mancomunados. Our stay gave us the opportunity to take a breath and just enjoy the beautiful nature around us.

While we would usually opt to hike independently, our guide was really knowledgeable and we were happy to know our money was going towards supporting the community. If you are in two minds, please be aware that the trails around Cuajimoloyas are not well signposted and in our opinion it would be quite easy to get lost.

How to organise your visit to the Pueblos Mancomunados

There are tourist agencies in Oaxaca who will organise your trip for you. For the privilege, they will charge you a lot of money and the villages will receive less compared to if you book directly through them.

We were travelling in a quieter period for the pueblos and so it was easy for us to just arrive in town and be able to get accommodation and a guide. If you travel in the high season, especially in July when they have their mushroom festival, you will need to check in advance. You can get in touch directly with the Pueblos Mancomunados by emailing cuaji_yaacuetzi@hotmail.com.

Our time was limited so we stuck to one place, but it is easy to walk between the different villages and spend time exploring each one. You could easily spend a week or more here!

In total, including accomodation, guide fees, food and transport, we spent around £25 each a day. We thought this was fantastic value!

Board with costings for hikes and accommodation in Cuajimoloyas

Here are the costs for the different accommodation options and guided walks (Mexican pesos). The guide fees are by group, not per person.

Oaxaca to Cuajimoloyas – Travel Directions

Step 1 – Oaxaca to Tlacolula

We got a collectivo, or shared taxi, from Oaxaca to Tlacolula, on the corner where Eduardo Vasconcelos intersects with Brazil (map). You can take any car going to Mitla and just let them know you want to get out early in Tlacolula. The journey costs 25 pesos (£1) per person and takes around 30-40 minutes.

Step 2 – Tlacolula to Cuajimoloyas

There are two transport terminals in Tlacolula, you want the white building across from the green PEMEX gas station on Juarez, not the main bus terminal (map). Walk to the back of the terminal yard and you will see a sign that says ‘Cuajimoloyas’.

Tlacolula's departure terminal for collectivos to the Pueblos Mancomunados

This is the terminal in Tlacolula where the collectivos to Cuajimoloyas depart from

Sign for Cuajimoloyas vehicles inside Tlacolula terminal

Walk to the back of the yard and wait by the ‘Cuajimoloyas’ sign

From here, there doesn’t seems to be a timetable for departures, just sit on the bench and wait until the driver arrives. We waited for around one hour before the vehicle left at 12.15pm. The journey took around 50 minutes and cost 30 pesos per person. Our driver dropped us off outside the tourist information office in Cuajimoloyas from where we were easily able to organise our accommodation and hikes.

To return to Oaxaca from Cuajimoloyas, we pretty much did the above journey in reverse. It was a little confusing, several people told us there was a direct collectivo/bus to Oaxaca, but they always told us different details and we never saw any evidence of this. If you have better luck with this, please leave a comment so that we can let others know. We decided to change in Tlacolula as we knew this worked. We waited for the collectivo to Tlacolula across the street from the yellow public toilets, and next to Comedor Los Portales (map).

If you’re planning a trip to Oaxaca, take a look at our top things to do for inspiration! 

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Two Traveling Texans

Vicky

Hola! Vicky here :)

29 Comments

Annemiek · January 11, 2020 at 6:40 pm

Guys, Just a quick message to let you know that we are waiting in Tlacolula as I am writing this! All thanks to your instructions! Muchas gracias 🙂

    Vicky · January 21, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Aww thank you so much for your wonderful message!

Carole · December 29, 2019 at 12:55 pm

Great blog, thank you. I have two small comments. 1)admittedly, it’s cheaper to do it the way you did it. We paid about twice what you paid to have it all organized for us, including private transport from (and to) our hotel in Oaxaca. We traveled during high Pueblos Mancomunades
We just finished a terrific overnight experience ‘Short but firm steps’ in the Pueblos Mancomunades in the mountains above Oaxaca. The tour was organized by the Expediciones Sierra Norte, fully owned by the community cooperative. We were picked up right on time at our hotel by a driver who brought us to Benito Juarez one of the 6 communities that participate in the ecotourism cooperative. We were met at the office by Janet, our excellent and very knowledgeable translator who accompanied us throughout the trip. We started with a delicious breakfast at the home of community residents who participate in the cooperative by hosting meals. Susana & Enrique were warm and hospitable, telling us about the upcoming festival (including a basketball tournament) their fruit orchard and why they enjoy hosting. The trip involved a 6-km hike at >3000 meters from Benito Juarez to the largest of the villages in the Pueblos Mancomunades (Cuajimoloyas, pop’n: < 900. Led by Sr. Ernesto, a spry 64-year old guide from Benito Juarez, the hike was arduous for people living at sea level with little time to acclimate to the altitude (I.e., us). But, we were rewarded with beautiful vistas, meadows, woods, birds and wildflowers. Janet described many of the plants and their medicinal purposes. Upon arrival in Cuajimoloyas, we were shown to our spotless and lovely cabin with running water, electricity and a wood fireplace. We ate all of our meals at the Comedor Mirador just a few steps from the cabin. The food was delicious and varied. Chicken and Chile relleno were options for the first lunch served with copious quantities of tortillas, both crunchy and soft, as well as queso fresco. Both also started with soup. Dinner was equally delicious , a choice between a battered squash and quesadillas. The setting is fully deserving of its name, a beautiful overlook of the village and valley and a spectacular garden, rife with vivid succulents. We had a late afternoon visit with the dynamic, mischievous Sra. Lepa, the community healer. She is renowned in the area for her vast knowledge of medicinal plants and cures. She learned from her grandmother and has tried to pass the tradition down to her 5 daughters. She was warm and kind and eager to share her extensive knowledge. Our second day, we had another beautiful hike within the boundary of Cuajimoloyas. Francisco expertly led us up several billy-goat passes, including the pass that traverses Coyote Canyon to experience spectacular views. Finally, we took advantage of the well-organized and very popular 1 km-long zipline that crosses the village of Cuajimoloyas. We would highly recommend a visit to the Pueblos Mancomunades organized by Expediciones de Sierra Norte. It’s the only company owned by the community and whose proceeds are fully returned to and shared in the communities. , so booked the package through Expediciones Sierra Norte, which is owned by the community cooperative; all the proceeds are returned to the participating communities. So, if you do want to arrange through a tour company, please use this one. The other companies return little to the communities. 2) the Pueblos Mancomunados were formed as a collective more than 100 years ago. Ecotourism is only one of their ventures. Others have included mining, trout farming, water purification and bottling.

    Vicky · January 21, 2020 at 8:54 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for taking time to write this. We feel really strongly that we should all share our travel experiences so new visitors can be well equipped when making their decisions. Its all a matter of preference and budget. We are so pleased to hear you had such a wonderful time. It is a beautiful part of the world and the people are incredibly welcoming.

Maciej · December 26, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Hi, big thanks for this blog post! Pueblas Mancomunados are really a gem in Oaxaca region and really worth visiting. Unfortunately, prices offered for ‘package’ tours by Sierra Norte Expeditions are quite high – they offered a 4 days / 3 nights package for around 12,000 pesos in Spanish and 18,000 in English (for two people). As it was way more then me and my wife could/wanted to spend, we decided to go there on our own. The post helped us a lot! As a ‘thank you’ we would like to share some up-to-date information as of December 2019.

1. There are direct buses run by the company named FADEN, from Oaxaca second class bus terminal (external gate number 5, internal gate number 10, the cash desk is there too) to Cuajimoloyas, departing daily at 7:00, 9:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 20:00. Be there around half an hour earlier to make sure there are some seats available. Buses are clean and in quite good shape, cost is 60 pesos per person, ride lasts 90-120 minutes.
2. Return buses / collectivos run more less every 30 minutes, starting early in the morning until late evening hours.
3. It’s possible to store some luggage in the tourist offices for few days, free of charge in case you want to do some hiking and sleep in different places.
4. In December it was pretty empty, almost no tourists so it was not needed to book cabins in advance. However, if you want to be on the safe side, you can do it via Sierra Norte office in Oaxaca at no additional cost.
5. We slept in cabins in Benito Juarez, Latuvi and Cuajimoloyas. Cabins in Benito Juarez were in really bad shape and dirty, while others really clean and comfy – I think it depends on people who are taking care of that in each village.
6. Trails are badly marked and it could really be problematic to trek there on your own. The prices for guides however, vary from 300-600 pesos for half/full day. We are quite experienced hikers, but would really recommend renting a guide there, especially that costs are not huge (in Oaxaca office it is possible to buy a small map – 50 pesos or so – which can help to plan the stay as distances and elevation changes are described, however, it is not good enough for navigation).
7. The prices from the photo are still valid, apart from prices for guides. Maybe we were simply charged too much, but it was quite hard for us to argue / bargain as our Spanish skills are quite elementary.
8. None spoke any English in there, so without at least basic understanding of Spanish it might be problematic. However, even basic skills should be more than enough.

Last but not least, we spent around 6,000 pesos for the whole trip including transportation, accommodation, guides and food (for two) – half of the prices offered by Sierra Norte Expeditions.

    Vicky · January 21, 2020 at 8:55 am

    Thank you so much for taking time to write this updated information. It means such a lot to us that we keep this as an active page where people can find the current information that they need. Safe travels.

Danny · November 7, 2019 at 8:36 pm

Hola! Cheers for the guide, we actually uses this step by step and found it so helpful – no idea how we would’ve managed without it. Just an update – there is a mini bus that leaves at 9am and 12pm from Cuajimoloyas and goes directly to Oaxaca City, its costs 60 pesos pp and departs from the tourist info centre.

    Vicky · November 8, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Hi Danny! So pleased to hear that the guide was useful, hope you had a fab time. Thanks so much for the update, that will be super useful for others to know 🙂

Kathleen Halverson · October 28, 2019 at 8:40 pm

Excellent detailed post on how to rent a cabin and hire a guide for hiking in the Cuajimoloyas!
I hope you can clear up a little confusion on my part though. When doing my research I found the website for Expediciones Sierra Norte which lead me to believe that this is the official website of the eight villages to book cabins and guides for hiking. Is this the direct and official website of the villages where they get compensated the most? It didn’t say anything on their website about going to Cuajimoloyas directly to rent a cabin. They offered only tours which include the cabins/guides for hiking. We are planning our trip for mid December so now wondering if instead of booking on-line if we should just do it directly when we arrive. Hope you can clear up my confusion! Thanks!

    Vicky · November 1, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Hi! Thanks for getting in touch and we’re glad to hear you found the post helpful.

    From what we can remember, that is the official website so it is just preference. You can book in advance or just turn up like we did – we’d check if the season is busy though because it might be better to book in advance.

    I think from our trip, they get compensated the most by going directly to the town, however it’s still beneficial to use the website as it’s something that all eight towns manage together.

    I’m sorry we can’t be more help than that, we didn’t have any dealings with the website so it’s hard to be able to compare.

    Have a fantastic trip to Mexico – we can’t wait to go back one day!

Mark Anderson · July 23, 2019 at 11:12 pm

Hi Vicky!
Great article with very helpful information for an independent traveller. I will be heading to Oaxaca in a weeks time and will definitely go after reading this. I have one question if you don’t mind? I will be going solo (as usual) and I saw that on the tourism notice board in Cuajimoloyas that they offer Hotel rooms at 200 pesos ( i know the price may have gone up a little since then),but obviously going by myself and being on a very small budget I wouldn’t be able to afford a private cabin. Do you know anything about the hotel rooms as I can’t seem to find any information about them even being there? And do you have any other information that may help me as a solo traveller on a budget?
Many thanks,hope to hear from you soon.
Keep up the good work
Warm regards
Mark

    Vicky · July 30, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Hi Mark, great to hear that you got some use out of this article and we’re super jealous of your imminent trip!

    When we were there we took a photo of the prices board at registration (included in the post) and I’ve had a look and it does say that it is 200 pesos for the ‘quarto en el hotel’, so as you saw elsewhere online! Unfortunately, we didn’t take a look at these hotel rooms so I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they were like, but if they are anything like our cabin they will be clean and easily manageable for a couple of evenings!

    Have a fabulous trip and do let us know how you get on!

Ana Rose · February 1, 2019 at 2:41 am

Wow, we are headed to Cuajimoloyas tomorrow (simply because we were encouraged to go by a meat vendor in the Tlacolula market) and this page answered all of our questions. Thanks so much for posting this, with visuals to boot! It’s people like you who make the internet such an awesome resource!

    Vicky · February 1, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Ana Rose, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write this comment! It is so wonderful to get feedback, letting us know that the hours that we spend writing content for the website is actually helping people! <3

    Hope you have an amazing time in the mountains! Please do drop by here/Twitter/Facebook to let us know how you find it! 🙂

    Safe travels.

Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) · March 15, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Great article. Love how the villagers came together to create an ecotourism project. What wonderful views, great details, and the hiking sound amazing. Just getting off the beaten track to explore the Pueblos Mancomunados is something I would love to do. Pinned for later. #feetdotravel

Angie (FeetDoTravel) · March 15, 2018 at 5:35 am

I have not heard of this area but then again, I’m no expert on Mexico! Love the cosy cabin but we would have definitely have picked a shorter walk than 7 hours haha. What a lovely off-the-grid experience you had, pinned for when we go to Mexico (which we hope is October!). #feetdotravel

Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields · March 14, 2018 at 2:01 pm

We are in Oaxaca now and we have a couple of days free so I might look at visiting Cuajimolyas. Thanks.

    Vicky · March 14, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    Enjoy Oaxaca, it’s wonderful!

Urska | sliva · March 14, 2018 at 9:09 am

Ohh what a great photos and trip idea! I love mountain escapes, well they are on my schedule for almost every summer-weekend 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Sierra Norte looks like a perfect place for me to visit.

California Globetrotter · March 11, 2018 at 9:36 pm

I think it’s great sometimes to definitely travel without being connected to the internet 24/7 that way you can truly immerse yourself in the experience! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    Vicky · March 12, 2018 at 12:33 am

    You don’t realise, until you are completely ‘unplugged’, just how nice it is!

Travel Lexx · March 11, 2018 at 4:24 pm

I really love how detailed your posts are and focus on really important things like quality of accommodation, getting around and HIKING! The views during the Coyote hike look stunning. I really want to make it Mexico later this year so this would be incredibly useful. Saved for later!

    Vicky · March 12, 2018 at 12:32 am

    I know you love hiking, and I think this part of the world would be perfect. At the right time of the year you can almost have the whole thing to yourself, and it’s suh good value for money!

Anda · March 10, 2018 at 10:59 pm

Oxaca seems to be the less traveled part of Mexico. Your post incited my interest about it. I’d love to go Oxaca someday and explore the Pueblos Mancomunados. #TheWeeklyPostcard

Anisa · March 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Wow what a find. I cannot get over how cheap it is and how beautiful. So nice you could hire your own guide for the hikes. I think one of my favorite Mexican sauces – mole originates from Oaxaca? Not sure, but I bet the food you had was delicious. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

Esther · March 10, 2018 at 7:28 am

Oh, this looks lovely and relaxed. No wonder you loved it!
#TheWeeklyPostcard

Emese · March 10, 2018 at 12:38 am

What a great experience! I love Oaxaca and all things related to Mexico, especially small villages. Next time we go, I’ll make sure to stay longer (we were in Oaxaca for only four days) and visit them. Thanks for sharing. #The WeeklyPostcard

    Vicky · March 10, 2018 at 12:45 am

    It’s so hard not to fall in love with Oaxaca, isn’t it?

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