We booked a one day hike from Latuvi to San Miguel Amatlán. The price was very reasonable... read more
We booked a one day hike from Latuvi to San Miguel Amatlán. The price was very reasonable... read more
Our group took a four night guided horseback tour through Expediciones Sierra del Norte. The tour... read more
Our group of 8 just returned from a 7 day hiking adventure in the Sierra Norte mountains outside of Oaxaca that was customized for us by Expediciones Sierra Norte. The communities we visited consisted of 6 small villages of indigenous Zapotec descendants who had banded together to create an eco-tourism experience in their 29,000 hectacres high up in the mountains. It was a wonderful experience at an exceptional price given the current dollar-to-peso exchange rate. Not only did we hike each day, but we signed up for a whole series of other activities offered a la carte on the trip from chocolate making demonstration, a visit to a sustainable farm, description and demonstration by a local healer of medicinal plants and traditional healing techniques, tamale and tortilla making class, a trout farm for dinner, and a not-to-be-missed Temescal (traditional cleansing/massage/sauna-like experience) at the end hike.
The hikes through predominantly pine and oak forests are not terribly long for folks in reasonable shape, but altitudes range from 6000 ft to a high of 11,000 ft (to see the sun rise above the clouds). If you’re not used to those altitudes, just take your time, catch your breath, and continue on. There’s plenty of time to get to the next village. We were completely off the grid for 5 days with no cell phone coverage or wi-fi. It was a delight to relax and wake to the sounds of animals . ....Our group of 8 just returned from a 7 day hiking adventure in the Sierra Norte mountains outside of Oaxaca that was customized for us by Expediciones Sierra Norte. The communities we visited consisted of 6 small villages of indigenous Zapotec descendants who had banded together to create an eco-tourism experience in their 29,000 hectacres high up in the mountains. It was a wonderful experience at an exceptional price given the current dollar-to-peso exchange rate. Not only did we hike each day, but we signed up for a whole series of other activities offered a la carte on the trip from chocolate making demonstration, a visit to a sustainable farm, description and demonstration by a local healer of medicinal plants and traditional healing techniques, tamale and tortilla making class, a trout farm for dinner, and a not-to-be-missed Temescal (traditional cleansing/massage/sauna-like experience) at the end hike.
The hikes through predominantly pine and oak forests are not terribly long for folks in reasonable shape, but altitudes range from 6000 ft to a high of 11,000 ft (to see the sun rise above the clouds). If you’re not used to those altitudes, just take your time, catch your breath, and continue on. There’s plenty of time to get to the next village. We were completely off the grid for 5 days with no cell phone coverage or wi-fi. It was a delight to relax and wake to the sounds of animals . . no cars, airplanes, or noisy streets.
Each village had a number of cabins for exclusive use of their visitors. The cabins were clean, had electricity, a fireplace, beds with plenty of blankets (needed at the higher elevations) and on-demand water heaters (which mostly worked). Three full meals were provided as part of our package and tasty local dishes were prepared by villagers doing their community service.
The logistics were amazing. Everything worked out on time and our bags were transferred by vehicle from village to village, requiring us to only carry a daypack with snacks, raincoat (just in case), and plenty of water for the day. Each village has several optional activities to choose from that ranged from those I mentioned above, to zip lines, horseback riding, mountain biking, and more. If you’d rather just relax, there are hammocks at most cabins for a quiet afternoon swaying in the breeze.
Each day was more amazing than the previous, and we would look at each other and marvel at how much value we got with our package. We also marveled at how few people seem to know about this amazing experience since we only saw a few other people on the trails.
Although you can hike on your own on the marked trails, we recommend that at a minimum, you hire a local guide. Although they only speak Spanish, they are familiar with local plants and landmarks, and more importantly, can guide you on unmarked trails that are even better than the marked path. We also highly recommend hiring an English speaking translator. We were very fortunate to be assigned a young man named Celestino Mendez who added a whole new dimension of customs, history, biology, and Zapotec culture that we would have completely missed without his insights.
All I can say in conclusion is don’t miss this opportunity when in Oaxaca. Expediciones Sierra Norte is administered by the local Pueblos Mancomunados communal group of villages and all hiking and activity fees go directly back to support those villages. They are more than willing to work on a customized itinerary of hikes and activities for however many of days you’d like. There are other third party tours that provide package tours to the area and many work with the Pueblos Mancomunados to the benefit of the people, but I don’t know if the financial benefits are as great as working with the community directly through that community run organization.
Truly an EXCEPTIONAL experience and one not to be missed.More
An absolutely incredible experience hiking with Expediciones Sierra Norte. No matter how many days you spend on the expedition, you will always want to stay longer. The walk itself is managed by a well coordinated, knowledgable network of local guides. Our guides were friendly and patient and walked at our pace. They only spoke spanish, but if you didn't have a language barrier, they could explain about the plants, the people and the lifestyle in the area.
On our first day. we saw some incredible views of the landscape, walking up and down windy paths, while on the second day, we were walking mainly in an enchanted forest. I wouls say the level of difficulty was medium, as it combined altitutude, flat, steep up and steep down. I definetely would recommend shoes with strong grip and walking sticks if you have problems with your knees (a fair part of our walk was downhill). I would also look at the weather, as I imagine it is quite alot tougher in the rainy season, when the ground will be less stable.
The accommodation was a complete treat. Although they call them basic cabanas, they are essentially well maintained, better than basic cabanas, with log fires, warm blankets and incredile views of the mountains. The communal area has lots of good spots to relax, including a few hammocks. The food provided was generous and tasty. As a vegetarian, some of the meals I enjoyed included a roasted vegetable sandwich and tortilla chips with bean sauce and potatoes.
Organising the trip was very easy. You can write in advance and book or you can just turn up to the office. For an extra price, they can organise your transport as well. For our trip, we were also very lucky to bump into almost no other walkers. Really great value for money!
Extreme Expedition - Pueblos Mancomunados
STAFF - The office staff in Oaxaca was friendly and helpful (they spoke English and helped us recover a lost book). The guides were generally friendly, polite and knowledgeable.
WALKS - The first two days of walking in and around Llano Grande were average / slow paced / repetitive. The second two days were much more interesting - especially the walk from Amatlan/Lachatao to Latuvi, which was seriously beautiful and worth doing separately to the rest. Other highlights were the views approaching Benito Juarez and the Te Mascal massage/experience.
FOOD - tasty traditional Mexican food, but not particularly varied. Vegetarian option is a bonus.
OVERALL - We feel that it is a decent package, but would avoid spending much time around Llano Grande. We would recommend limiting the trip to 3 days: Llano Grande to Amatlan, Amatlan to Latuvi, Latuvi to Benito Juarez.
TIP - bring warm clothes for the evenings / light clothing for walks
Many of the reviews here are very, very positive about Expediciones Sierra Norte (ESN), so I wanted to add a little bit of perspective for those of you, who like us, consider a trip like this to be a bit costly. Mind you, despite these complaints, I still gave it a high score.
For three nights and four days, our cost was about 6,400 MXN pesos. Transportation from Oaxaca was another 1,200 pesos and then additional activities like cooking class and a temazcal ranged from 200-500 per person.
The views along the hike were very beautiful, now for the criticism:
1. The food was so far below our expectations or needs. For the second day, we had a 23 km hike and guess what you get when you finally arrive at your destination 5-7 hours after leaving - chicken soup and kool-aid (agua fresca = water, flavoring, and sugar)! Well, maybe dinner will be better... Nope! You can have quesadillas! Apparently, you can request not to have food included in the packet cost and just pay for it in each town, which will probably save you money, because for the amount of food we got, it is definitely not the 80 or so pesos that they charge per meal. The itinerary does say "comida tipica" and I've lived in Mexico for over a year now, so, while I agree it is typical food, it is completely unsatisfactory considering the calories you are burning on the hikes.
Particularly poor food was provided in: Amatlan and Latuvi. The food in Llano Grande and Benito Juarez was much better but was very little
2. Rooms are cold, but they do provide lots of blankets! There are very nice cabins in each town, but they do not hold in any of the heat (in Latuvi there were large spaces under the doors so any heat from the fireplace quickly escaped), so be prepared for that!
3. For one night we stayed in a casa de familia, which sounded like it would be a cute intercultural exchange experience. Do not be deceived! All this means is that you will be in the guest house of some family, which is not as pretty as the cabin and there will be no interaction with anyone.
4. The guides are definitely hit or miss. On the longest hike, we had a young man who didn't say a single word to us for 12 km and missed the town where one of the people on our trip were staying. I ended up walking her back uphill to the town and then walking back, because this young man was completely unconcerned about her happiness.
Tips: Skip Amatlan and stay in Lachatao. Lachatao is really stunning and the food is much better. Visit Amatlan in the afternoon to see some great views, but that office of the ESN, seems to be the least concerned with the tourist's happiness. I could've done without LLano Grande too, but that might have been because there was so much overcast that we missed the supposedly beautiful views from that side.
If you are able to, book directly at the office. They can give you better rates.
Thank you for take time to write a complete review about your trip with us. I am so sorry to read that the trip did not meet your expectations.
Expediciones Sierra Norte is part of the communities so of course we want that all our clients have a happy trip. We will consider each of your suggest and will take appropiate actions to improve our service.
Please send us an e-mail if want to add something else.
We contracted w ESN fora package of one overnight accomdation, all meals and spanish speacking guide for three tours in two days. We were amazed by the lifestyle fo hteinhabitants of the pueblas, their artisanl farm to tabl efood, and thier beauitful vistas and pine forests teeming w orchids and bromilaids..
Dear traveler and client
Thank you for give us a perfect score and recommend visit our communities. We are happy to hear that you enjoyed your trip to Pueblos Mancomunados.
We hope have the opportunity to receive your visit again!.
We went to the pueblos in the Sierra Norte last weekend (during the early part of January). We had heard it was cold but weren't quite prepared as the temperatures dipped all over the region that weekend and it was very cloudy, cold and wet. Still it was a wonderful trip as the hikes were great with a wonderful 74 year young guide who showed us lots of plants, flowers and trees, including medicinal ones. We hiked the first day from Llano Grande to two different waterfalls and then spent the night in Llano Grande. The second day we hiked to Cuajimoyolas where we ate lunch and then headed back to Oaxaca. We booked our trip through the Pueblos Mancomunados agency, Expediciones Sierra Norte, in Oaxaca (they have a website too) and the prices were very reasonable and included the guides, the meals, entrance fee into the area and bottled water. The food was great and they accommodated our preference for vegetarian meals. It's not anything fancy but is filling and hardy. The cabin was nice but like most cabins is not very well insulated so we spent the time in the cabin in front of the fireplace. Things were clean. We would love to come back here in the summer when there is more in bloom and the temperatures are warmer. Our guide told us there are more than 200 varieties of edible mushrooms that grow here and they have a festival of mushrooms during the end of July/beginning of August when you can go on mushroom collecting hikes and then return to classes that show you how to prepare them. I highly commend this community effort to provide sustainable ecotourism and definitely recommend going here. And if you are a mountain biker, we saw tons of jumps they have constructed on the mountain biking trails that look fun to try for the adventurous.
Thank you for your reviews!
Is great to read that enjoyed the trip to Pueblos Mancomunados. We hope to see you on July in the Mushroom Fair!