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Untouristy Magic – Coixtlahuaca & Huajuapan, Mexico

Late December we arrived in Oaxaca, Mexico, to have some warm days from the winter in Chicago. We drove from Oaxaca to San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca about 1.5 hours on the toll road 135D through the mountains. The town of Coixtlahuaca is not far off the toll road (3.5 km). The locals call this place “Coix” for short, however the word ‘Coixtlahuaca’ means ‘plain of snakes’ in the Nahuatl language. There are a few things to see, the most notable being the church and monastery Ex Convento de San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca finished in 1576 which are part of the Dominican Route of churches. Take a look around the church and you will see the Mixteca and Catholic symbols together like serpents and eagles. The church has an original 16th century altar that is gorgeous.  

From the church, it is a short distance to the hotel/spa, Sol MixtecoXochiquetzal #7, San Luis, 69300 just outside of town with a view over all of Coixtlahuaca providing beautiful colors at sunset and sunrise. There are plenty of guestrooms for a large group and space to pull cars inside the gated doors to unload and to leave them overnight with no worries. This hotel/spa offers the pre-hispanic Temazcal purification ceremony (reserve in advance). We did it on New Year’s Day – setting intentions for the new year – highly recommend it !! It starts with traditional ritual of incense and offerings to the earth. Then we entered the sauna hut for the purification session led by the knowledgeable owner with chants, music, plants alternating with a refreshing homemade lemonade or hot herbal tea. Temazcal is one of the oldest powerful cleansing and restorative ceremonies from before the arrival of the Spanish. The best way to have a more personal experience is to partake in a session in a less touristy area, like here in Coixtlahuaca.

Afterward the ceremony, we had some time to relax and get ready for dinner at the hotel – wonderful home made food with lots of mole and hot sauce. Up in the morning early for a walk, however be aware of a lot of dogs roaming around. When we got back, the hotel prepared for us an abundant home-made breakfast including their specialty ‘Huevos Mixteco’, with squash or zucchini, eggs, onion, and cheese.

Cerro de las Minas

We drove from Coixtlahuaca to Huajuapan de Leon (about 1.5 hours) straight to the archéological site, Cerro de las Minas just north of the town. The ruins are on a hill providing great views down below. We had arranged a local guide with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). He brought to life the rich pre-hispanic history of the Mixteca people with stories and explained culture to us. We learned that Dzahui is the Mixtec rain god. Plan to spend 1-1.5 hours here. It is free and make sure to take plenty of water with you. There are no services here, no food or drink or bathrooms, no maps or brochures.

Later in the afternoon we just wandered around and explored Huajuapan. One of the best things about traveling is to allow a bit of time to wander and get lost. Here are a few addresses of places we discovered.

  • Bardo Chocolates Calle Porfirio Díaz 10, Centro, 69000 Centro, Oax., Mexico – We made a stop for some luxurious artisanal truffles & chocolates – all handmade and amazing unique flavors. The place is small with great attention to detail. They spent 10 months testing recipes to replace cow’s milk (or cream) with cream of vegetable origin without losing the flavor. Try the mezcal truffle and the passion fruit chocolate!
Preparing our chocolates at Bardo’s
  • Cantoya Huajuapan. Calle Constitución 20, Centro. I was given the name of this store to order personalized ‘papel picado’. It is a 10 minute walk from the central market. it was maybe $5USD per 4 meters. The papel picado is the bright tissue paper cut-outs that are strung across streets or in rooms that gives festive air for many types of celebrations. I provided the store the word I wanted and 2 graphics to be incorporated in the design. I arranged a time to come back to pick it up. It was maybe $5USD per 4 meters. The store also sells lots of laser-cut notebooks and lamps, most can be customized. https://www.facebook.com/CANTO YAHJ/
Papel Picado
Embroidered Clothing

Dinner at Doña Cristy Pinos 3, Santa Teresa, 69005 A truly local place that is out of the central area – she provides fresh home-made quesadillas – lots of vegetarian options as well, like huitlacoche, mushrooms, squash flower, or greens (quelites). Lots of local families were eating here. You will probably be able to eat more than one quesadilla, so I recommend that you order 2-3 different kinds and share.

fresh quesadillas

Breakfast at the Central Market (Valerio Trujano) in Huajuapan. The previous building was destroyed in an earthquake in the 80’s, and this one was built in its place. The market is right in the center across from the cathedral. You will see many locals who buy fresh fruit and vegetables as well as breads and cheese inside here. There are a couple places towards the back for juice and smoothies. A watermelon water cost about 20 pesos. Around the outside, there are various places to sit and have local dishes. If you go on Sunday, many of them serve traditional pozole Huajuapan style. I also bought a few souvenirs and chocolate. There are some ATMs around here if you need money. You can wander around a bit and visit the cathedral, the Cultural Center and the museum.
We then started the drive back to Oaxaca city – about 3 hours.

We started the drive back to Oaxaca city through the mountains, about 3 hours. In the distance we began to see an impressive building, as we got closer it was an old church along the road. We made a quick stop here to the Church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán, Miguel Hidalgo in Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán, also on the Dominican Route. This church was built in the 16th century on pre-hispanic foundations. There is a small fee for the museum. There were vendors near the steps selling fresh cactus pear ice-cream (nieve de tuna), coconut water, coconut meat and jicama with lemon and pepper. This makes a perfect half way stop.

Church of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán

Thanks, gracias. Thank you for joining me on this magical trip. If you visit Huajuapan, I would love to know what you discover!

#oaxaca #huajuapan #roadtrip #Coixtlahuaca #dominicanroute

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